Lessons from the Quantico episode

The entertainment industry, which includes film and television, has and must have creative freedom to do its job. It need not always be politically correct, nor is it bound to pander to sectarian demands or constantly look over the shoulder to avoid hurting what is commonly paraded as “sentiments” of someone or the other. At the same time, given its vast reach and the ability to influence people, the entertainment industry does have a responsibility to steer clear of wrong portrayals that can create social disorders or, even more importantly, unjustifiably project a nation or its people in bad light.

This is the clear message from the controversy regarding an episode of the Priyanka Chopra-starring television denial, Quantico. Both ABC Network and the Indian actor have apologised, and the matter can rest for now. The controversy was entirely avoidable in the first place. When Priyanka Chopra was given the script of the episode, she ought to have dissented. The plot concerned a group of Indian ‘nationalists’ who plotted a terror attack on Manhattan in order to blame Pakistan for the incident. Perhaps the makers of the serial were looking at the vast South Asian market to boost their viewership through this contentious story. Perhaps the Indian actor was driven by financial considerations to overlook the potential pitfall in accepting the script. But Priyanka is no babe in the woods and one assumes she has a working understanding of the political situation that exists between India and Pakistan.

How could she accept a script that runs down her own country? She has since called herself a “proud Indian”. Nobody doubts that, but she needs to be more careful in the future. ABC Network has acknowledged the error of wading into a “complex political issue”. There have been flawed comparisons of the Quantico incident with Padmavat and Kaala. The first had a local and not national character while protests against the Rajnikant-starrer had nothing to do with the film’s content — extraneous factors triggered agitations in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. The entertainment industry has to strike a balance between creative freedom and public good, more so when the country’s reputation is called into question.

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