India censor suggests new title for controversial film

A poster of the controversial Bollywood movie, Padmavati, outside a Mumbai theatre.
A poster of the controversial Bollywood movie, Padmavati, outside a Mumbai theatre.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW DELHI • India's Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has asked the makers of controversial Bollywood Hindi film Padmavati to undertake 26 cuts and a name change before the release of the movie to the public, officials said yesterday.

The film - directed by renowned director Sanjay Leela Bhansali - has been at the centre of a controversy, with a right-wing group in India's western state of Rajasthan saying it distorts history.

Padmavati is based on the legend of Rani Padmini of Chittor, and Rajput groups said the film wrongly showcases a romantic relationship between the Hindu queen and Muslim emperor Alauddin Khilji, Xinhua news agency said yesterday.

The legend was based on the 16th-century epic poem "Padmavat" by Sufi poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi.

CBFC chairman Prasoon Joshi was quoted by the Times of India newspaper as saying the board suggested changing the movie's name from Padmavati to Padmavat to show that the filmmakers used the fictional poem Padmavat as its creative source, and not the much-loved historical figure of the Hindu queen.

Mr Bhansali has dismissed rumours of a romantic scene between the Hindu queen and Muslim king in the movie. He recently released a video clarifying that his film does not distort history.

"If the makers agree with the CBFC's recommendations, then it will get a U/A certification, which means parental guidance for children below the age of 12 years is required for their viewing," a board official said.

"The censor board has suggested that the name of film be changed from Padmavati to Padmavat," Xinhua reported the official as saying.

According to the officials, the decision was taken keeping in mind the views of the filmmakers and Indian society.

The film was reviewed by a special panel constituted by the censor board, Xinhua said.

Protesters from the fringe right-wing group called Sri Rajput Karni Sena (SRKS) resorted to vandalism and even threatened to cut the nose of top Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone, who played the role of queen Padmavati, days ahead of the movie's release on Dec 1.

The movie release was deferred over the threats and protests.

The SRKS, which has 700,000 members in 20 states, has drawn support from like-minded right-wingers, including leaders of India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and groups affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the BJP's ideological backbone.

Three BJP-ruled states - Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan - keen on retaining support from Rajputs, have banned the movie even before its release.

Chief Minister of Punjab state Amarinder Singh, who is from the opposition Congress party, has also criticised it.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 31, 2017, with the headline 'India censor suggests new title for controversial film'. Print Edition | Subscribe