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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

Indian states ask again for film ban amid violent protests

Padmavat tells story of fictional queen but has outraged nationalists and some castes

A police officer inspects damage to the ticket counter of a multiplex in Ahmedabad that was attacked by a mob on January 20, 2018 during a protest against the release of the Bollywood film Padmavat. Amit Dave / Reuters
A police officer inspects damage to the ticket counter of a multiplex in Ahmedabad that was attacked by a mob on January 20, 2018 during a protest against the release of the Bollywood film Padmavat. Amit Dave / Reuters

Two Indian states made a last ditch attempt on Monday to ban the screening of a Bollywood film that has sparked violent protests by radical groups.

The Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh governments asked the supreme court to retract its ruling ordering states to show the film Padmavat, which is scheduled to open on Thursday.

The urgent petitions, which the court will hear on Tuesday, were lodged a day after fresh protests against the film. Hindu extremists set fire to buses and blocked roads in Gujarat. In Rajasthan, 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 a reward to anyone who beheaded the 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 Padmavat for release subject to five changes.