A member of India's Hindu nationalist party has offered $1.5 million for the beheading of lead actress and director of the unreleased film "Padmavati", which has been accused of distorting history and has sparked protests.
A member of India's Hindu nationalist ruling party has offered $1.5 million to anyone who beheads the lead actress and the director of an unreleased Bollywood film Padmavati rumoured to depict a relationship between a Hindu queen and a Muslim ruler.
Suraj Pal Amu, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader from the northern state of Haryana, offered the bounty against actress Deepika Padukone and film-maker Sanjay Leela Bhansali on Sunday.
The movie was due to open on December 1 but its producers postponed the release. Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan states, both ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP, banned it outright.
Padmavati is based on a 16th century Sufi epic poem, Padmavat, in which a brave and beautiful Rajput queen chose to kill herself rather than be captured by the Muslim sultan of Delhi, Allaudin Khilji.
Over centuries of its retelling, the epic has come to be seen as history, despite little evidence.
A mythical poem written by a Sufi Muslim in the Avadhi language, 200 years after Khilji, popularised in Bengal to justify Sati now claimed as the authentic history of Rajasthan! #Padmavati— Sagarika Ghose (@sagarikaghose) November 18, 2017
Padukone plays Padmini, the legendary queen who committed jauhar, the medieval Rajput practice in which female royals walked into funeral fires to embrace death over the dishonour of being taken captive.
Padmavati has been in trouble since the beginning of the year, with far-right 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 appears to stem from allegations that Bhansali filmed a romantic dream sequence between the protagonists, which Bhansali has denied.
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.
India's 1.3 billion-strong democracy is the largest in the world and has made great economic strides, but its politics are held hostage by a complex mix of religion and caste.
Books and movies have been banned or received threats of violence because they either offend one religious or caste group, or are deemed offensive to Indian culture in general.
In 2014, the publishing house Penguin India pulled from shelves and destroyed all copies of American historian Wendy Doniger's The Hindus: An Alternative History after a Hindu right-wing group protested, mainly because they said the book described Hindu mythological texts as fictional.
Viacom 18 – a joint venture between Viacom Inc and Reliance Industries' Network 18 – is the studio behind the film, which analysts estimate cost some $23 million.
A senior police official in Mumbai said they had offered increased security to Padukone and Bhansali.