India's NCPCR Calls to Censor Netflix's 'Bombay Begums'

What is the 'Bombay Begums' controversy leading many to boycott the series? Here's what you need to know about how it all started.


Mar. 18 2021, Updated 6:41 p.m. ET

'Bombay Begums'
Source: courtesy of Netflix

In India, pressure continues to mount for yet another TV series that supposedly goes against the sentiments of the general public. 

The new Netflix series Bombay Begums has come under fire from the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) for its “objectionable” scenes that violate laws meant to protect children.

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The government agency has issued a written complaint to Netflix asking them to remove the scenes in question while also requesting the Mumbai police take action. 

But what exactly is the controversy surrounding Bombay Begums and what is shown in these problematic scenes? Keep scrolling for everything you need to know.

bombay begums controversy
Source: Hitesh Mulani/Netflix
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What is the 'Bombay Begums' controversy?

Bombay Begums is a new Netflix show headlined by Indian director / actress Pooja Bhatt. The eight-part series follows five different women from different socioeconomic backgrounds in Mumbai as they try to overcome their daily struggles and achieve their dreams. 

Directed by Alankrita Shrivastava, who was behind 2016’s Lipstick Under My Burkha, the series has already received a ton of praise for its realistic portrayal of women and for its message that urges women to band together and break the silence that protects perpetrators of sexual harassment. 

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However, on March 11, the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) wrote to Netflix India asking them to stop airing the show because they feel that “this type of content will not only pollute the young minds of the children, and may also result into abuse and exploitation of children.”

bombay begums controversy
Source: Netflix
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The Commission has taken issue with the portrayal of minors taking part in drugs and sexual activities on the show and has asserted that the series could “pollute young minds” and also result in abuse and exploitation of children. 

The fact that the show is fictional and Netflix has given it a maturity rating of 18 and above seems to have escaped the Commission. 

For her part, lead actress Pooja Bhatt has said that ultimately, viewers are the ones with the final say. She said that “eventually your intention is always understood by people in power. And institutes finally comprise people.” 

She urged the team at Netflix to “sit down with the Commission, talk to them.” 

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She also noted that the team was extremely conscious of having a young girl on set, both on- and off-screen. Pooja insisted that at no point in the show does anyone glorify drugs and the aim of the controversial scenes was to hold up a mirror to reflect what happens in real life and to depict “that stage of [a child’s] life where they are prone to getting misled.”

bombay begums controversy
Source: ANU PATTNAIK/Netflix
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The call to censor 'Bombay Begums' is just the latest in a troubling trend.

The call to censor Bombay Begums is the latest in a list of recent productions that have come under fire from the Indian government. 

In January 2021, the makers of Amazon Prime’s political drama Tandav were forced to remove “offending” scenes and issue an apology after it was accused of ridiculing Hindu Gods as well as being “anti-Dalit and full of communal hatred against Hindus.”

Amazon Prime's other action thriller Mirzapur went through a similar situation when it was accused of hurting the religious sentiments of Hindus and showing the state of Uttar Pradesh in an unflattering light. 

In 2020, Netflix's A Suitable Boy was also accused of hurting religious sentiments and insulting Hindu Gods and Goddesses after the movie's interfaith couple was shown sharing a kiss against the backdrop of a Hindu temple.

In response to the NCPCR’s letter, Netflix has requested additional time to discuss the matter with its legal team but as of now, Bombay Begums is still available on the streaming platform.

Watch Bombay Begums (while you still can) on Netflix.

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