In the web series Paatal Lok on Amazon Prime, in what is clearly an allusion to the Narendra Modi government, the regime is shown as dictatorial. Then, there is an indirect reference to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in saffron robes that is a character with disturbing negative shades. In another apparent reference to real-life, while it was proved in the court that the murder of Junaid was the result of a quarrel for a berth in a coach of the train he was travelling in with friends, Paatal Lok introduces the angle of beef in the sub-plot and passes the incident off as one of lynching. Further, a character named Shukla is shown raising janeu (sacred thread worn by Brahmins) over the ear while raping a woman. The priest and mahant of a temple are shown eating meat in the temple. A bitch (female dog) is named Savitri.
The list of wrongful depiction refuses to end in Paatal Lok. A Muslim woman offers water to a Hindu woman to drink; the Hindu woman refuses to accept water from the hands of a Muslim! A character playing a Hindu god is shown falling in a humiliating way. All the dreaded criminals in the web series have Brahmin surnames: Shukla, Trivedi, Dwivedi, Tyagi etc whereas a Muslim character Imran is gifted, a police sub-inspector preparing for the UPSC exam to turn into an IAS officer. If that’s not bad, Hindus heckle and harass him. The wicked scriptwriter weaves a plot where goons are hired from Chitrakoot. The hooligans mostly wear saffron attire and chant ‘Jai Sri Ram’.
Reminiscent of Netflix‘s Leila, Paatal Lok shows a country called Aryavarta where Muslims are denied access to drinking water. Sadhus are shown mouthing unprintable expletives as a matter of speech habit in Paatal Lok.
The web series is a conspiracy to defame nationalism and openly abuse India. The producer of the film is Anushka Sharma, and director and screenwriter Sudeep Sharma. However, the content of the web series suggests the real financier may be some entity in Saudi Arabia, the source of fund for worldwide Islamist propaganda and jihadi terrorism.
As for the solution to repeated insults heaped on Hinduism and questions raised on the unity and integrity of India in one web series after another on Amazon Prime and Netflix, the government must devise a mechanism that ought to be foolproof unlike the ban on pornography, which was bound to fail. The web is a medium that is near impossible to regulate, let alone censor. Neither of the platforms has its headquarters in India, and even their branch offices here are not absolutely necessary for their operations in India. However, since the actors are all Indian, the government can mount pressure on the indigenous film fraternity to behave.
Since Sirf News does not advocate a muzzling of free speech, I’d suggest filmmakers on the right side come up with a counter-narrative. A call for boycotting a film or web series only enhances the curiosity of the potential viewer. Therefore, companies that use Bollywood actors as endorsers of brands must be addressed. The corporate sector, along with the advertising industry, is so sensitive that a whiff of controversy makes them jittery about a brand ambassador. Tell all companies from Hindustan Unilever to Procter & Gamble, you’ll dump their products and rate their apps 1 out of 5 stars on Google Play Store and Apple App Store. Note that the stars badly need the income from advertisements to secure their future as their value on the silver screen is fickle, wavering, fluctuating and, overall, unreliable.
Don’t restrict yourself to actors. You may target an entire production house. Note down the brands that appear on the screen during the initial credit roll. They are all monetary lifelines of the producer. Tell those companies you will dump them too. No web series like A Family Man that depicts Kashmir from the Pakistani point of view or the ilk of Leila and Paatal Lok that defames Hinduism will be made thereafter.
The writer is a cinematographer who wishes to stay anonymous