Netflix, which has invested more than $500 million to gain a foothold in India in recent years, is slowly finding out what all could upset some people in the world’s second-largest internet market: Apparently everything.
A police case has been filed this week against two top executives of the American streaming service in India after a leader of the governing party objected to some scenes in a TV series.
The show, “A Suitable Boy,” is an adaptation of the award-winning novel by Indian author Vikram Seth that follows the life of a young girl. It has a scene in which the protagonist is seen kissing a Muslim boy at a Hindu temple.
Narottam Mishra, the interior minister of the central state of Madhya Pradesh, said a First Information Report (an official police complaint) had been filed against Monika Shergill, VP of Content at Netflix and Ambika Khurana, Director of Public Policies for the firm, over objectionable scenes in the show that hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus.
“I had asked officials to examine the series ‘A Suitable Boy’ being streamed on Netflix to check if kissing scenes in it were filmed in a temple and if it hurt religious sentiments. The examination prima facie found that these scenes are hurting the sentiments of a particular religion,” he said.
Gaurav Tiwari, a BJP youth leader who filed the complaint, demanded an apology from Netflix and makers of the series (directed by award-winning filmmaker Mira Nair), and said the film promoted “love jihad,” an Islamophobic conspiracy theory that alleges that Muslim men entice Hindi women into converting their religion under the pretext of marriage.
Netflix declined to comment.
In recent days, a number of people have expressed on social media their anger at Netflix over these “objectionable” scenes. Though it is unclear if all of them — if any — are a Netflix subscriber.
The incident comes weeks after an ad from the luxury jewelry brand Tanishq — part of the 152-year-old salt-to-steel conglomerate — which celebrated interfaith marriage received intense backlash in the country.
For Netflix, the timing of this backlash isn’t great. The new incident comes days after the Indian government announced new rules for digital media, under which the nation’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting will be regulating online streaming services. Prior to this new rule, India’s IT ministry oversaw streaming services, and according to a top streaming service executive, online services enjoyed a great degree of freedom.