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Viacom Halts ‘Padmavati’ Release After Religious Uproar

India’s Viacom18 Motion Pictures and Bhansali Productions have halted the global release of much-anticipated costume drama “Padmavati.” Controversy was sparked by the idea that it features a cross-faith Hindu-Muslim romance.

The film had been set for a Dec. 1 release in India. Related company, Paramount Pictures was recently announced as handle the worldwide distribution, in a day-and-date date release, coordinated with the outing in India.

While announcing a “voluntary deferment” of the film’s release, Viacom18 said that it had faith in legal process. And that it expected to announce a new date soon.

Directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali (“Bajirao Mastani”), the film features Deepika Padukone (“xXx: Return of Xander Cage”), as the titular Hindu Rajput queen Padmavati who is married to Maharajah Ratan Singh (Shahid Kapoor), the king of the state of Mewar. Their prosperous kingdom attracts the attention of Muslim potentate Sultan Alauddin Khilji (Ranveer Singh) who develops an obsession with Padmavati’s legendary beauty.

The Rajputs are a martial Hindu community, leading members of which ruled several parts of India before British rule.

The film’s troubles began when Rajput fringe groups repeatedly vandalized the sets and staged protests across the country demanding a ban. The bone of contention was an alleged dream sequence in the film where Khilji is seen romancing Padmavati.

India’s Supreme Court dismissed petitions by groups who claimed that the film distorts history. It deferred to the decision of the Central Board of Film Certification. The filmmakers submitted the film for certification, but the CBFC said that the certification process was incomplete.

Political pressure after the chief ministers of the states of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan wrote to the Information & Broadcasting ministry seeking a delay of the release. Bhansali and Padukone have received threats and are under police protection.

“Along with Sanjay Leela Bhansali, amongst the most gifted filmmakers of his generation, Viacom18 Motion Pictures has created a beautiful cinematic masterpiece in ‘Padmavati’ that captures Rajput valor, dignity and tradition in all its glory,” Viacom18 said in a statement. “We are a responsible, law-abiding corporate citizen… We have faith that we will soon obtain the requisite clearances to release the film. We will announce the revised release date of the film in due course.”

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