Mumbai (AFP) – Indian state governments made a last-ditch attempt Monday to ban a Bollywood film about a mythical Hindu queen which has sparked violent protests by radical groups.
The Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh governments asked India’s top court to retract a ruling ordering states to show the film “Padmaavat”, which is due to hit screens on Thursday.
The urgent petitions, which the Supreme Court will hear on Tuesday, were lodged a day after Hindu extremists set fire to buses and blocked roads in Gujarat state.
In Rajasthan state, women carrying swords marched in Chittorgarh against the movie. In Noida, near the capital New Delhi, activists burned toll booths on a major highway after a rally.
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 on Thursday overturned a ban on the release of the film which had been imposed by several states, including Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, saying it violated creative freedoms.
The states have asked the court instead to rule that individual state governments should be allowed to block the release on law and order grounds.
A caste-based group called the Rajput Karni Sena, which has been leading the violent protests, has threatened to attack cinemas showing the film, including with swords.
Its leaders claim that hundreds of women are ready to perform a mass self-immolation if the movie showing goes ahead.
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 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.