The Tamil Nadu Government wrote to Prakash Javadekar, the Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting, requesting a stop or ban on the release of the Amazon Prime Video web series Family Man 2 because it “depicts the Eelam Tamils in a highly objectionable manner.” The second season of the espionage-themed web series is set to release on June 4, 2021.
The objections against Family Man 2 come two months after Amazon faced flak over its political web series Tandav, which stirred controversy for allegedly hurting Hindu sentiments. In response to the numerous first-information reports and criminal complaints filed against Tandav’s filmmakers, Amazon removed certain scenes from the show and issued an apology.
Family Man discredits historical struggle of Eelam Tamils: TN Government
In the letter dated May 24, 2021, the state government said that Family Man 2 “aimed at discrediting and distorting the historical struggle of Eelam Tamils of Sri Lanka”. The TN government accused Amazon of running a “smear campaign” against Tamilians, as “our brethren Eelam Tamils are struggling for decades to enjoy the fruits of equality, Justice, Peace, and dignity in the island nation.” Other political leaders from the state including Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) general secretary Vaiko and Naam Tamilar Katchi chief coordinator Seeman have also called for a ban on the series, according to two reports in The Hindu.
“The sacrifices of their long drawn out democratic battle has been intentionally undermined and it could not, by any stretch of the imagination considered merely as a Serial with any value for Tamil Culture. Moreover, a serial which is loaded with insults and insinuations against the glorious Tamil Culture could never be considered as the one having any broadcasting value” —TN government letter to Prakash Javadekar
Objection to portraying Tamil-speaking actress as a terrorist
The TN Government also objected to the role of the female protagonist in the upcoming series because it is “directly an attack on the pride of Tamils living around the world”. According to the trailer, Samantha Akkineni seems to be playing a Tamil-speaking extremist. “Tamil speaking actress Samantha is shown as a terrorist having connections with Pakistan terrorists. This has hurt the sentiments of Tamil people,” Vaiko said in a letter to the I&B Ministry according to The Hindu.
The TN Government letter concludes by saying that the serial has “not only hurt the sentiments of Eelam Tamils but also the feelings of the people of Tamil Nadu in large scale” and allowing it to release will be “prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony in the State.” The TN Government asked the ministry to not only ban the series in the state but across the country.
How do the objections stand in the context of the IT Rules?
The new IT Rules 2021 notified on February 25, have brought OTT streaming platforms like Amazon Prime under the purview of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Among other general principles prescribed under the rules, streaming platforms are required to exercise due caution when featuring content “which is likely to incite violence or disturb the maintenance of public order” and “to take into consideration India’s multi-racial and multi-religious context. The platforms are mandated to exercise due caution and discretion when featuring the activities, beliefs, practices, or views of any racial or religious group.”
Under the IT Rules 2021, the I&B Ministry has the power to question film-makers and OTT platforms on these grounds and can issue a notice to the platform seeking alterations, cuts or modifications. The ministry can also direct OTT players to pull an a show or film completely from their platform.
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*Update (25 May, 12:36 pm) – An earlier version of the article was based on a copy of the letter tweeted by Indian Express journalist Janardhan Koushik, but the same has now been uploaded on the government website.