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04 December 2023

Controversial Indian film gets release date


A Bollywood epic about a legendary Hindu queen will finally be released next week despite months of violent protests, Indian filmmakers have confirmed.

"Padmaavat" was initially due to hit screens in December. But producers Viacom18 Motion Pictures delayed the release following protests sparked by speculation that it would depict a romantic liaison between the queen and the 13th and 14th century Muslim ruler Alauddin Khilji.

Politicians had threatened to ban the film for distorting historical facts, even though historians say the queen, Padmavati, is a mythical character.

It will hit screens on January 25 after censors cleared it for release subject to five changes, the producers announced late Sunday.

Full-page advertisements appeared in Indian newspapers Monday saying the film portrayed the legendary queen "with utmost respect".

Film-makers say the movie is based on a work of fiction by a 16th-century Sufi poet, the epic entitled "Padmaavat".

The movie's title has been changed from "Padmavati" to "Padmaavat", possibly to reflect the fact it is based on the work.

The film first ran into opposition in January 2017 when protesters attacked director Sanjay Leela Bhansali and vandalised the set during filming in Rajasthan.

Protesters attacked another set near Mumbai in March, burning costumes and other props.

They stepped up demonstrations in November last year, including making a death threat against the lead actress Deepika Padukone and against the director Bhansali.

India's Hindi film industry churns out hundreds of movies every year but filmmakers often face intimidation from fringe groups.
Critics say the censorship board acts in an overzealous way, fuelling fears over creative freedom in the country.

Ministers in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh have said the film will not be shown in those states.

The movie stars Shahid Kapoor as Maharawal Ratan Singh, the husband of Padmavati, and Ranveer Singh as Khilji who leads an invasion to try to capture the queen.