Padmavati director Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Central Board of Film Certification chief Prasoon Joshi appeared before a parliamentary standing committee on information technology on Thursday. Bhansali and Joshi were summoned on Tuesday for the meeting.

The 30-member parliamentary panel is headed by Bharatiya Janata Party MP Anurag Thakur, and its members include senior BJP leader LK Advani and actor-MPs like Paresh Rawal and Raj Babbar.

The panel called the meeting to discuss the controversy around the film, PTI reported. Right-wing groups have said Padmavati, based on the fourteenth-century mythical Chittor queen Padmini, distorts history as it shows a romantic dream sequence between the queen and Alauddin Khilji – a claim Bhansali has denied.

At the meeting, Thakur too accused Bhansali of distorting history and hurting the public sentiment, The Hindu reported. Thakur also asked Bhansali how he could assume the film will release on December 1 when it was sent to the censor board only on November 11.

Other panel members reportedly grilled Bhansali, and said his movies tend to target communities and produced tension between them, NDTV reported. The controversy meant the movie is talked about widely in the media and on social media, the panel said, while it asked Bhansali if creating a controversy was a new way to sell a film, PTI reported.

Advani, however, intervened and told the panel that a cross-examination of Bhansali was not on the agenda, The Hindu quoted a committee member as saying. “Advani told the chairperson the panel had enough on its plate and should not take up unrelated issues,” the committee member said.

Meanwhile, Joshi told the committee that the censor board’s main objection to the film was that it was shown to a few people before certification. Bhansali said only eight people — two prominent media personalities and six of his friends — had seen the film. He told the panel that he will not screen the film abroad until the CBFC clears it, The Hindu report said.

Joshi said he has set up a board of historians to look into the film. “It will take some time.”

The controversy

Padmavati, starring Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh and Shahid Kapoor, has been in the midst of a controversy since January, with Rajput groups and others accusing Bhansali of distorting history. In the past few weeks, Padukone and Bhansali have received a number of threats, after which Viacom18 Motion Pictures – the co-producers of Padmavati – said they had decided to “voluntarily defer” its release. The movie was scheduled to be out on December 1.