Movies

Indian politician condemned for offering $2.1 million to 'behead' Bollywood actress

India's ruling party on Monday ordered one of its senior members to apologise publicly after he offered a reward for anyone who beheaded the Bollywood actress of a movie that has enraged Hindu activists.

Deepika Padukone, one of Bollywood's biggest earners, is the lead actress of Padmavati, which is based on an epic poem.

The historical period film explores the relationship between the titular Hindu queen from the Rajput warrior clan and Muslim conqueror Alauddin Khilji (Ranveer Singh).

It was due to open on Dec 1 but its producers postponed the release indefinitely as it has been the subject of weeks of violent protests.

Two states, both ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), banned it outright.

Mr Modi's party has asked senior member Suraj Pal Amu why he offered 100 million rupees (S$2.1 million) over the weekend to behead both Padukone and the movie's director, Sanjay Leela Bhansali.

Members of hardline Hindu fringe groups and the BJP have criticised the movie, accusing Bhansali of distorting history by showing the Muslim aggressor as the Hindu queen's "lover".

Bhansali was even attacked on set in January by a Rajput organisation, as some Rajputs believe that the queen chose self-immolation to reject the Muslim king's sexual advances.

"We will not tolerate any violent remarks from our party members, but we also want the director to respect India's history," said Mr Anil Jain, the head of the BJP's state unit in Haryana, to which Mr Amu belongs, adding that the party was considering legal action.

Officials at the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting said Hindu groups and some members of the ruling party had spread rumours about the film, which no members of the public or the government had seen.

Mr Keshav Prasad Maurya, deputy chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state, said he would not permit the movie's release unless scenes showing the queen in a "poor light" were deleted.

"How can a Muslim aggressor be portrayed as the real hero and the Hindu king and queen as victims? This is factually incorrect," he said.

Indian films that touch upon the historical relationships of Hindus, India's majority religion, and Muslim leaders are often controversial.

The head of the Central Board of Film Certification, Anurag Srivastava, said Padmavati's producers had applied on Nov 10 to release the film, but the application was denied because producers did not clarify whether the film was based on fact or fiction.

Viacom 18 - a joint venture between Viacom Inc and Reliance Industries' Network 18 - is the studio behind the film, which analysts estimate cost some US$23 million (S$31 million).

A senior police official in Mumbai said they had offered increased security to Padukone and Bhansali. - REUTERS

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