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‘Obnoxious, Hindi Imposition’: Netflix Ad ‘Cherrapunji ki Diwali’ Slammed for Misrepresentation

Social media users have pointed out that Diwali is not celebrated widely in Cherrapunji, aka Sohra, as shown in the advert, which they say misrepresented their culture and ethnicity.

Image Courtesy: Pixahive

A newly released Netflix advertisement on the occasion of Diwali named – Cherrapunji ki Diwali – and set in Meghalaya has attracted widespread criticism from across the North-eastern state for misrepresentation and cultural appropriation.

Meghalaya netizens, students’ organisations and other civil society organisations have slammed the OTT platform over the advertisement, according to reports. The Khasi Students’ Union (KSU), which is the apex students’ body in Meghalayahas said the Netflix advertisement Cherrapunji ki Diwali is ‘misleading’.

The advertisement depicts how Diwali is apparently celebrated in Sohra, also known as Cherrapunji, amid incessant rain. Social media users have pointed out that Diwali is not celebrated widely as shown in the advert as it is not a part of their culture as majority are Christians, and even Hindus there don’t light diyas or make rangolis. They also mentioned that the weather in the state during Diwali is generally dry and pleasant, unlike the heavy rainfall shown in the advertisement.

KSU general secretary Donald Thabah was quoted by Northeast Now as saying on social media, “Absolutely wrong presentation by Netflix India. Netflix is universal, I am a subscriber. As a universal entity, it is very wrong to mislead the universe about my homeland.” 

“There is no such place called CHERRAPUNJEE in KHASILAND!!! The name is SOHRA!!!” Thabah said in a social media postNortheast Now reported.

Many others on social media also criticised Netflix for not mentioning the name Sohra, which is what locals call Cherrapunji. According to a report in the EastMojo, the village was known as Cherrapunjee to the outside world for nearly 180 years due to what the British called it. After decades-long lobbying by the nearly 150,000 tribal Khasi inhabitants, the state government finally decided to rename Cherrapunjee as Sohra.

Calling it a ‘false advertising’, Shillong Times Editor Patricia Mukhim in her Facebook post said, “Not sure why this weather wants to co-operate with this disgusting ad from #Netflix but it’s raining in Shillong. Normally this is autumn and the rains should have receded. This advert is yet again aimed at portraying all tribals as Hindus who celebrate Diwali. The attempt to assimilate the tribes into a monolithic culture has never been so overt and superciliously done. It’s sad that for a few rupees our people too should agree to be co-opted lock, stock and barrel”.

Facebook post by Mike Sangma, co-founder of Porkipine, called the advertisement called it “obnoxious”.

“Found this Netflix Diwali Commercial way odd and inconsistent with the current trend of encouraging vernacular languages in the country! Or the definition of mother tongue only means Hindi????,” asked Sangma. He also questioned since when has any Bah from Cherrapunji or a Khasi guy from Meghalaya started speaking such ‘sudh’ (fluent) Hindi as the narrator in the advertisement does.

Filmmaker Tarun Bhartiya tweeted saying: “<Hindu Corporate India> Khasi Hills merely a backdrop – with wrong festival, wrong name, wrong dress, wrong accent, wrong language – (everything fucking wrong) @netflixindia dances to Hindu India Tune.

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