New Delhi: Embroiled in controversy ever since they announced the project, co-producers of period saga Padmavati, Viacom18 Motion Pictures have decided to defer the film’s release. The Sanjay Leela Bhansali-directed film was supposed to arrive in theatres on 1 December.
“Viacom18 Motion Pictures has voluntarily deferred the release date of Padmavati from 1 December 2017," the studio said in a statement. “We are a responsible, law-abiding corporate citizen and have the highest respect and regard for the law of the land and all our institutions and statutory bodies including the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC). We always have and are committed to continue following the established procedure and convention. We have faith that we will soon obtain the requisite clearances to release the film."
The Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh and Shahid Kapoor-starrer has been caught in the eye of the storm for months now. Touted to be the most expensive Hindi film ever at Rs150 crore, it is based on the fictional tale of a Rajput princess written by 16th century Sufi poet Malik Muhamad Jayasi.
Trouble for the magnum opus started when activists of an organisation called Rajput Karni Sena vandalized the sets in Rajasthan in January this year on account of a rumour that the film contained an intimate dream sequence between Rani Padmini and Allauddin Khilji. Producers Viacom18 and Bhansali Productions consequently battled endless allegations of distorting history and “dishonouring" Rani Padmini.
Crisis for the film mounted recently with states like Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh joining in. While UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath wrote to the Centre saying the release of the film may cause unrest in the state, Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje asked for necessary changes to be incorporated before the film hit theatres.
The last nail in the coffin came with the Karni Sena threatening Padukone of physical harm in response to her comment on no element being able to stop the film. The fringe group had also declared it would call for a bandh on the 1 December. Meanwhile, the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) had objected to the film being screened to select media professionals before the CBFC adding that the movie could not be reviewed before paperwork was complete.
However, given that the stakes were so high, not many expected Padmavati to miss its anticipated release date. The Viacom statement said that the studio will announce a revised release date in due course.
Meanwhile, a fringe group targeted actress Deepika Padukone, announcing a reward of Rs1 crore for anyone “burning her alive", a matter, which the police said, it was looking into.
Uttar Pradesh deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya said that the film would not be allowed to be released in the state unless its “controversial portions" were removed. Maurya said the legendary queen had sacrificed her life instead of surrendering before the Mughals and made a place for herself in the history.
“Islamic invaders created a lot of mayhem in the country. The ‘Rani’ burnt herself alive in ‘Jauhar’ for her ‘satitva’ (pride) and dignity," he said. As an entertainment department minister also, I can say that we will not let the movie be released in Uttar Pradesh unless its controversial portions are removed, Maurya said.
A number of women members of a Rajput organization on Sunday protested in Kota, demanding a ban on period drama Padmavati. They assembled under the aegis of the Shri Rastriya Rajput Karni Sena and agitated against director Sanjay Leela Bhansali and actress Deepika Padukone.
PTI in Lucknow/Bareilly and Kota contributed to this story.