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Riots Roil India Ahead of Controversial Movie Release

  • VOA News

Burnt vehicles, set on fire Tuesday night following a protest by people belonging to Rajput community against the release of the upcoming Bollywood movie 'Padmaavat', are seen outside a multiplex in Ahmedabad, India Jan. 24, 2018.

Riots broke out in cities across India as angry protestors torched cars and damaged movie theaters a day before a controversial film is set to be released.

A day before 'Padmaavat', a movie based on the story of a 14th-century Hindu queen, is set to be released, mobsters torched a bus in a town outside the nation's capital of Delhi, protesters marched on train tracks to block trains in Uttar Pradesh. Cinemas and shopping malls were vandalized in multiple cities — including in the northern state of Jammu where a ticket booth was set on fire.

Hindu hardliners have been protesting the movie for months, accusing its director Sanjay Leela Bhansali of "distorting history" by portraying a Muslim ruler as the lover of Hindu queen Padmavati. Bhansali has denied the accusations, which many historians say are baseless as there is little factual evidence that Padmavati existed.

Demonstrators shout slogans outside a multiplex during a protest against the release of the upcoming Bollywood movie 'Padmaavat' in Ahmedabad, India, Jan. 23, 2018.
Demonstrators shout slogans outside a multiplex during a protest against the release of the upcoming Bollywood movie 'Padmaavat' in Ahmedabad, India, Jan. 23, 2018.

Earlier this year the group vandalized the sets during the film's shooting and assaulted the director.

The movie's title was earlier changed from Padmavati to Padmaavat, in an effort to compromise with critics of the film, who insist that it will hurt the honor of Rajputs, a warrior caste of North India for whom Padmavati is a symbol of pride and honor.

India's Supreme Court ruled earlier this month that state governments could not ban the film from being released, but a number of individual theaters have said that they will not screen it.

Many cities have also increased security around movie theaters.

Protests over books, films and writings which Hindu or Muslim groups find offensive are not new in India. American Indologist Wendy Doniger's book, "The Hindus: An Alternative History," was pulled off the shelves in 2014 by a publishing house after protests by a Hindu right-wing group.

Salman Rushdie's book "The Satanic Verses" is banned in India since many Muslims consider it blasphemous.

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