Parents, experts respond to Netflix show 'Bombay Begums' controversy involving minors

Parents and experts say what they feel about the controversy around the Netflix series, Bombay Begums, and how the child rights bodies are not doing what they are supposed to do

Published: 20th March 2021 09:27 AM  |   Last Updated: 20th March 2021 09:27 AM   |  A+A-

Child actor Aadhya Anand was part of the cocaine snorting scene in Bombay Begums that drew the ire of the NCPCR

Express News Service

The latest OTT show to get embroiled in controversy is the Netflix India drama web series, Bombay Begums. The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights has asked Netflix to remove “certain scenes” involving minors. Written and directed by Alankrita Shrivastava, the series about five women played by Pooja Bhatt, Shahana Goswami, Amruta Subhash and Plabita Borthakur, from different parts of society trying to get ahead.

But Historian Pushpesh Pant did not find the series objectionable. “After watching it, I realised that this is already the reality in our society, slums and even at schools. Kids of government schools get into drug addiction too early. This kind of content is not meant for children below 16, but they are well exposed to it. Girls are being pushed into the flesh trade, child marriages are happening, domestic violence and what not. No one addresses these issues as we have allowed this kind of moral policing. This is an example of shrinking freedom of expression.

Similar things had happened when Mirzapur and Tandav had released, and Tandav’s Season 2 has also been cancelled. Too much hypocrisy happening in the society,” adds Pant.

The Commission stated that this kind of content could ‘pollute young minds’ and result in the abuse and exploitation of children. But *Seema Gupta, mother of two girls, thinks NCPCR’s objection to Bombay Begums is unwarranted. “The Netflix series has given us a realistic portrayal of teen issues and raises alarming issues, which we as parents and citizens need to pay heed to.

Learn to act and not just react,” adds the woman, whose minor daughter was victim of sexual abuse, adding that: “My daughter was touched ‘inappropriately’ in the classroom of an upmarket school here in Dwarka, during school hours by another classmate in November 2017 because the teacher chose to leave an ayah in charge of the class while another teacher had gone out on school duty. I reported the incident, but the matter failed to make the child rights bodies DCPCR and NCPCR rise to the occasion.” She is currently engaged in a long-drawn legal battle to hold the school accountable for this negligence.

Enakshi Ganguly, Co-founder, HAQ: Centre for Child Rights, feels that NCPCR is ignoring the more important things they need to be focusing on. “Look at the impact of Covid on children and the way they are dropping out of school. Instead, they pick up any odd issue, following the pattern of conservatism. NCPCR is not the gatekeeper of culture and morality, it is the gatekeeper of violations against children, and that is what they should do,” advises Ganguly.

Historian and Author Gautam Chintamani sees a fine line between reality and the manner in which it is portrayed that makes it look aspirational. “For young minds, which are highly impressionable, the lure of replicating something playing out onscreen in real life is often too high. Creative liberties must always be encouraged but at the same time, the question ‘how much is too much ’ mustal so be addressed. When it comes to dealing with children, it’s important to err on the side of caution.”

A ban is not the solution
“The idea is to educate children. They will watch the show irrespective, we just need to teach them on how to process that information,” adds Ganguly. But Chintamani feels that artistes must consider the option of telling the story in a way where the message isn’t burdened, “for the want of a better term, by the ‘shock value’. I watched some part of it. The scenes of children consuming cocaine could have been handled better. The stark reality may seem disturbing for adults and putting off but may impact children differently. When depicting children it’s better to address the issue with creative sensibility.”

(*Name changed to protect identity)

India Matters


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