Latest updates: Security heightened in India as 'Padmaavat' releases
Mumbai - Police are on high alert across several states after protesters pledged to disrupt the release of 'Padmaavat'.
A controversial Indian movie that has angered extremists finally opens on Thursday amid heightened security owing to fears of widespread riots.
Police are on high alert across several states after protesters pledged to disrupt the release of "Padmaavat", a Bollywood epic about a mythical queen.
Radical groups say the film will portray queen Padmavati falsely, a claim producers vehemently deny, and have threatened to attack any cinema that shows it.
Violent protests, which have been going on for over a year, escalated this week with hundreds of demonstrators rampaging through the streets of Ahmedabad.
Several hundred people attacked shops, set alight dozens of motorbikes and damaged more than 150 cars across the city in Gujarat state, according to police.
In Noida, near the capital New Delhi, activists burned toll booths on a highway after a rally while in Rajasthan state women carrying swords marched against the movie.
In Mumbai - the home of India's Hindi-language film industry known as Bollywood - protesters set car tyres on fire during an angry demonstration late Tuesday.
The following day Mumbai police rounded up 50 people affiliated to a hardline group that has been at the forefront of protests as they cracked down ahead of Thursday's release.
"We are providing security arrangements to all multiplexes and single screen theatres showing the movie," Mumbai police spokesman Deepak Deoraj told AFP.
"We will be patrolling the entire city and will have reserve forces deployed to prevent any flare-ups until the issue is resolved," he added.
Fanatical groups belonging to India's Rajput caste, who revere Padmavati, have been leading the protests which have picked up supporters from other groups.
Latest updates on Padmaavat:
Box-office numbers will be earth-shattering: Deepika
Actress Deepika Padukone's "Padmaavat" released on Thursday and she is confident that despite the political furore over the film, its box office collection will be "earth-shattering".
When asked Deepika what message or response she had for the people who were constantly opposing the release, she said: "I think there is time for everything and the film has spoken for itself as most have given their reactions to our film (through screenings and press shows) and it's been absolutely phenomenal."
"I feel, in a way, the best response that we can give to anyone is through the work that we do. We are very excited about the release and we are extremely overwhelmed.
"I am very emotional at this point. I am not someone who has ever been excited so much about box-office numbers but I have to say that this time I am. I think it's going to be earth-shattering," said Deepika on the sidelines of the HT Most Stylish Awards 2018 on Wednesday.
She said: "The release of 'Padmaavat' is a big day for all of us."
"On behalf of our team, I want to thank the entire media for being so supportive throughout. I think now it's really time for us to celebrate and see the film do wonders at the box-office."
BJP setting country on fire: Rahul on 'Padmaavat' row
Congress President Rahul Gandhi has hit out at the BJP after a school bus in Haryana's Gurugram was attacked by Karni Sena supporters over the release of 'Padmaavat' and accused the party's "hatred politics" for "setting the nation on fire".
"There will never be a cause big enough to justify violence against children. Violence and hatred are the weapons of the weak.
"The BJP's use of hatred and violence is setting our entire country on fire," Gandhi said in his tweet hours after a video of scared children crouching in the school bus targeted by hooligans protesting the Sanjay Leela Bhansali movie prompted nationwide outrage on Wednesday.
'Padmaavat' gets smooth clearance for Pakistan release
Padmaavat" was on Wednesday cleared for release in Pakistan, said the censor board's top official.
"'Padmaavat' has been declared fit for public exhibition in the cinema houses without any excision by Central Board of Film Censors (CBFC)," Mobashir Hasan told IANS via social media from Islamabad.
The movie has been given 'U' certification.
According to some distributors in Pakistan, there were apprehensions over the movie given the negative portrayal of Alauddin Khilji.
Asked about it, Hasan said: "CBFC isn't biased in arts, creativity and healthy entertainment."
He said that for the film's certification, the CBFC co-opted Professor Waqar Ali Shah, Chairman, Department of History, Quaid-e-Azam University as per rules.
"A co-opted member has no voting rights. They are for expert opinion," Hasan explained.
Country will be proud of 'Padmaavat': Ranveer Singh
Sending high tens and monster hugs to his well-wishers, actor Ranveer Singh on Wednesday said "Padmaavat" will be a film that the whole country will be proud of.
On the eve of his forthcoming film's release, Ranveer shared a letter on Twitter, where he said that he is very overwhelmed and that he feels blessed.
"I saw 'Padmaavat' in 3D last night. I am so overwhelmed with the film at this point that words fail me. I feel immensely blessed. I am also proud of my team. Team 'Padmavaat' for the win! High tens and monster hug to everyone," Ranveer wrote in the letter.
He wrote: "Thank you all for your kind and generous praise. Sanjay Sir has given me a gift of a character that I will forever be indebted to him for in my life, more than I already am. You have shaped me into an artist that I am, Sir. I love you. For me, the sheer toil of our film's team has translated (into) magic on the big screen."
Box office hit
Opponents claim the movie will feature a romantic liaison between Padmavati and 14th century ruler Alauddin Khilji despite repeated denials by filmmakers.
The movie's producers say the film celebrates Rajputs, who were traditionally warriors.
The protesters insist the movie distorts history, even though experts say the queen is a mythical character and that her story is based on a poem written over a century later.
Trouble first hit the movie in January last year when Rajput Karni Sena members attacked the film's director Sanjay Leela Bhansali and vandalised the set during filming in Rajasthan.
Members of the fringe group have threatened to attack cinemas, including with swords, on Thursday while hundreds of women have said they are ready to perform a mass self-immolation if screenings go ahead.
Hardliners have also offered bounties of up to 50 million rupees ($769,000) to anyone who "beheaded" lead actress Deepika Padukone or Bhansali.
Several states, including Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab, tried to ban the film but India's Supreme Court has ruled that this would violate creative freedoms.
"Padmaavat" stars Shahid Kapoor as Maharawal Ratan Singh, the husband of Padmavati, and Ranveer Singh as Khilji who leads an invasion to try to capture the queen.
It was initially due to hit screens on December 1 but filmmakers pushed back the release date and earlier this month India's censor board cleared it with five changes.
Many distributors are refusing to exhibit the film due to the threats of violence but industry watchers still expect it to be a hit at the box office.
"The movie will make 1 billion rupees (15.7 million) over the long weekend from Thursday to Sunday despite the protests," trade analyst Akshaye Rathi told AFP, referring to India's Republic Day holiday Friday.