'Tandav backlash to be end of India's creative dream'

Mumbai: On Thursday, a team of the Uttar Pradesh police reached the residence of Ali Abbas Zafar, director of the political web series ‘Tandav’ that was recently released on Amazon Prime Video, to serve him a notice to appear before the investigation officer in Lucknow on January 27. Zafar was not at his residence. However, he along with writer Gaurav Solanki and producer Himanshu Krishna Mehra had secured three-week transit pre-arrest bail by the Bombay High Court on Wednesday.
Last week, the UP police filed a case against the producers of ‘Mirzapur’ for allegedly hurting religious, social and regional sentiments and damaging social harmony. The increasing instances of people objecting to web serials and filing police complaints or petitions in court against the makers of such shows have alarmed the creative community, leaving directors, producers, writers and executives of streaming services “shocked,” “concerned” and “highly disappointed.”

“This is the beginning of the end of the dream of Indian content creators to make shows that can travel globally,” said a top director, asking not to be identified. “The playing field is getting smaller and this is going to stifle any creativity.”

“Art is ultimately the mirror of society,” said the head of a video streaming company. “If the people in power and their followers start having issues with everything, you can never expect India to be a content powerhouse. Writers will be afraid to write and directors, actors and producers will not touch any controversial subjects.”

ET spoke to over a dozen content creators and streaming service executives who requested anonymity, considering the sensitivity of the matter. They all agreed that while there is always an effort to “push the envelope” and create edgier content, they are mindful of the law of the land. “We know that freedom of expression comes with reasonable restrictions. We are not doing anything to hurt religious sentiments, but you can’t dictate everything else,” said a senior producer.