Indian actress faces beheading threat

A member of India's Hindu nationalist ruling party has offered a US$1.5 million reward to anyone who beheads the lead actress and the director of the Bollywood film "Padmavati." 

Members of Rajput community attend a protest against the release of the upcoming Bollywood movie 'Padmavati' in Mumbai, India, November 20, 2017.

A member of India’s Hindu nationalist ruling party has offered a 100 million rupee (US$1.5 million) reward to anyone who beheads the lead actress and the director of the yet-to-be released Bollywood film “Padmavati” over its alleged handling of the relationship between a Hindu queen and a Muslim ruler.

Suraj Pal Amu, a Bharatiya Janata Party leader from the northern state of Haryana, offered the bounty against actress Deepika Padukone and filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali on Sunday. 

Speaking at a public rally, Amu also said the screening of the film would not be allowed, local news outlets reported. 

“Padmavati” is based on a 16th century Sufi epic poem, “Padmavat,” a fictional account of a brave and beautiful Rajput queen who chose to kill herself rather than be captured by Allaudin Khilji, the Muslim sultan of Delhi. 

Over centuries of its retelling, the epic has come to be viewed as history, even though there is little historical evidence.

Padukone plays the role of Padmini, the legendary queen who committed “jauhar,” the medieval Rajput practice in which women of royal households walked into funeral pyres to embrace death over the dishonor of being taken captive.

“Padmavati” has been in trouble since January, with fringe groups in the western state of Rajasthan attacking the film’s set, threatening to burn down theaters that show it and even physically attacking Bhansali in January.

Most of the anger at the film appears to stem from allegations that Bhansali has distorted history by filming a romantic dream sequence between the main protagonists of the film. He has denied the allegations.

Earlier this month, the head of the Rajput Karni Sena in Rajasthan said Padukone should have her nose cut — a symbol of public humiliation — for being part of a film that allegedly insulted the famed queen.

Despite India’s significant economic progress over the last few decades, politics in the 1.3 billion-strong democracy are held hostage by a complex mix of religion and caste. 

Books and movies have provoked threats of violence and bans because they either offend one religious or caste group, or are deemed offensive to Indian culture in general.

In the past, India’s film censor board rejected the erotic drama “Fifty Shades of Grey,” and Hollywood movies that appear on Indian screens are routinely scrubbed of sex scenes.

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