The Netflix Movie That Enraged Hindu Nationalists... Over Food

Netflix is facing another backlash from right-wing Hindu nationalists in India over a film for its depiction of a deity and member of a traditionally vegetarian caste cooking and eating meat.

Annapoorani: the Goddess of Food, a film produced in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, has been criticized by a hardline, right-wing Hindutva group for allegedly offending religious sentiments in India.

The film tells the story of a young woman hailing from the privileged Brahmin caste, whose father cooks food in a Hindu temple, and her aspirations to become one of India’s top chefs. In the film, the woman, portrayed by Nayanthara, is depicted cooking and eating meat against the wishes of her Brahmin family. Brahmins are traditionally vegetarian, and meat is not traditionally eaten by Brahmins as well as Hindu holy figures and priests.

Right-wing Hindu nationalists also lambasted the film for its allegedly offensive depiction of a holy Hindu deity after the film inferred that Lord Ramthat had eaten meat while he was in exile, as well as for promoting “love jihad,” an unproven conspiracy theory among right-wing Hindu circles that claims Muslims are tricking Hindus into marriage for the purpose of converting them to Islam.

Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a hardline, right-wing Hindu nationalist organization that has ties with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), protested against Netflix and the film on January 10th for “intentionally released to hurt Hindu sentiments.

The group’s online campaign against the film quickly gathered pace, and VHP also protested outside Netflix’s offices in India. Members of another fringe, right-wing Hindu organization also filed police cases against the film’s director, writers, and creators.

Zee Entertainment, the film's creators, released an apology on the morning of January 11th, stating that the film would be withdrawn and re-edited to remove the offensive scenes. It has also been removed from all international Netflix platforms. 

We have no intentions as co-producers of the film to hurt the religious sentiments of the Hindus and Brahmins community and would like to hereby apologize for the inconvenience caused and hurt caused to the sentiments of the respective communities,” Zee Entertainment said.

This is not the first time Netflix has been embroiled in a controversy over films and series that offend the sentiments of right-wing Hindu nationalists, who are playing an increasingly influential role in governing India’s political and cultural sphere after the BJP came to power in 2014.

The international streaming platform faced a boycott in India over its adaptation of Vikram Seth’s novel A Suitable Boy, which was accused of promoting “love jihad.”

Bollywood, India’s largest film industry and one of the most prominent film industries in the world, has also faced backlash from right-wing Hindu groups and has been accused of growing self-censorship of films related to politics and religion.

Parvathy Thiruvothu, an Indian actress known for her work in South Indian films, criticized the removal of Annapoorani from Netflix, arguing that it sets a dangerous precedent and accused the movie industry of “censoring left, right, and center until we won’t be allowed to breathe.

The director and writer of Annapoorani have yet to comment on the film’s removal from Netflix. Vinod Bansal, a VHP spokesperson, celebrated the film's removal, calling it a “victory for all Hindus.

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