Padmaavat opens in India following protests

Deepika Padukone plays Hindu queen Padmavati in Padmaavat.
Deepika Padukone plays Hindu queen Padmavati in Padmaavat.PHOTO: DEEPIKA PADUKONE/ INSTAGRAM

Controversial Bollywood epic Padmaavat opened in cinemas across India on Thursday after months of protests over a supposed love scene in the film between a Hindu queen and a Muslim conqueror.

As curtains opened on the period drama, reviews of the film have taken centre stage, eclipsing the noise and fury over the film.

Reviews of the movie, which is set in mediaeval India and tells the story of the battle fought over the beautiful Hindu queen Padmavati, has ranged from mixed to positive, with many highlighting the stunning cinematography and strong performances.

The positive reviews include one in Britain's Guardian newspaper, which gave the movie four out of five stars and hailed it as a "gloriously stirring spectacle".

In contrast, the United Arab Emirate's Gulf News gave it 21/2 out of five stars, calling the plot "reductive and predictable".

Showing in Singapore in selected Golden Village cinemas and Carnival Cinemas at Shaw Towers, the movie stars real-life couple Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh in the lead roles of the Hindu queen and Muslim conqueror Alauddin Khilji.

The controversy surrounding the Sanjay Leela Bhansali-directed film blew up a year ago when rumours spread that it would depict a love scene between the Hindu queen and the Muslim conqueror.

This led to protests and riots, though the film-makers have repeatedly denied the existence of such a scene.

On Thursday, the movie opened amid heavy security in major cities such as New Delhi and Mumbai, even as Indian media reported that Hindu radicals in neighbouring states such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar protested by vandalising malls, burning vehicles and ripping up cinema posters.

However, riot police and barricades could not stop filmgoers in the Indian capital of New Delhi from showing up to watch the film, Agence France-Presse reported.

Major Indian news organisations such as Times Of India gave it four out of five stars, saying the film won its "trial by fire". It said the fairy-tale sheen that Bhansali gave the story "makes all the controversy pointless and pales in comparison to the spectacle that unfolds".

The Indian Express and noted film critic Anupama Chopra were less effusive with their praise, giving it 21/2 out of five stars.

While the film's cinematography was opulent and spectacular, Chopra said she was not "seduced by the storytelling" and that there was too much "valorisation" of the Hindu Rajput characters in the film.

Still, Singh's depiction of Alauddin Khilji came in for praise, with the Indian Express calling him "electric".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 27, 2018, with the headline 'Padmaavat opens in India following protests'. Print Edition | Subscribe