Art

Kashmiri youth features in ‘controversial’ web series Tandav

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Srinagar: Earning laurels after years of hard work by making it to the big screen, a 25-year-old youth from north Kashmir’s Kupwara district has featured in an Amazon premiered Web Series ‘Tandav’.

Tandav, a political drama web series has been directed by Ali Abbas Zafar.

Besides prominent Bollywood face Saif Ali Khan, who portrays the role of a powerful politician, the nine-episode series features Dimple Kapadia, Sunil Grover, Kumud Misra, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, Sarah Jane Dias, Kritika Kamra, Dino Morea, Sandhya Mridul, Amyra Dastur, and Anup Soni in major roles.

In the series that started streaming from 15 January 2021 on Prime Video, the budding Kashmiri actor Owais Bhat has played the role of a corrupt journalist who works on the moves of politicians.

Bhat who got the break after years of the hard work, was born and brought up in Trehgam village of Kupwara and did his Bachelors in Journalism from Mewar University in Rajasthan and Masters from Delhi University.

As Bhat was passionate about acting, he later got the admission in Shri Ram Centre (SRC) Mandi House in Delhi for theatre course. SRC is considered as one of the best theatres in Delhi producing refined artists like Raj Kumar Rao and Jatin Sarna.

Bhat was picked by the makers through a casting agency Casting Bay in October 2018 and then the shooting began in 2019 December. Bhat appeared in the episodes that were shot in Delhi and Mumbai; however, the major portion of the series was shot in Dubai.

In the politics-romance genre series, Bhat said he has got around 12 to 13 minute screen time.

“It was my passion from childhood to get into films,” the debutante Bhat said. “I’m looking forward to more roles in future”.

In a message to all the budding artists who want to make their career in films, he said they must work hard and stay updated about the auditions and casting.

Bhat believes that Kashmiris are full of talent and the only thing they need is a platform where they could showcase their talent. Bhat was picked among the 1,500 other actors who had auditioned for the same role.

Controversy

Soon after the series was released, it landed into controversy as several leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) called for its ban on the basis of an accusation of hate speech against the Hindu community.

The makers and actors are accused of hurting the religious sentiments of Hindus by mocking Hindu God Shiva in one of the episodes and also described it as being anti-Dalit as a reason for the ban.

Two criminal complaints were filed over the weekend against Tandav, which purportedly provides a commentary on India’s political scene under the Hindu nationalist government of Narendra Modi.

Several other members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party have insisted that the government must pull the series off-air or take out key scenes. However, the Tandav creator-director Ali Abbas Zafar later apologised for having ‘unintentionally hurt the sentiments of a certain section of the audience’.

Hours after the cast and crew of Tandav apologised for allegedly insulting Hindu gods, Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ram Kadam said their “apology was not enough”, and asserted that his party would ensure the makers of the show are jailed. The BJP MLA from Mumbai also called for a boycott of Amazon products.

Besides this, Bharatiya Janata Party MP Manoj Kotak wrote to Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar seeking a ban on the series for allegedly ridiculing Hindu deities. “Different organisations and individuals have complained that Hindu Gods and Goddesses have been ridiculed in Tandav web series. Comments have been passed about them,” Kotak said.

MLA Ram Kadam in Maharashtra had tweeted demanding the removal of the part mocking Shiva and an apology from actor Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub.

“Tandava will be boycotted until necessary changes are made. #BanTandavNow,” he had tweeted. “Just as there is a system of censors for reviewing films and serials, a similar arrangement should be made to review series on the OTT platform. Writing to @PrakashJavdekar ji,” he also tweeted in Hindi.

BJP leader Kapil Mishra alleged that Tandav is “anti Dalit and full of communal hatred against Hindus”. He also requested people in the same tweet to write to Prakash Javadekar appealing for a ban on the web series.

Former UP chief minister, Mayawati, wrote in a tweet that in the interest of ‘peace and harmony’ the objectionable scene should be removed from the series.

Meanwhile, the director has requested for the apology to be accepted.

“Our sincere apologies,” Ali wrote in a social media post on Monday, on behalf of the cast and crew.

“We have been closely monitoring viewer reactions to the web series Tandav and today during a discussion, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting have informed us regarding a large number of grievances and petitions received on various facets of the web series with serious concerns and apprehensions regarding its content hurting the sentiments of the people,” the statement said.

It continued, “the web series Tandav is a work of fiction and any resemblance to acts and persons and events are purely coincidental. The cast and crew did not have any intention to offend the sentiments of any individual, caste, community, race, religion or religious beliefs or insult or outrage any institution, political party or person, living or dead. The cast and crew of Tandav take cognizance of the concerns expressed by the people and unconditionally apologize if it has unintentionally hurt anybody’s sentiments.”

Last November, GoI had brought streaming video services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hotstar, and news websites under the ambit of the Information and Broadcasting ministry for regulation, issuing a notification that will now allow the latter to draft rules that could have a far-reaching impact on popular digital channels.

 

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