Furore over Netflix’s insensitive Cherrapunji Diwali ad

The Netflix India promo featuring a fictional Diwali celebration in Sohra, known to non-residents of Cherrapunjee, hasn’t struck the right kind of chord with the people of Meghalaya, at least the Twitterati section of the state.

The video has been making the rounds on social media since its October 21 release but for all the wrong reasons. First, the video was heavily criticized for misrepresenting how Sohra celebrates Diwali. Many felt that this ad misrepresents the state and the people, especially Sohra, and how the creators misunderstood the North East at all.

According to Gertrude Lamare, “this Sohra in your ad doesn’t really exist. Bravo for being wrong, again!”

Mike Sangma, co-founder of Porkipine, criticized the advertisement and called it obnoxious.

“I found this commercial way of Netflix Diwali a bit odd and inconsistent with the current trend of encouraging vernaculars in the country! Or definition of mother tongue only means Hindi????” Sangma said in his Facebook post. He also questioned how genuine it was to have a Khasi person from Sohra who speaks Hindi so fluid.

Sangma added, “How do creative directors in Mumbai/Delhi get such a vast and ignorant creative canvas to think they know the area and let them get away with such crude but socially significant advertisements?”

“What kind of cultural and religious homogenization is this? Please check your facts and stop promoting such propaganda,” theater artist Lapdiang Syiem posted on Instagram.

Filmmaker and longtime Shillong resident Tarun Bhartiya tweeted: “Khasi Hills is just a backdrop – with a bad festival, a bad name, a bad dress, a bad accent, a bad language – (everything is wrong) @netflixindia is dancing to the Hindu India Tune”.

Another filmmaker, Utpal Borpujari, called it a “sentimental, ‘one-India’ advertisement” that is “deaf” to people and even the weather in Sohra is concerned.

His criticism revolved around the difference between actual religious practice (the region is predominantly Christian) and that shown in the advert (Hindu), the misrepresentation of people creating rangolis, the myth of the ever-present rain in Sohra, and the problem with Cherrapunjee’s name.

“Just putting in a few NE actors doesn’t absolve the crime filmmakers of not doing enough research on the area,” Borpujari said on social media.

In a separate social media post, Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) General Secretary Donald Thabah condemned the announcement. He wrote, “Diwali is the festival of lights, Netflix India should shed the right light on our tribe, customs, beliefs and aspirations. Don’t be fooled by pseudo-Indian elements.

About Ricardo Schulte

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