The Swiss premieres of the Bollywood movie Padmaavat – based on a fictional tale involving a Hindu queen and a Muslim king – were sold out partly due to the threats and violence against the movie’s makers and actors in India.
First released on January 25 as in India, the movie was shown at private screenings in Swiss cinemas and was attended largely by the Indian diaspora.
“There are 20 to 25 screenings planned in the German-speaking part of the country and five screenings in French part in the first week,” Betsen Baby, one of the organisers, told swissinfo.ch. “The controversy made people curious and brought in a lot of Indians.”
Even while the movie was being filmed, the director was attacked and the sets vandalised by groups who wrongly believed the heroine Padmavati – a legendary Hindu queen – would be shown being “dishonoured” by Muslim ruler Alauddin Khilji (played by Ranveer Singh who was roped in last year as Switzerland Tourism’s brand ambassador). Four Indian states had banned the film but the bans were overturned by India’s Supreme Court. Rajput groups, who venerate Padmavati, staged protests and blocked traffic.
“Being a Rajput myself I felt proud after seeing the film and I want to tell those that are against it to watch the movie,” says Meenakshi from La Tour-de-Peilz, who came to the screening in Vevey. “In India there are so many things that people should stand for and don’t but they make a fuss over a movie they haven’t seen.”
Quentin from Lausanne had felt the reverberations surrounding the film in India as he was in the country a few weeks back.
“I was expecting something more critical in the film considering the controversy it has raised. In fact, I would say the opposite is true with no criticism of Rajputs but the idea was merely used an excuse for banning it,” he told swissinfo.ch.
Others were taken aback to see depictions of “Jauhar” – the practice of mass self-immolation by Hindu women to avoid capture by invading armies.
“From a cinematographic point of view, it is a very beautiful film but from a historical and cultural perspective I know the practice of Jauhar is especially difficult for women to watch,” says Pedro from Bern. “However, showing it in a movie doesn’t mean that the film director is endorsing this practice.”