Hindu groups protest release of film depicting Hindu-Muslim romance


The Indian government has been asked to delay the release of Padmayati, a film depicting a mythological 16th century queen, following protests, assaults on the director and the set, and threats to mutilate the lead actress’s face. Civil unrest has culminated to the point where riot police may be stationed outside Indian cinemas for the release of the movie, but Uttar Pradesh officials have reported that this will prove difficult due to elections and a Muslim holiday on the same date requiring police personnel.

Fringe Hindu groups, Indian royalty and the ruling Bharatiya Janata party have been incensed by rumours of how the queen – Rani Padmavati – will be portrayed in the film. Deepika Padukone, the actress playing the queen, has been shown dancing with a revealed midriff in the film’s trailer. Additionally, Rightwing Hindu groups suspect that the queen will be depicted entwined in a romantic relationship with an invading Muslim king, Alauddin Khilji. There is evidence to prove that Khilji actually existed, and Padmayati is generally regarded to be a mythological figure. However, she is still held in high regard by members of the Hindu Rajput caste, to which Padmayati fictionally belonged.

The director, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, has insisted that “no romantic scene or song or dream sequence” will occur between the king and queen. This did not prevent members of an angered Hindu group from barging onto the set of Padmayati and assaulting Bhansali and other employees. Bhansali, afterwards, agreed to delete any scenes the Hindu group may find to be offensive.

Earlier this week, a spokesperson from the same Hindu group reported that – if the film was to be released – they would cut off lead actress Deepika Padukone’s nose. A historian, Rana Safvi, attributed the outcry to growing religious polarisation – especially between Hindus and Muslims – in India.

As for now, Padmayati is still scheduled for a 1 December premiere.

Ayan Goran