In a recent turn of events, Zee Studios has found itself in the middle of a controversy over its film ‘Annapoorani,’ as a letter of apology to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) went viral on social media. Dated January 9 and penned on the official letterhead of Zee Studios, the communication expressed regret for hurting the religious sentiments of the Hindu community in their recently released film.
The letter disclosed that Zee Studios had appealed to the co-producers, M/s Trident Arts, to address the contentious aspects of the film promptly. Additionally, the studio urged Netflix to temporarily remove ‘Annapoorani’ from its OTT platform until the necessary alterations were made. Zee Studios explicitly apologised for any offence caused to the Hindu and Brahmin communities.
Zee Studios issues apology to VHP for hurting religious sentiments of Hindus in their film Annapoorni. pic.twitter.com/tAGsTDV0Hb
— News Arena India (@NewsArenaIndia) January 11, 2024
As of January 11, Netflix has heeded the request and pulled down the movie from its platform, effectively responding to the controversy that had engulfed the film.
‘Annapoorani,’ the 75th film of renowned Tamil actress Nayanthara, was released on Netflix on December 28, 2023. However, the film came under scrutiny on social media for containing anti-Hindu content, including accusations of promoting conversion to Islam and misrepresenting the revered Hindu deity Bhagwan Ram.
Notably, the film, featuring Lady Superstar Nayanthara, premiered in cinemas on December 1, 2023, and was initially available on Netflix, exclusively in the original language.
The storyline revolves around an aspiring chef from a Brahmin family who desires expertise in cooking non-vegetarian dishes. She clandestinely enrols in a culinary school and later participates in a cooking competition with the aim of becoming a Corporate Chef.
Annapoorani (played by Nayanthara) hails from a traditional Iyengar family in Srirangam. Her father, Rangarajan (Achyuth Kumar), once held lucrative positions but chose to devote himself to serving Bhagwan Ranganathar as a temple chef. Annapoorani, born with remarkably heightened taste buds, developed a strong craving for flavours, even in breast milk. Inspired by her father’s culinary skills, she aspires to become a renowned chef, though her upbringing prevents her from cooking non-vegetarian dishes.
Taking guidance from India’s renowned chef, Anand Sundarajan (Sathyaraj), Annapoorani faces a dilemma as her orthodox father considers her proximity to meat as a sin. Balancing her passion for cooking with her father’s traditional beliefs, she strives to fulfill her dream of becoming a corporate chef. The film unfolds the narrative of her journey, exploring whether she succeeds and delving into the challenges she encounters on her path to culinary excellence. All these questions find answers in the two-and-a-half-hour cinematic experience.
The film encounters a pivotal moment when, participating in a cooking competition, the protagonist is tasked with preparing Biryani. In a sudden recollection from her college days, a Muslim woman had shared her secret for crafting exceptional recipes. According to the woman, the extraordinary taste in her food arises from offering Namaz before cooking.
In response to this memory, the lead character retrieves a black cloth, dons a Hijab, and sits on the floor to perform Namaz before proceeding to cook the Biryani.
The scene is accompanied by music featuring lyrics such as “Maula mere Maula, tu hi rakhwala… there ishq ke hi noor see qayanath roshan hui… apne rang me mujhko rang de Maula.”
During the tasting session, when the judges inquire about her remarkable culinary skills, she responds, “Biryani has no religion; it is an emotion.” She goes on to emphasise that offering Namaz enhances the flavour of the Biryani, making it taste its best.
Surprisingly, in a different scene, Farhan, the lead’s boyfriend, encourages her by quoting verses from the Ramayan to argue that non-vegetarianism is not a sinful act. As she ascends the stairs toward her goal, he motivates her to pursue her dreams.
In their conversation, he recites Sanskrit verses, stating that Valmiki wrote in the Ramayan that during their exile (Vanvas), Bhagwan Ram, Lakshman, and Mata Sita consumed animals when they were hungry. Earlier in the video, the lead, as the daughter of a Hindu pujari, is hesitant to cook meat. Despite Farhan’s attempt to convince her, the lead remains unwilling to prepare non-vegetarian dishes in the clip.
Former Shiv Sena leader Ramesh Solanki, founder of the Hindu IT Cell, lodged a police complaint on January 6 against the film, emphasising its anti-Hindu nature. Allegedly objectionable scenes cited in the complaint included the depiction of a Hindu Brahmin temple priest’s daughter offering Namaz, glorification of love jihad, and inaccuracies about Bhagwan Ram and Maa Sita consuming meat in the Ramayana.
The controversy gained momentum on social media, prompting widespread discontent. On January 10, the Hindu Seva Parishad in Madhya Pradesh registered an FIR against the makers and actors of ‘Annapoorani,‘ alleging derogatory comments about Bhagwan Ram and the promotion of Love Jihad.
The FIR targeted the director, producer, actors, and four others associated with the film, accusing them of participating in alleged anti-Hindu propaganda.
An FIR (number: 17/2023) was registered at Omti police station of the Jabalpur district of Madhya Pradesh on January 10. The accused mentioned in the FIR are the director of the film–Nilesh Krishna, lead actress–Nayanthara, Jatin Sethi, R Ravindran, Point Gogoika, Sarika Patel and Monica Shorgill.
The Hindu Seva Parishad spokesperson elaborated on the film’s content, highlighting scenes with insulting remarks against Hindu deities, particularly Bhagwan Ram. The spokesperson expressed deep concern over the film’s purported portrayal of Bhagwan Ram engaging in animal killings and consuming meat during his exile, dismissing it as false propaganda that deeply hurt the sentiments of Hindus.