Netflix Film’s Removal Shows Power of India’s Hindu Right Wing

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The movie “Annapoorani” was about a female chef overcoming caste prejudice. Hindu activists said it hurt their feelings.

The trailer for “Annapoorani: The Goddess of Food” promised a sunny if melodramatic story of uplift in a south Indian temple town. A priest’s daughter enters a cooking tournament, but social obstacles complicate her inevitable rise to the top. Annapoorani’s father, a Brahmin sitting at the top of Hindu society’s caste ladder, doesn’t want her to cook meat, a taboo in their lineage. There is even the hint of a Hindu-Muslim romantic subplot.

On Thursday, two weeks after the movie premiered, Netflix abruptly pulled it from its platform. An activist, Ramesh Solanki, a self-described “very proud Hindu Indian nationalist,” had filed a police complaint arguing that the film was “intentionally released to hurt Hindu sentiments.” He said it mocked Hinduism by “depicting our gods consuming nonvegetarian food.”

The production studio quickly responded with an abject letter to a right-wing group linked to the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, apologizing for having “hurt the religious sentiments of the Hindus and Brahmins community.” The movie was soon removed from Netflix both in India and around the world, demonstrating the newfound power of Hindu nationalists to affect how Indian society is depicted on the screen.

Nilesh Krishnaa, the movie’s writer and director, tried to anticipate the possibility of offending some of his fellow Indians. Food, Brahminical customs and especially Hindu-Muslim relations are all part of a third rail that has grown more powerfully electrified during Mr. Modi’s decade in power. But, Mr. Krishnaa told an Indian newspaper in November, “if there was something disturbing communal harmony in the film, the censor board would not have allowed it.”

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