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Explained: What is the row between Bombay Begums and the child rights body?

The NCPCR, a statutory body formed under an act of the Indian Parliament in 2007, issued a legal notice to Bombay Begums on Thursday, asking Netflix to stop airing the show for its "inappropriate portrayal” of children.

Written by Ektaa Malik , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: March 18, 2021 8:06:12 am
bombay begums controversy, Bombay begums ncpcr row, Bombay begums child rights controversy, Netflix web series, indian expressDirected by Alankrita Shrivastav, Bombay Begums has been hailed for giving us a realistic portrayal of women from today’s urban milieu.

While the past month saw political thriller Tandav streaming on Amazon Prime landing into a controversy, it is now Bombay Begums (Netflix) that is in the line of fire with the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) asking the Over-The-Top platform to stop its new show.

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What is Bombay Begums?

The show, an eight-part series, is a story of five urban women who are living, working and dreaming in the big bad world of Mumbai. Covering all age groups — from a high-powered CEO, to a dewy-eyed newcomer to Mumbai, a mid-career woman and a former bar dancer trying to do the best she can for her son — the show essentially is a peek into the struggles, dreams and desires of urban women. How their lives intersect, collide and eventually shape each other, lies at the core of the show.

Directed by Alankrita Shrivastav, who earlier gave us Lipstick under my Burkha and Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare, the show has been hailed for giving us a realistic portrayal of women from today’s urban milieu.

Why has the NCPCR given notice to Bombay Begums?

The NCPCR, a statutory body formed under an act of the Indian Parliament in 2007, issued a legal notice to Bombay Begums on Thursday, asking Netflix to stop airing the show for its “inappropriate portrayal” of children.

The child rights body has also asked the global streaming platform for a response within 24 hours failing which they will be “constrained to initiate appropriate legal action”.

The commission added that content like Bombay Begums could “pollute young minds” and also result in abuse and exploitation of children. “Netflix should take extra precaution while streaming any content in respect of the children or for the children and shall also refrain from getting into such things,” stated the notice issued by the NCPCR. The commission has also criticised the depiction of minors indulging in sexual activities and drugs.

Twitter storm

The NCPCR got involved in the issue after it was tagged on Twitter in two complaints. The complaints shared screengrabs of the show where it had depicted a 13-year-old snorting cocaine. The first complaint read: “From normalization of minors indulging in casual sex we now have a web series showing minors having cocaine. Screen grab from #BombayBegums where a 13 year old is snorting coke as the party she goes to is all about alcohol, drugs.”

The second complaint had an issue with inappropriate selfies – “Dream of school girls is to send selfies with a ‘developed’ body part to Imran,” it said.

What is happening now?

A senior Netflix official met NCPCR chairperson Priyank Kanoongo and submitted an explanation regarding the show. Netflix had asked for more time to look into the matter after they were served the initial notice by NCPCR. The streaming giant’s team is meeting the Commission next Tuesday.

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The new normal

This is not the first instance in recent times that OTT platforms have been involved in a controversy with the government. We had Mirzapur in 2020 and then Tandav in 2021, which faced the ire of the masses for offending their sensibilities. Tandav, a political drama, had to take down the offensive bits and their makers had to submit an unconditional apology. There are also new rules and regulations that have come into effect recently to monitor digital content

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