Amid violent protests, threats and hooliganism, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s controversial period drama Padmaavat hit theatres on Thursday. The Rs 150 crore film was released in 4,000 screens across the country with one million watching it on the first day, maker of the film Viacom 18 said in a statement.
While in some regions there were no screenings of the film in view of the threat, in some parts of the country, audiences defied threats of violence to stream into theatres to watch the opening day shows of the period film starring Bollywood A-listers Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh and Shahid Kapoor.
Interestingly, many of those who watched the film condemned the violence of the last few weeks and said there is nothing objectionable in the film. A Rajput viewer in Mumbai said it was an “excellent” effort by Bhansali and actually glorifies their culture.
“I am a Rajput and it pains me to see why people are behaving the way they are over this film. The violence, the threats, all are unnecessary and sad. We don’t and can never support that,” he said. “It is a one time watch film. But any sensible person watching the film can say that there is nothing wrong or bad in the film,” said another viewer.
Heavy security arrangements were made outside cinema halls in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh in the wake of protests. As the Republic Day preparations were also going on, the police had issued a general alert and security personnel were on their toes to avoid any untoward incident.
The nationwide bandh call given by the Karni Sena failed to make any major impact in Gujarat, as educational institutions, offices and markets remained open in most parts of the state. However, as a precautionary measure, the Gujarat State Road Transport Corporation (GSRTC) has suspended its bus services from Ahmedabad to Mehsana and Banaskantha.
While the normal life in Rajkot city remained unaffected, some persons, claiming to be associated with the Karni Sena, came out on roads and forced some shops and schools to shut.
In Rajasthan, theatre owners refused to screen the film in view of the law and order situation. Arterial roads were blocked, shops vandalised and bike rallies were taken to protests against “Padmaavat”. The Rajput Karni Sena said it had taken out a bike rally in Jaipur and in other areas against the film, which was released across the country today.
In Bihar, a mob attacking a cinema hall in Bihar Sharif while cinema hall owners in several districts refused to screen the controversial film. A mob in Nalanda district’s Bihar Sharif town attacked a cinema hall, tore up posters of the film, damaged vehicles and threatened to set ablaze the theatre if the film is screened.
Fearing repercussions from the Karni Sena, all cinema hall owners in Vaishali, Gaya, Bhagalpur and Purnea districts have decided not to screen the Sanjay Leela Bhansali film on Thursday — the day it is being released across India.
In Bihar Sharif, a group of Rashtriya Rajput Mahasabha activists ransacked Kisan Cinema hall and warned the staff not to go ahead with the screening. In Bhojpur and Buxar districts, activists of Karni Sena along with Rajpur Mahasabha staged violent protests, forcing cinema owners not to screen the film, starring Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh and Shahid Kapoor.
However, undeterred by yesterday’s violence by fringe groups, filmgoers in Gurgaon watched ‘Padmaavat’ on its opening day even as the police made elaborate arrangements to ensure there was no mischief. A majority of the over 40 multiplexes and theatres exhibited the Bollywood flick and the situation was peaceful, a police official said.
Pleas against Karni Sena, four states in Supreme Court
The Supreme Court agreed to hear on Monday two pleas seeking contempt action against four state governments and Shree Rashtriya Rajput Karni Sena for allegedly violating its order allowing nationwide release of ‘Padmaavat’.
A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, which had set aside the ban imposed on the film by some states on January 18, said it would consider all the fresh pleas on January 29.
Congress supporter Tehseen Poonawala, in his plea, has said the governments of Rajasthan, Haryana, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh “continue to allow disruptive activities of the Karni Sena and in not effectively cracking down upon their actions of violent hooliganism across the states named …, do not honour the judgement and order of this court.”
A day after anti-Padmaavat protesters attacked a school bus in Gurgaon, police arrested 18 persons in connection with the case. The arrested men were part of the mob that attacked the bus with stones and sticks while protesting against the release of Padmaavat. The bus belonging to GD Goenka World School came under attack as it drove past the mob that had just torched a Haryana Roadways bus.
The Haryana police also detained BJP media coordinator Suraj Pal Amu. He was put under “house arrest” in Gurugram even as ‘Padmaavat’ was screened peacefully in 33 cinema halls of Haryana’s nine districts. He has been booked under section 107/51 of the CrPC. As many as 23 have been arrested in connection with violence at two places in Gurugram district on Wednesday.
Politics over Padmaavat
Meanwhile, politics over Padmaavat continued with Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal accusing the BJP of setting the country on fire with “hatred politics”. “There will never be a cause big enough to justify violence against children. Violence and hatred are the weapons of the weak.
“The BJP’s use of hatred and violence is setting our entire country on fire,” Gandhi said in his tweet hours after a video of scared children crouching in the school bus targeted by hooligans protesting Padmaavat.
Strongly condemning the attack on a school bus by anti-Padmaavat protesters, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said that forces that “killed Muslims and burnt Dalits” are now “intruding into our homes, coming after our children”.