The Big Story: Outrage-o-rama
Priyanka Chopra has joined the list of Indian celebrities who have been forced to issue public statements of remorse for hurting hyper-nationalist sentiments. On Sunday, the actor apologised for the plot of an episode from the American television drama Quantico, in which she has played Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Alex Parrish since 2015. An episode titled The Blood of Romeo, which was aired on June 1, featured a Hindu extremist conspiracy to set off a nuclear explosion in New York City ahead of an India-Pakistan peace summit. The episode outraged Hindu nationalists, prompting Chopra and Quantico’s producer and broadcaster, ABC, to offer a public declaration of regret.
After being attacked for participating in the episode, Chopra felt compelled to reiterate her nationalist credentials. “I’m extremely saddened and sorry that some sentiments have been hurt by a recent episode of Quantico,” she said in a tweet. “That was not and would never be my intention. I sincerely apologise. I’m a proud Indian and that will never change.”
The controversy comes at a delicate time for Chopra. She is making a return to the Hindi film industry after her Hollywood sojourn. Quantico will wrap up in August after the end of its third season due to falling ratings. Chopra will be starring in the upcoming Bharat alongside Salman Khan, and is also the producer of films in several Indian languages. She is the mascot of tourism for Assam and endorses several brands.
Chopra had already stirred anger in May for criticising the eviction of Rohingyas from Myanmar. Her statements came after a trip to refugee camps in Bangladesh in her capacity as a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador. She was promptly trolled by Hindutva supporters, who are critical of the presence in India of a small number of refugees from the predominantly Muslim community. Chopra is well aware of the professional and personal costs she would have to pay should troublemakers threaten to boycott her.
Chopra has been the symbol of Indian global aspirations since she won the Miss World crown in 2000. Her ability to land roles in Quantico and in Hollywood productions such as Baywatch (2017) have been a matter of pride for Indians. But despite the international prominence that Quantico earned her, Chopra has been rudely reminded of the shallowness of Indian pride by her hyper-nationalist cousins back home.
Chopra’s retreat is easy to understand. Not so ABC’s note of apology. The station’s carefully worded statement emphasised that Quantico was “a work of fiction” that featured “antagonists of many different ethnicities and backgrounds”. The network’s capitulation has been criticised for being selective. Commentators have noted that ABC has never expressed remorse for depicting terror plots led by Muslims (the villains in Quantico include an Islamic terror group). Through its apology, ABC played along with the notion that that the existence of Hindu extremism simply isn’t possible – even in fiction.
The Big Scroll
- Why the latest episode of Priyanka Chopra-starrer Quantico has enraged Indian fans.
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- Why saffron terror is not a myth, argues Ashok Swain.
- We need to amend the anti-defection law and forge political consensus to avert the subversion of democracy that is currently underway with speakers and governors more interested in being loyal to their parties than the Constitution, writes Kapil Sibal in the Hindu.
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- An efficient and sustainable solution for better prices really lies in getting the markets right by overhauling the agri-marketing infrastructure and its associated laws, argue Ashok Gulati and Shweta Saini in the Indian Express.
Behind the Shillong communal clashes are olld grudges, a real estate row and Khasi nationalism, reports Arunabh Saikia.
“For some, like the electronics store owner, the protests were not just an opportunity to settle old scores but a chance to ‘serve the Khasi people’. There is definitely a ‘communal angle’, he said, but quickly added that he has ‘nothing against genuine municipal workers’. He explained, ‘I have problems only with illegal migrants who have come and settled there and colonised the area.’”