Vijay Rupani, the Chief Minister of Gujarat, said today, "The government of Gujarat will not allow 'Padmavati' - a movie hurting sentiments of Rajputs - to get released in the state. We can't allow our history to be distorted. We believe in freedom of speech and expression but any foul play with our great culture is not tolerated."
Gujarat is in the midst of an aggressive election campaign between the Congress and BJP, which has governed it for 22 years.
"Padmavati", made for 190 crores, has provoked protests from some groups led by the Karni Sena, who say that Padmini, the 13th-century Rajput warrior queen, is maligned in the movie because it suggests a romance between her and Delhi sultan Alauddin Khilji. The legend is that after her husband was killed in battle, Padmini set herself on fire to avoid being taken captive by Khilji, who was obsessed with her beauty.
"Padmavati" stars Deepika Padukone in the lead role and is directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, who has said the movie does not "distort history" or allude to a love story between the queen and Khilji. Both Ms Padukone and he have been given state security after the Karni Sena and others threatened them with violence. A BJP leader from Haryana, Surya Pal Amu, offered 10 crores on the weekend for their beheading. After being castigated by his party, he issued a new threat, vowing that "one cinema after another will burn" if the film is released.
The Supreme Court has rejected two requests to ban the film, stating that it is upto the censor board to review the film and certify it for release. The board, which is led by Prasoon Joshi, has yet to watch the movie. Viacom-18, the studio that produced the movie, has indicated that it will defer plans for its release to next year.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who wrote to the centre warning of law and order problems in his state if "Padmavati" is released there, said yesterday that Mr Bhansali and those threatening him are "equally responsible" because he said the director "habitually plays with the sentiments of people". Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said irrespective of the censor board's decision, he will not let the move screen in his state.
Though BJP ministers have demanded that Mr Bhansali allow the Karni Sena to preview the film and shortlist objectionable scenes, the Congress has not been virulently different in its stand , Punjab Chief Minister and senior Congressman Amarinder Singh said earlier this week that the protests against the movie are justified. Today, he clarified that he is not in favour of a ban and does not support violent demonstrations.