Summer of ’92: Hasya, a segment in Navarasa, the recently-released Netflix Tamil anthology, has been termed ‘casteist’ by musician and activist TM Krishna and filmmaker Leena Manimekalai on social media.
The nine-part anthology premiered on Netflix on Friday. Each segment of the anthology deals with one of the nine rasas or emotions — anger, compassion, courage, disgust, fear, laughter, love, peace and wonder.
It revolves around Veluswamy (Babu), a celebrity comedian who visits his school as the chief guest for an event and shares his stories of mischief. The final story that he shares is about his teacher (Nambeesan) and her father (Venu), also the school principal, who happened to be searching for a suitable groom for her. The principal asks Veluswamy to get rid of their troublesome dog ahead of a potential groom’s visit, based on the advice of Krishna Iyer (YG Mahendran), an upper-caste teacher at the school. Krishna draws parallels between the principal’s dog and Veluswamy, and says “I will give you an idea. One dog won’t like another. We have such a dog.” He goes on to add, “Looks like a pig, but is a dog. Our Veluswamy.” Later in the short, the dog manages to escape after falling in a feces pit and reaches the teacher’s house leading to the marriage getting cancelled.
“Hasyam in Navarasa is truly disgusting, insensitive, casteist and body shaming. Nothing to laugh about. We cannot make films like this in 2021. Just not done!” TM Krishna tweeted on Monday.
He further wrote, “This film would have worked to show disgust (bhibatsam) towards our society.”
In her tweet, Manimekalai said, “Shame on you Netflix India, Priyadharshan, Mani Ratnam. What hypocrisy, Netflix. You play BIPOC [Black, Indigenous and People of Colour] friendly, Social Justice keenly in America and play casteist in India.”
“All your #BlackLivesMatter politics you do in America is a farce when you play a brahmin in India, Netflix,” she further wrote.
Earlier, calling out the streaming giant’s choice of films, Manimekalai tweeted: “Hello Netflix, do you remember how you started 10 years ago? You went to Sundance to acquire films. You invested in films and filmmakers who pushed film as an art form to new horizons. You had some bones. In India, you became brahminical, a sucker for brands and market forces. Sad to see how wasted you are!”
Produced by filmmaker Mani Ratnam in collaboration with Jayendra Panchapakesan, the nine short films in Navarasa are directed by Karthik Subbaraj, Vasanth, Arvind Swami, Bejoy Nambiar, Karthick Naren, Gautham Vasudev Menon, Sarjun KM and Rathindran R Prasad.
On Friday, #BanNetflix was also trending on Twitter with several tweets calling out Navarasa for an advertisement on the film in a Tamil daily featuring a verse from the Quran.
One such tweet was by Raza Academy, a ‘Sunni Barelvi organization of Indian Sunni Muslims that promotes Islamic beliefs through publications and research’.
“Netflix has published a verse of the Quran in the advertisement of its film Navarasa in Daily Thanthi newspaper. This is an insult to the Quran. We demand strict action against Netflix India. #BanNetflix #BanDailyThanthiNews,” the organisation tweeted.
The advertisement referred to Navarasa’s segment on fear, Inmai, directed by Rathindran and starring Siddharth and Parvathy in the lead roles.