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MUMBAI: Amazon is diving into Bollywood with its first Hindi-language movie, starring India’s highest-paid actor, as it fights for viewers in the huge but crowded market.

Bollywood superstar Akshay Kumar will be the lead in the action-adventure flick “Ram Setu”, which will be released in cinemas before its streaming debut on Amazon Prime Video, the American tech giant said in a statement Wednesday.

Global streaming platforms, including Netflix, Amazon and Disney’s Hotstar, have expanded their presence in the country of 1.3 billion in recent years, including by commissioning local productions featuring Bollywood stars.

Streaming services have surged in popularity due to the coronavirus pandemic as locked-down, cinema-loving Indians turned to them for entertainment, with theatres shut for more than six months.

Amazon, which has already bet big on India with its core e-commerce business, recently ruffled feathers when it was forced to issue an apology for “Tandav”, a drama streamed on Prime.

Politicians from India’s ruling party called for the show to be banned for “deliberately mocking Hindu gods” and disrespecting religious sentiments.

Streaming TV services are not subject to the country’s notoriously fussy censor boards, which regularly cut scenes from movies shown in cinemas and on television.

But under contentious new guidelines announced last month, streaming platforms will soon be forced to withdraw content deemed objectionable 36 hours after a complaint.

The furore over “Tandav” and the new rules are already prompting production firms to tone down programmes they are making, or even drop them, according to media reports.

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