A regional chief media coordinator for India’s ruling party, Suraj Pal Amu, offered a 100 million rupee ($1,542,615) prize to anyone who would behead starring actress Deepika Padukone and director Sanjay Leela Bhansali for the film Padmavati, a period epic depicting the life of the Rajput queen Padmini.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has demanded Amu “explain” his comments while emphasizing that the Hindu nationalist party also opposes the release of the film.
Groups representing the Rajput caste, particularly the group Karni Sena, have threatened the stars and filmmaker with violence in response to rumors that the film depicts a romantic attraction between Padmini and Alauddin Khilji, a Muslim sultan who, according to an epic poem on the 13th-century historical figures, fell in love with Padmini and killed her husband. The Rajput groups allege that Padmini was never interested in anyone aside from her husband and did not indulge the conquering sultan in any way – and to depict her as having done so tarnishes the dignity of Rajputs as a whole.
Karni Sena has threatened to chop off Padukone’s nose for starring as Padmini in the film.
Amu, meanwhile, offered the high bounty for the director and star of the film and threatened to break the legs of the actor who plays Khilji, Ranveer Singh.
“We don’t want to take the law in our hands but will not forgive anyone who tries to spoil the image of Rajput kings and queens,” he told the crowd. “Padukone is just like our daughter and she must stay away for playing roles like the one she played in Padmavati … if anyone raises an eye at our sisters and daughters, they will be punished.”
Following these threats, on Tuesday, Amu warned government art censors that “the youth and warrior caste of this country have the strength to set every cinema on fire.”
At least one BJP official has claimed that the BJP opposes the film. Amu himself has said that he offered the reward for beheading the film professionals “as a Rajput” and not a BJP official and told reporters that his party has neither reprimanded him nor contacted him at all. NDTV says Amu confirmed Tuesday that he “firmly stands by his statement.”
FirstPost lists the Indian states so far that have banned the film as including “Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana and Jharkhand.”
The Indian government has offered Padukone and her family extra security in light of the controversy, and the film’s studio has postponed its scheduled December 1 release for sometime in 2018. Padukone has also canceled an appearance at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES), where Modi and American President Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, are scheduled to appear.
The film has sparked controversy since its production. The Times of India notes that rumors in January that the film would feature a “romantic dream sequence” between the queen and sultan spread around Rajput communities and resulted in the film’s set being overrun by protests. The film’s director, Bhansali, managed to subdue the protests by accepting a demand that Padmini and Khilji’s characters never appear on screen together and that the descendants of the characters in question get a say in the film. “The protests erupted only after the songs and trailer were released without informing the concerned organisations and families,” the Times reports.
The Times also notes, however, that many historians do not believe Padmini actually existed and is considered a mythological figure.
At least one state that has banned the film, Madhya Pradesh, announced it would erect a statue of Padmini to partially undo the damage to her reputation from the film.