A Hindu right-wing group in India has called the controversial film Padmavati starring Deepika Padukone, among others, an insult to Indian women and to legendary Rajput queen Padmini on whose life it is loosely based.
The escalation in rhetoric came after India's Supreme Court on 27 November warned politicians and those in public offices against making threats or adverse comments on the film, which have led to violence across parts of India and also death threats to the Bollywood actress and the film's director Sanjay Leela Bhansali.
Addressing a conference organised by the Akhil Bharatiya Itihas Sankalan Yojana (ABISY) on Wednesday, 29 November, Balmukund Pandey, the organisation's national general secretary, said: "Rani Padmavati is a very respected figure in Indian history. This film is not only an insult to her but also to Indian women and is an attempt to assassinate their character."
The ABISY is an affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or RSS, a powerful Hindu organisation, which provides the ideological underpinning for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party.
Pandey said the film's subject is a matter of national pride and, hence, a solution can't be reached by screening it to a select group, the Times of India reported.
"These days filmmakers want to make money at any cost, even by distorting historical facts and tampering with national pride."
Over the past month several fringe groups and right-wing organisations have protested against the release of Padmavati. Their opposition to the film centres around a rumoured romantic dream sequence between queen Padmini of Chittorgarh kingdom and Sultan Alauddin Khilji of Delhi who sacked it in 13 AD. The queen is said to have committed ritual suicide to escape rape and sex slavery at the hands of the invading Muslim army.
The makers of Padmavati have repeatedly denied the existence of such a sequence. The film has still not been cleared for public screening by India's Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).
Earlier on Monday, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra dismissed a plea to ban the film's release. The bench said calls to the CBFC not to pass the film is a breach of the law, and asked the certification body to make a decision on the film with "utmost objectivity".
"When the matter is pending for CBFC's consideration, how can persons in power or holding responsible public offices comment on whether CBFC should issue a certificate or not? It will prejudice the decision-making of CBFC. Such an act is a clear breach of law," the Supreme Court bench ruled.
Still, Nitish Kumar, the Chief Minister of the Indian state of Bihar, maintained that the film cannot be released in his state. "Padmavati cannot be released in Bihar till the government receives proper clarification from the makers of the film," he said, reported the Deccan Chronicle.
The release of Padmavati, which was originally slated for 1 December, has been postponed indefinitely as its makers await CBFC certification.