India beheading scandal: Why does India's conservative fringe hate Bollywood star Deepika Padukone?

Deepika Padukone - The Bollywood actress an Indian politician wants to behead

Deepika Padukone has been threatened by Surajpal Amu

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Amidst all the news about Brexit, the Budget and Robert Mugabe, you might have missed the snippet about a beheading bounty being placed on the head of one of Bollywood's brighest stars.

So, if you've missed it, here's the story. Surajpal Amu, media coordinator of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India, has offered a bounty of £1.1 million for Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone to be beheaded as well as director Sanjay Leela Bhansali.

Why? Well both have worked on a film, the release of which has now been delayed, called Padmavati. It is supposed to portray the 13th-century Queen Padmini, but some are outraged that it reportedly includes her having a love affair with a Muslim invader. Complaints have also been made about an alleged scene where the queen is depicted in revealing clothes.

The film's content has clearly riled Amu, a member of the ruling nationalist BJP party who clearly believes the film betrays India's heritage.

Amu has previously said "if someone insults our ancestors and our history, we will not tolerate that", adding that "the youth and warrior caste of this country have the strength to set every cinema on fire."

Bhansali, for his part, claims there is no love scene of this sort in the film and the leader of the BJP has distanced itself from Amu's comments by denouncing the death threats. Nonetheless protection has been put in place for both Padukone and her family.

Sadly, this is far from the first time Padukone has faced controversy from India's conservative fringe.

In 2015 she narrated a video entitled My Choice, which was part of a campaign run by Vogue India aiming to empower women. Many other women were also seen in the video, but Padukone received criticism herself for being involved.

In the video she tells women it is their choice "to wear the clothes I like, even if my spirit roams naked" and "to be a size 0 or a size 15." It also says "to marry or not to marry, to have sex before marriage or outside the marriage, my choice."

Some slammed the video as being anti-marriage, elitist, anti-male and promoting "bimbo" culture. However, the actress hit out at her critics and claimed many had missed the point of the video whilst "certain lines were pulled out of context and blown completely out of proportion."

Aside from videos Padukone has also been criticised for photos. Earlier this year she uploaded a photo taken for Maxin Magazine on Instagram, but quickly started receiving criticism of her skin colour and her clothes.


Some said she should not look like a "porn star" as they complained that her outfit was too revealing and called the photo "vulgar." Probably rather sensibly, she did not respond to the comments, but some of her fans hit back and tell the trolls she is entitled to wear what she likes.

This controversy echoed a public spat in 2014, after The Times of India published a close-up of a promotional photo for the 2013 film Chennai Express. The media outlet captioned the photo "OMG - Deepika's cleavage show."

Many on social media said they were "disgusted" with the so-called news story and Padukone responded herself by tweeting: “YES! I am a Woman. I have breasts AND a cleavage! You got a problem!!??" This prompted The Times of India to suggest it was just trying to "compliment" her however this comment was later removed from Twitter.

Later the actress posted a lengthy statement on Facebook which included the comment: "When an actresses inner wear decides to do a 'peek-a-boo,' she most definitely did not step out with the intention to do so. So instead of zooming in, circling it and pointing arrows at it, why don't we give her some 'respect' and let it go instead of making it 'headlines'!?"

Whether this long line of controversies has prepared Padukone for the horror of a beheading threat remains to be seen.