New Delhi: Deepika Padukone-starrer Padmaavat was released on Thursday in theatres across the country, barring Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar, amid threats of violence and protests by right-wing fringe outfits alleging that the film distorted historical facts.
In Lucknow, protesters took to ‘Gandhigiri’ and presented roses to moviegoers outside cinema halls requesting them not to watch Padmaavat “in solidarity with the Rajput community”, while bouncers were hired by an Agra multiplex to ensure peaceful screening. “If I don’t watch the film, I would be supporting Karni Sena and the violent protesters who attacked a school bus carrying children in Gurgaon on Wednesday,” an aged man who saw the film in Lucknow said.
In Agra, about 40 bouncers, clad in black attire, ushered moviegoers in and out of the theatre even as protests by members of Karni Sena and Hindu Jagran Manch continued. For each show, 20 tickets were given to bouncers who sat among the audience, deterring them from any mischief. Soon after Supreme Court agreed on Thursday to hear contempt petitions against four state governments, MP home minister Bhupendra Singh said after a meeting with the CM that the state hadn’t banned screening of the film and that police was “alert and monitoring law and order”.
While MP government spokesman Narottam Mishra said the administration was “clear that the time isn’t right for screening the movie”, chief secretary Basant Pratap Singh said, “Distributors have been asked asked to take a decision.” Only one movie hall in Bihar showed the film. But the Kisan cinema hall at Biharsharif, 55km from Patna, had to pull out the movie after its morning show as protesters vandalised the theatre, which is owned by BJP’s Biharsharif MLA Sunil Kumar.
In Saharsa, BJP MLA Neeraj Kumar Singh Bablu brandished a sword as he led a group of protesters. Members of Karni Sena and other right-wing outfits held a “half-day” bandh, called ‘Janata Curfew’, in Udaipur. They pelted stones at car showrooms, torched vehicles, threatened shopkeepers and blocked roads. Several towns wore a deserted look. Sree Rajput Karni Sena denied its role in the attack on a school bus in Gurgaon and alleged that the media was acting on the directions of Bhansali.
Chittorgarh turned into a fortress with heavy security preventing protesters from entering the town. However, some Karni Sena members announced that they would make a movie on Bhansali’s mother, titled ‘Leela ki Leela’. The bandh call given by Rajput outfits evoked a mixed response in Gujarat as shops and business establishments remained closed in the morning but returned to routine work by afternoon. A police sub-inspector suffered skull fracture in heavy stone pelting by a rampaging mob at Maguna chowkdi, 18km from Mehsana.
The police had to lob teargas shells to disperse a mob of around 800-1,000 protesters, most of whom were armed with swords. In Saurashtra, most towns and cities observed bandh in the morning hours. Bandh was nearly complete in Rajkot, Surendranagar, Bhavnagar, Mundra, Amreli, Jamnagar, Morbi and Gondal. Hundreds of passengers going to Rajasthan were stranded at the Palanpur bus depot as state transport buses didn’t operate fearing attacks.
Protesters can’t dampen spirit of Jais
Zulfiqar Haider, a young resident of Jais — hometown of 15th-century Sufi poet Malik Muhammad Jaisi — had his Thursday planned well in advance with his friends. Along with his friends, he was to travel in a rented car to a single-screen theatre in Rae Bareli, 35 km away, to watch Padmaavat, which has genesis in the epic of the same name penned by Jaisi. But before they could proceed, they got to know that the two theatres near Jais were not screening the film. However, Zulfiqar and his friends are a determined lot. “We are not let down by this. We are planning to go to Lucknow (110 km away) during the weekend,” said his friend Muzaffar. Composed by Jaisi at the turn of the 16th century, Padmaavat is revered as Jaisi’s ‘mahakavya’ in Hindi literature.
News Credit: Times of India