Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s controversial period film Padmaavat was released on Thursday amidst rising violence by the Shri Rajput Karni Sena and other Rajput groups. On Wednesday, mobs unleashed violence in at least seven states across India, blocking highways and burning buses in Haryana and Rajasthan, forcing shut shops in Uttar Pradesh and throwing bricks and stones at a school bus full of children in Gurgaon.
A day earlier, on Tuesday, mobs in Gujarat torched nearly 200 vehicles in Ahmedabad to protest against the Supreme Court’s decision to allow the release of Padmaavat, a film that some people claim distorts the “history of Hindus” and insults the mythical Rajput Queen Padmini. Fearing attacks, multiplex owners in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Goa have announced that they will not screen Bhansali’s film.
While the Padmaavat controversy has dominated news headlines in India for the past week, it has also grabbed the attention of the media across the world.
In South Asia
On the eve of Padmaavat’s global release, newspapers in Pakistan and Bangladesh focused on the Rajput rioters. Pakistan Today carried a report on mobs going on a rampage in Ahmedabad while making it clear that the violence was over a film about a “mythical Hindu queen”.
Bangladeshi publications The Independent and Prothom Alo also highlighted the violence by “Hindu hardliners” in Ahmedabad and other Indian cities.
Pakistan’s Dawn shifted the focus away from the riots and carried a compilation of critics reviews from seven Indian publications. Did the movie really impress critics after all the controversy?
In Sri Lanka, meanwhile, the Daily Mirror published an editorial far more appealing to the local audience, about the Sri Lankan prime minister’s eagerness to watch Padmaavat after claims were made in October that Queen Padmini was a Sinhala princess with Sri Lankan ancestry.
“It is not every day we have Prime Minister Ranil Wickremsinghe’s office writing letters expressing premier’s keenness to watch a movie based on a queen,” said the editorial, which also claimed that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was also excited about the movie. “A few days back Modi along with visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu watched a dance performance of the famous Ghoomar song of Padmavat by a group of students, in the Gujarat capital, Ahmadabad.”
In the West
In the United States, the New York Times published an explainer about why a “lavish Bollywood epic” had stirred so much anger and controversy among Indians, to the extent that hundreds of women have threatened mass suicide if the film is released.
The BBC also released a similar video explainer, including interviews with Padmaavat’s lead actor Deepika Padukone and director Bhansali, about the reasons behind the controversy.