NEW DELHI • Leading Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone has pulled out of a glitzy event in the Indian city of Hyderabad to be attended by United States President Donald Trump's daughter, Ivanka, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, after a member of his governing party issued a US$1.5 million (S$2 million) bounty to behead her amid rumour-fuelled outrage over a new film.
Padukone's withdrawal is a blow to the government, which has planned a whirlwind weekend to show off India as a forum for investment as host of the annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit, co-hosted by the State Department.
The setback is the result of a riotous controversy over Padukone's new movie Padmavati, based on the life of a legendary mediaeval queen Padmini.
It began when members of the Rajput Karni Sena, a warrior caste group, claimed that the film was a "distortion of history" that depicted the queen in an unflattering light by showing love scenes between her and a Muslim king, and by showing her dancing for an audience, an activity that would have been beneath her royal status.
The reports offended the Rajputs, who began violently attacking movie theatres and demanding a ban. The planned Dec 1 premiere was then delayed by the movie's producers, as the country's censor board weighs its approval.
The whole hullabaloo over the film, however, was seemingly sparked by rumours. The film's trailer lionises the Rajput caste and the director, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, issued a video statement clarifying that the film did not depict an interfaith love affair. The film has not even been seen by most of its detractors.
Padukone declined to give a reason for her withdrawal and it was unclear whether it was because of security concerns over the threat or whether she was unhappy over the government's handling of the controversy.
In an earlier statement about the movie's controversy, she said: "It's absolutely appalling. What have we gotten ourselves into? And where have we reached as a nation?"
Padukone, who is Bollywood's highest-earning woman, recently appeared alongside Vin Diesel in xXx: Return Of Xander Cage.