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Prime suspect: Amazon India apologises for offensive scenes in political thriller

Charges filed against head of content as cast and crew apply for 'anticipatory bail'

Amazon Prime India has issued a rare-for-Big-Tech apology for material deemed offensive in Bezos's streaming arm's political thriller, Tandav, as legal writs fly.

“We respect our viewers’ diverse beliefs and apologize unconditionally to anyone who felt hurt by these scenes. Our teams follow company content evaluation processes, which we acknowledge need to be constantly updated to better serve our audiences. We will continue to develop entertaining content with partners, while complying with the laws of India and respecting the diversity of culture and beliefs of our audiences,” said the statement issued by the subscription video streaming giant this week.

The nine episodes of Tandav's season one premiered on January 15 via Amazon Prime Video.

It immediately received criticism for disrespecting Hindu deities, especially in a scene depicting an actor dressed as a god and making jokes about social media.

The scene took place at about 17 minutes into episode one, but viewers won't be able to see it on Amazon Prime India as it has been scrubbed from the show.

The show also generated a backlash for jokes related to the Dalit caste.

Public complaints started rolling in and it wasn't long before members of the India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, chimed in.

Lawsuits were filed against the director, the producer and the writer of the web series as well as Amazon Prime Video India head of original content, Aparna Purohit, for provoking communal tension and "hurting religious sentiments".

The director issued an apology amid a "Ban Tandav" campaign. The controversial scenes were edited out. Tempers did not taper.

Fears of being arrested have caused some members of the cast and crew to file for "anticipatory bail" in several Indian courts – in the country you can apply for this even before any arrest is made – and some have been approved.

On February 25, the Allahabad High Court refused Purohit's request for anticipatory bail, stating [PDF]:

The post of Prime Minister has been depicted in a manner which will adversely affect the democratic system of the country. Caste and community related utterances have been made deliberately so that it may affect the public peace.

Similarly, utterances have been made against the State police, public administration and the constitutional posts so that the element of hate is developed between the communities and there are scenes which show disrespect for the scheduled castes.

The case comes at a time when India is increasing regulation of video-streaming companies.

The new regs require companies like Amazon Prime India to appoint grievance officers, classify programs, verify user age for age-appropriate content, and adopt India's codes of conduct governing journalism for any news broadcasts. ®

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