By Lauren Codling and Sairah Masud
CINEMAS in Britain are unlikely to screen a controversial new Bollywood film after producers said they had no intention of releasing the feature abroad until it had received classification in India.
Padmavati, starring top Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone in the lead role, had been cleared for release in the UK last week after British censors gave it a 12A rating.
The film is an Indian historical drama that has caused controversy since it initially started filming earlier in the year.
Far-right protesters have been outraged by apparent scenes depicting the main character, a 14th century Hindu queen, being romantically involved with a Muslim ruler.
Serious threats have been made against those involved with the film, including Padukone and director Sanjay Leela Bhansali.
India’s Supreme Court rejected a legal attempt on Tuesday (28) to block the global release of the film, stating that people should refrain from making judgements until it has been classified by a board of censors.
A representative of the film’s director and producer, Harish Salve, however confirmed that there was no intention of releasing the feature film abroad until it had received classification in its native country.
Eastern Eye contacted several large UK cinema chains regarding the film’s release, but no one responded for comment.
Last week, UK charity Rajput Samaj said that they wanted the British Board of Film Classifications (BBFC) to revoke the movie’s certification.
The charity wrote to the BBFC that the queen Padmavati was a “revered” figure in India and that efforts of the director to “glorify” Alauddin Khilji could be compared to glorifying Daesh (Islamic State) for murdering Yazidi girls in the present day.
“We must stand up against the glamorisation of plundering, looting, and other barbaric acts,” they added.
The president of the charity, Mahendrasinh C Jadeja, told Eastern Eye that although he had not seen the film, he was not happy with its release.
He also confirmed he did not condone the violent protests that had been sparked due to its subject matter.
“We treat the character as a Hindu goddess and I’m sure parts of the film may be distorted, but until we have seen the film we can’t make a comment on it,” he said on Tuesday.
Jadeja added: “[However], I totally condemn violence. I disagree with whoever is campaigning for beheading. My personal view is it’s totally, totally wrong to harm another person.”
Suraj Pal Amu, a member of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), offered a bounty of more than £1 million last week to anyone who “beheaded” Padukone and Bhansali.
During filming, the film set was vandalised twice – in Jaipur and Kolhapur in India – and Bhansali was assaulted by members of protest-group Karni Sena during the Jaipur schedule of the film earlier this year, some of which was caught on video.
Padukone, among the Hindi film industry’s leading actresses, has had police protection after the death threats and was recently forced to cancel her attendance at an event with Ivanka Trump due to risk of her safety.
“It’s absolutely appalling. What have we gotten ourselves into? And where have we reached as a nation?” she said last week of the abuse.
Indian film distributors Viacom18 released a statement last Sunday (19), stating they had “voluntarily deferred” the date of the film.
“We have faith that we will soon obtain the requisite clearances to release the film. We will announce the revised release date of the film in due course,” it said.
When contacted by Eastern Eye, the movie’s international distributors Paramount Pictures did not respond.
The head of India’s Central Board of Film Certification, Anurag Srivastava, said Padmavati’s producers had applied on November 10 to release the film, but the application was denied because producers did not clarify whether the film was based on fact or fiction.
Meanwhile, prominent faces from the film industry have denounced protests.
Members of the local Bengal film industry, or Tollywood as it is locally called, announced a
15-minute black-out on Tuesday to denounce the protests that have taken place around the film.
“We all have smart phones in our hands but our minds have gone to medieval ages. This is [a] pity,” director Gautar Ghose said on Monday as he made the announcement in support of the under-fire film.
Days earlier, the protests continue to escalate as a body was found hanging from a famous fort in Jaipur. Scribbled nearby was a reference to the film; Padmavati’ ka virodh (in opposition to Padmavati).
The graffiti further included a warning that effigies are not burnt, but hung.
Police said they were not clear if the body was related to suicide or murder. The individual was later identified as a local man, Chetan Saini.
In relation to the prospect of a UK release, a Karni Sena leader called for people from the UK Rajput community to protest the release and warned any cinema that screened it would be “burned”.
The BBFC announced it had classified the film as 12A for moderate violence and injury detail last week. In a statement to Eastern Eye, they confirmed they did not consider lobbying of any kind during the classification process.