MUMBAI: Indian filmmakers said they have delayed indefinitely the release of a Bollywood historical epic about a legendary Hindu queen that has been the subject of weeks of violent protests.
A caste-based group has been targeting “Padmavati”, which was due to hit screens on December 1, over rumours that the movie will depict a romance between the queen and a Muslim ruler.
In a statement late Sunday Viacom18 Motion Pictures said they had “voluntarily deferred” the release date of the film, which has yet to be certified by India’s censor board.
“We have faith that we will soon obtain the requisite clearances to release the film. We will announce the revised release date of the film in due course,” it said.
The movie first ran into opposition in January when protesters belonging to the Rajput Karni Sena caste-based group attacked director Sanjay Leela Bhansali and vandalised the set during filming in Jaipur in Rajasthan.
The protesters are apparently unhappy about speculation that the film will include a romantic liaison between Rajput queen Padmavati, also known as Rani Padmini, and the 13th and 14th century Muslim ruler Alauddin Khilji.
The Rajput caste were historically Hindu warriors who ruled over kingdoms in western India.
Rajput Karni Sena accuse the film’s makers of distorting historical facts, but historians say the queen is a mythical character and there is no clear evidence that she even existed.
Protesters attacked another set near Mumbai in March, burning costumes and other props.
They have stepped up protests in recent weeks, including making a death threat against lead actress Deepika Padukone.
India’s Hindi film industry churns out hundreds of movies every year but filmmakers often face intimidation from fringe groups as well as an over-zealous censor board, fuelling fears over creative freedom in the country.