India’s top court yesterday rejected a final bid by two states to ban a Bollywood film about a mythical Hindu queen which sparked violent protests by radical groups. Threats by Hindu fringe groups against “Padmaavat”, which is to be released Thursday, have forced police to step up security around cinemas intending to show the movie. The Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh state governments asked the country’s Supreme Court to retract an earlier ruling stopping states from banning “Padmaavat”. “We do not find any merit in the applications,” the court said yesterday. “What is implicit in your argument is that you are incapable of maintaining law and order in your state,” Supreme Court judge A.M Khanwilkar told lawyers for the state governments at the hearing.
“You first implement our order and then if there is any violence then we can examine it on case to case basis.” The two states were among four which had wanted to stop the film being shown because of the threat of disturbances. Radical groups have blocked roads, and burned buses and toll booths in recent days in protests against the movie. Protesters claim the film falsely depicts a romance between 14th century Hindu queen Padmavati and Muslim ruler Alauddin Khilji. The producers deny this and insist the movie portrays her respectfully. The Supreme Court last Thursday overturned a ban on the release of the film imposed by Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and other states saying it violated creative freedoms.
A caste-based group, the Rajput Karni Sena, has threatened to attack cinemas showing the film. In January last year members attacked the film’s director Sanjay Leela Bhansali and vandalised the set during filming in Rajasthan. The leader of the group also offered 50 million rupees ($769,000) to anyone who “beheaded” lead actress Deepika Padukone or director Bhansali. Protesters attacked another set near Mumbai in March, burning costumes and other props. 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. Protesters maintain it distorts history, even though experts say the queen is a mythical character. Earlier this month the film censor board cleared “Padmaavat” for release subject to five changes.-AFP