Hindu queen film ‘Padmaavat’ opens in India amid violence threats

Indian riot police stand guard at the entrance of a cinema hall scheduled to screen Bollywood film ‘Padmaavat’ in New Delhi on Thursday, January 25. The movie was initially due to hit screens on December 1 but filmmakers pushed back the release because of the controversy. (AFP)
Updated 25 January 2018

Hindu queen film ‘Padmaavat’ opens in India amid violence threats

NEW DELHI: Thousands of police in riot gear guarded cinemas across India on Thursday amid threats of violence by Hindu hard-liners opposed to the release of a movie about a legendary Hindu queen and a Muslim king.
Some schools near Delhi closed after an attack on a school bus while distributors in several states have said they will not show ‘Padmaavat’ because of fears of violence.
The Bollywood epic still opened in nearly 5,000 cinemas across the country early Thursday under heightened security.
Paramilitary forces and police in riot gear manned barriers around cinemas in New Delhi, Mumbai and other main cities.
Radical groups say the film falsely portrays Queen Padmavati. The producers vehemently deny the claim while most historians doubt that Padmavati even existed.
Fanatical groups belonging to India’s Rajput caste, who revere Padmavati, have led protests against the film for nearly a year. They have been supported by other Hindu groups since the film was cleared by the state censor this month.
Dozens of school children ducked inside a bus that was pelted with stones by anti-‘Padmaavat’ protesters in Gurgaon, a satellite city of Delhi. Another bus was set on fire.
On Tuesday several hundred people attacked shops, set alight dozens of motorbikes and damaged more than 150 cars across Gujarat state’s main city Ahmedabad.
Nearly 250 accused have been arrested over the rampage, Gujarat state home minister Pradipsinh Jadeja said late Wednesday.
In Mumbai — the home of India’s Bollywood film industry — police rounded up 50 people affiliated to a hard-line Hindu group after protesters set car tires ablaze during an angry demonstration late Tuesday.
The film drew few spectators at early morning screenings in New Delhi as police erected iron barricades outside theaters that did not display promotional posters to avoid any backlash.
Sanjay Bhargava, manager at a New Delhi cinema, said there was an “atmosphere of fear” due to the threats but he still expected a busy weekend.
“As of now there is a bit of fear but with foolproof police protection, we hope things will improve soon,” Bhargav said outside his cinema, protected by dozens of police, in the central Connaught Place district.
Opponents claim the movie features a romantic liaison between Padmavati and 14th century Muslim ruler Alauddin Khilji despite repeated denials by filmmakers.
The movie’s producers say the film celebrates Rajputs, who were traditionally warriors.
The protesters insist the movie distorts history, even though experts say the queen is a mythical character and that her story is based on a poem written more than a century later.
Trouble first hit the movie in January last year when Rajput Karni Sena members attacked the film’s director Sanjay Leela Bhansali and vandalized the set during filming in Rajasthan.
Members of the fringe groups have threatened to attack cinemas while hundreds of women have said they are ready to perform a mass self-immolation if screenings go ahead.
Hard-liners also offered bounties of up to 50 million rupees to anyone who “beheaded” lead actress Deepika Padukone or Bhansali.
States including Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab tried to ban the film but India’s Supreme Court ruled that this would violate creative freedoms.
‘Padmaavat’ 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.
It was initially due to hit screens on December 1 but filmmakers pushed back the release because of the controversy.
Despite the threats, industry watchers still expect ‘Padmaavat’ to be a box office hit.
“The movie will make one billion rupees over the long weekend from Thursday to Sunday despite the protests,” trade analyst Akshaye Rathi said, referring to India’s Republic Day holiday Friday.


TWITTER POLL: More than three-quarters say no to failing Turkish lira

Updated 22 September 2020

TWITTER POLL: More than three-quarters say no to failing Turkish lira

  • Lira has lost half its value since 2017
  • Poll finds more than 80% would not invest in falling currency

DUBAI: The Turkish lira has plummeted 22 percent this year, but an Arab News Twitter poll found that most people still don’t have the confidence to invest in the tumbling currency.

About 18 percent of the 1,438 respondents said that a weak lira was worth investing in, while nearly 82 percent said the risk was too great.

Traders will buy currency when it is weak, but tend to only do so if there is confidence that it will eventually climb back up in value – thus making a profit.

The lira – already impacted by the coronavirus and President Recep Erdogan’s authoritarian style of leadership – has suffered increased problems as he printed more money to bolster spending, but instead his plan led to a further devaluation.

Turkey and Erdogan are facing widespread condemnation for their foreign policy, which has seen the country intrude into Greek-claimed waters and interference in Libya and Syria.

There is also growing concern of civil unrest inside the country.

On Monday the currency reached record lows, touching 7.6 against the US dollar – it has lost half its value since the end of 2017.