Padmaavat: India tightens security as controversial film opens

Photo: EPA


Security has been tightened in parts of India for the release of a Bollywood film which has generated months of violent protests.

Some schools are shut in a Delhi suburb following an attack on a school bus, and cinemas in several states say they will not screen the film.

Hardline Hindu groups allege Padmaavat is disrespectful of their culture because it depicts a romance between a Hindu queen and a Muslim king.

Its release was delayed for two months.

Protesters have been burning vehicles and attacking cinemas, demanding the film not be released.

On Wednesday, footage of mobs attacking the school bus in Gurgaon near Delhi caused outrage.

No children were injured in the incident, but protesters burned other buses, and have also vandalised cinemas over the last few days.

Many theatres across India have said that they will not screen the film, fearing further violence.

But viewers in Delhi said there was nothing controversial in the movie.

“All the ruckus that is going on is uncalled for,” one viewer told the BBC soon after watching the film.

The Supreme Court rejected a bid by four states which wanted the film banned for security reasons, saying it was their responsibility to ensure law and order.

What is the dispute about?

Bollywood stars Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh play the lead roles.

The film tells the story of 14th Century Muslim emperor Alauddin Khilji’s attack on a kingdom after he was smitten by the beauty of its queen, Padmavati, who belonged to the Hindu Rajput caste.

Hindu groups and a Rajput caste organisation allege that the movie includes an intimate scene in which the Muslim king dreams of becoming intimate with the Hindu queen.

Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali has said the film does not feature such a “dream sequence” at all.

But rumours of such a scene were enough to enrage right-wing Hindu groups.

Is the film historically accurate?

While Khilji is a historical figure, historians believe that Padmavati is fictional.

The name of the queen, and the plot of the film, are believed to be based on an epic poem, Padmaavat, by 16th-Century poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi.

The poem extols the virtue of Padmavati who committed jauhar to protect her honour from Khilji who had killed her husband, the Rajput king, in a battle.

Jauhar, the mass self-immolation by women to avoid enslavement and rape by foreign invaders, is believed to have originated some 700 years ago among the ruling class or Rajputs in India.

Women in the community burnt themselves after their men were defeated in battles to avoid being taken by the victors. But it came to be seen as a measure of wifely devotion in later years.

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