Netflix is facing a petition over “offensive” content in its new original series, Sacred Games.
Based on Vikram Chandra’s epic novel, in which politics, crime and passion all collide in Mumbai’s underbelly, the eight-episode series is Netflix’s first Indian original series, and sees a cop (Saif Ali Khan) and a criminal overlord (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) clash in a complex web of corruption and violence.
While the show has been broadly praised – by ourselves including – Netflix is now facing a legal petition to remove certain content, which comments on former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, calls him a “fattu” (coward), and sees a character criticise a scandal that erupted during his tenure as Prime Minister.
India, unlike film and TV, does not censor online content, with no prescribed guidelines for what can and can’t be included. The petition is filed against the streaming giant by Nikhil Bhalla, a member of the Congress party, which Gandhi led until he was assassinated in 1991. The party is now in opposition, after losing the 2014 elections.
“The show Sacred Games has inappropriate dialogues, political attacks and even speeches, which are derogatory in nature and harms the reputation of the former Prime Minister … Rajiv Gandhi,” reads the petition, quoted by Reuters. “We cannot afford to, in the name of freedom of speech, allow anything to be beamed in every home without regard to its impact on society.”
Rajiv’s son, Rahul Gandhi, is the current party President. While Netflix has not responded to the petition, Rahul has taken to Twitter to apparently defend the series.
“BJP/RSS believe the freedom of expression must be policed & controlled. I believe this freedom is a fundamental democratic right,” he tweeted. “My father lived and died in the service of India. The views of a character on a fictional web series can never change that.”