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Indian Epic ‘Padmaavat’ Faces Obstacles, Despite Censor Clearance

The delayed release of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s $30 million historical epic “Padmaavat” faces a rocky road when it finally releases in India Jan. 25.

The film was due to release Dec. 1, 2017, but producers Viacom 18 Motion Pictures and Bhansali Productions postponed it after protests from Rajput Hindu groups. Deepika Padukone (“xXx: Return of Xander Cage”) stars as the Hindu queen Padmavati whose husband is king Ratan Singh (Shahid Kapoor). Their kingdom is under threat from the Muslim ruler Alauddin Khilji.

The protesters alleged that the film contained a dream sequence suggesting a multi-faith romance between Khilji and Padmavati. Hindu groups repeatedly vandalized the film’s sets while production was ongoing.

India’s Central Board of Film Classification approved the film with a UA certificate, after making five cuts and changing the title from “Padmavati” to “Padmaavat.” However, the states of Rajasthan, Haryana, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh will not allow the film’s release.

On Monday, the producers bought full-page advertisements in Indian newspapers stating that the film is based on the epic “Padmavat” by Sufi poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi, and is a work of fiction; the film does not have and never had a dream sequence between Khilji and Padmavati; and that the film is an ode to the valor and courage of the Rajputs.

Historically, the queen Padmavati and her women aides committed ‘Jauhar’ (self-immolation) rather than be captured by Muslim invaders. Women belonging to Rajput fringe groups in Rajasthan have threatened to burn themselves ahead of the film’s release.

Having in October announced “Paramount Pictures has come on board to exclusively distribute ‘Padmavati’ in international markets outside of India,” Paramount has now revealed a much smaller release, from Jan. 25. In an email to Variety, Paramount said it will handle “Padmaavat” only in the U.K. and Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and the Middle East. But not the U.S. or Canada.

The film will open against “Padman,” a female hygiene drama starring bankable star Akshay Kumar. Sony Pictures is releasing worldwide.

The Jan. 25 release of action thriller “Aiyaary,” starring Manoj Bajpayee and Siddharth Malhotra has now been pushed to Feb. 9.

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