Netflix Faces Backlash Over Controversial Series 'Sacred Games'

Netflix has met with more controversy this summer, this time with its latest original series, Sacred Games, starring Bollywood megastar, Saif Ali Khan.

The show, shot entirely in India, has been criticized after several references were made to the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

The series, which premiered on July 6 and is set in the Mumbai underworld, is based on a best-selling novel by Vikram Chandra, which follows a police officer's (Khan) investigation into a gang leader (Nawazuddin Siddiqui). Due in part to India's lack of censorship of its online shows, Sacred Games is far more explicit and violent than anything Indians see on television, which is usually heavily vetted by the country's censor board.

While the series was praised by critics and deemed the "best new show to watch" by GQ, it caused an outcry among politicians because of to two scenes allegedly featuring insults of Gandhi, reports TIME.

In one scene, the gang leader refers to Gandhi as "fattu," an insult translated as "p—y." On July 10, Kolkata politician Rajeev Kumar Sinha of the opposition Congress party lodged a police complaint against Netflix and Siddiqui.

"Nawazuddin Siddiqui is seen abusing our late Prime Minister Shri Rajiv Gandhi and calling him Fattu (p—y as translated in the subtitle of the show) and misrepresenting facts during his period," Sinha's police complaint letter reads, reports NDTV.

"The use of abusive language is not justified. I don't think we can go back into history and abuse people this way," Sinha told TIME.

Gandhi was India's Prime Minister from 1984 to 1989, after his mother, Indira Gandhi, was assassinated in 1984. Gandhi served as President of the Congress party from 1985 to 1991, when he was assassinated in a suicide bombing.

On July 14, Rahul Gandhi, Gandhi's son and president of the Congress party, defended the show's freedom of expression on Twitter.

"BJP/RSS believe the freedom of expression must be policed & controlled. I believe this freedom is a fundamental democratic right," Rahul Gandhi wrote, referring to the two other political parties leading the coalition government. "My father lived and died in the service of India. The views of a character on a fictional web series can never change that."

But after that comment, India's CNN-NEews18 reported that Sinha withdrew his police complaint about the show.

Sacred Games, which is available to stream in the U.S., is part of Netflix's big push into the Indian film and television industry in an effort to compete with Hotstar, which has 75 million monthly subscribers. As of December 2017, Netflix only has 5 million subscribers in India.

Netflix is no stranger to controversy. The streaming service has also faced critics of 13 Reasons Why, a series that focused on teen suicide in its first season and a thwarted school shooting in season two.


Photo credit: Netflix