Episode and the Plot.

An episode that aired on the 1st June, 2018 of Quantico, the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) show starring Priyanka Chopra, was titled “The Blood of Romeo.” The episode dealt with a Hindu terrorist trying to frame Pakistan for a planned nuclear attack on the States, in an effort to thwart organised peace talks. The title, according to IMDB, was a play on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the tension between the two families, the Montagues and the Capulets, becoming a symbol of the years-old conflict between the states of India and Pakistan. One particularly interesting, and scandalous, scene of the episode showed Priyanka Chopra holding a Rudraksh mala, a “Hindu rosary” up to the camera as evidence.

Reaction to the Episode.

The episode was pulled back before it could air in India, but unfortunately, Priyanka Chopra, and the network, was subjected to a series of attacks on Twitter, and other social networking platforms. The principal argument against the episode was constructed around the claim that ‘Hindu terror,’ indeed, was plainly fiction, and that the episode targeted an entire community, brandishing them as criminals and terrorists, and harming the religious and spiritual sentiment they held. In their routine of victimisation, the twitter community also called out Priyanka Chopra for betraying her fans from India, and her country, and her religion. Somewhere in the same country, the common folk had to take time out from their usual complains of the excruciating summer, the exorbitant fuel prices, the depleting Constitutional machinery, to gather on the streets and light posters and effigies of Priyanka Chopra on fire.

There were also people who emphasised that Priyanka Chopra’s fame had come because of her Indian, Hindu, fans, and in exchange for that, it was pathetic for the People’s Choice Award winning actress to go ahead and cheat them in the manner she did?by doing her job and participating in the play of a fictional plot that turned the pointing fingers to them. Some even asked for her to be sent to Pakistan, even though the star has been staying in New York City for the past few years, and has been working to bring the South-Asian community to the forefront of the popular conversation, through initiatives such as launching the 2016 Global Citizen festival, organised at Mumbai, India.

In the 2016 launch video, the naive actress was seen saying, “As the Global Citizen global ambassador, I am so excited to support the launch for the first Global Citizen Festival in India and I am proud to bring my home country and the US closer through this amazing cause,” and only two years later, David Frawley, an American acharya, asked the question of the hour, “Would any Pakistani actress betray Pakistan or Islam the way she betrays India and Hinduism?”

The twitter community also employed its usual source of creativity to come up with hashtags such as #BanQuantico, #BanPriyanka, #BoycottPriyanka, and this reporter’s personal favorite, #BollytardPriyankaChopra, to unite the wave of discontent behind, and called out to Ministers of State to deal with this absolute defamation.

Apology for the Episode.

The modern culture of intolerance often places celebrities, and persons in the public sphere, under a threatening glare of boycotting and negative attention fostered on the internet. In line with the same, the 35-year-old actress issued an apology, on the 10th of June, through twitter. Her tweet read that to hurt the sentiments of people was never her intention, and in the most casual of ways, which would strike all democratic people as awkward and unnecessary, in any place but Modi’s India, she pronounced her nationalism and her commitment to her country. “I am a proud Indian and that will never change.” The routine reminders have become commonplace, but this reporter can't help but chuckle, even after almost four years of the hyper-nationalist hysteria. The network, ABC, also issued an official statement of regret and apology on the 8th of June, 2018. “The show has featured antagonists of many different ethnicities and backgrounds, but in this case we inadvertently and regrettably stepped into a complex political issue. It was certainly not our intention to offend anyone,” ABC said in a statement on Friday. The ABC apology also concentrated upon abdicating the actress of any responsibility, “The episode has stirred a lot of emotion, much of which is unfairly aimed at Priyanka Chopra, who didn’t create the show, nor does she write or direct it.”

It is so important for us to understand the construction of this episode, and the response that followed, along side the perceptual categorisation of Islam as the religion of terror. Quantico, at all points of time, has dealt with the theme of racial and religious profiling, and Priyanka Chopra’s character on the show is literally suspected to be involved in a scheme against the great American nation in the very first episode. The overt reasoning being her brown, South Asian, appearance. Having said that, the apology and the gait of a dog with its tail between its legs, on the part of the Broadcasting company and the actress, seems to come off as rather peculiar, in this instance. Especially the confusion of the hurt HINDU sentiments with hurt INDIAN sentiments, which the World will never know as either purely accidental, or surely deliberate.

The issue has to be studied, not only as an enquiry into the extremely toxic nature of the Hindutva and the Hindu pride resurgence in the subcontinent, which aims to function through creating a claustrophobic atmosphere of threats and fear, but, also, where do we draw the line of problematic representation of identities on Television and other forms of media. The masses have been going on and on about the ways in which the representation of the Muslim and the Black minorities in American media has been harming the case for equality and acceptance, but the opposing ‘many’ have defended it as a result of the imitation of reality doctrine. While it is possible to argue that the covert operation against organised peace talks is a little bit of an exaggeration, as one party of the international conflict remains more problematic than the other, but, a threat of Hindu terror is not too far away from reality as minorities get lynched and the governance lies in the hands of those that dream of a Hindu rashtra, at the cost of secular and constitutional forces. This instance of online harassment and cornering of the actress and the producers can be easily added to the list of false propagandas and programs that this particular section of the online community has started against any and whichever piece of art they’re even slightly troubled by. To provide a better understanding, it is almost as if the Montagues or the Capulets are all united for the murder of Shakespeare, in retelling the tragic tale of unfulfilled love. Of course the real responsibility of the double-suicide lies in the hands of those same people that are now commenting and tweeting endlessly. If anything, this reporter would want the world, and the liberal Indian community to congratulate the Quantico team and the UNICEF Goodwill ambassador, Priyanka, for allowing a global recognition to a very real threat that seems to hang over India, and the Peninsula, like the idiomatic sword.