Padmaavat faces a total blackout on the day of its scheduled release on Thursday in at least four big states — Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Bihar — with cinema and multiplex owners firm against screening the movie. In Uttar Pradesh, another big territory for Hindi films, cinema owners are in a dilemma.
However, cinema and multiplex owners in the five southern states and other big states like Maharashtra and West Bengal are going ahead with the screening as per schedule.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi targeted the BJP government for virtually giving a free hand to fringe groups protesting the release of the movie 'Padmaavat', alleging that the saffron party's use of "hatred and violence" is setting the country on fire.
Rahul's strong remarks came in the wake of a violent mob attacking a bus carrying school children in BJP-ruled Haryana's Gurugram, on the eve of the controversial film's release.
"There will never be a cause big enough to justify violence against children. Violence and hatred are the weapons of the weak. The BJP's use of hatred and violence is setting our entire country on fire," Rahul tweeted Wednesday night.
The Congress also slammed the ruling BJP over its "failure" to maintain law and order in Haryana and other states, where agitators took to the streets and committed arson and vandalism with seeming impunity.
"Unacceptable, reprehensible and devastating as vandals attack school bus and Haryana Roadways bus in Gurgaon endangering the lives of innocent children and passengers. Terrified children cry inconsolably and anarchy prevails. Khattar government fails again miserably in upholding law and order (sic)," Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said in a tweet.
After the attack on a school bus by anti-"Padmaavat" protestors, some reputed schools in Gurgaon have decided to remain shut till Sunday in view of the violence over the controversial film's release.
The schools which have decided to shut down till Sunday includes Pathways school, GD Goenka School, Shiv Nadar School and Delhi Public School.
The management of the schools confirmed that they would close down as a precaution despite the district administration and the Gurgaon police assuring adequate security.
Around 25 students of GD Goenka World School were on their way home when a group of around 60 activists, believed to be members of a fringe group, attacked the bus with bamboo sticks asking the driver to stop the vehicle.
"We do not want to take any risk with the life of students. Protection of students outside and inside is our prime concern," a school teacher told PTI on the condition of anonymity.
"If the violators can attack school buses and Haryana roadways buses openly despite prohibitory orders and tight security arrangements of the Gurgaon Police," the teacher said, adding, "We cannot take a chance and have decided to close down."
The teacher said that a total of six schools have taken the decision to remain shut.
Gurgaon Deputy Commissioner Vinay Pratap Singh, in an appeal, said the public transport system of the city should not be disturbed.
"Some people and groups want rioting in the district but we appeal to residents and groups not to violate law and order situation and section 144 is already imposed in the city," Mr Singh told PTI.
"Everyone has the right to protest but in a peaceful way.
Violation of law and order is not allowed. The situation is peaceful in Gurgaon and all colleges, schools, offices will remain open on Thursday," he added.
The Gurgaon police have arrested 20 people for allegedly violating prohibitory orders, a senior official said.
Gurgaon police along with 550 additional forces including local police stations teams have been deployed in the city's major areas including multiplexes, Commissioner of Police Sandeep Khairwar said.
"All Gurgaon malls have been directed to tighten their internal security. I along with other senior officers are monitoring the security arrangements in their respective zones," he said.
"The Gurgaon Police is on a high alert and various teams are ready to respond quickly in case of any untoward incident," Mr Khairawar said.
Despite prohibitory orders in Gurgaon, hundreds of Rajput Karni Sena supporters protested at the Kherki Daula toll plaza on the Delhi-Jaipur National Highway.
Violence spread to towns and cities in many states including Rajasthan, Haryana, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, as fringe groups opposing the release of 'Padmaavat' remained defiant and demanded the movie be banned.
In Gujarat, a day after mindless vandalism and arson by mobs of Rajput groups in Ahmedabad, Gujarat Multiplex Owners Association, Cinematograph Exhibitors' Association of Gujarat and Multiplex Association of India declared that the film will not be screened in the state. "The association has decided not to screen Padmaavat in 120 cinemas across Gujarat, including 32 in Ahmedabad, till a compromise is reached between Karni Sena and film producers," said GMOA chief Manubhai Patel. Almost all cinema halls across the state had put up notice boards outside their premises informing audiences about the no-show.
A virtual repeat of the Gujarat was played out in neighbouring Madhya Pradesh where Central Cine Circuit Association announced it couldn't release the film in the wake of threats of violence by MP Rajput Samaj, which is spearheading the campaign against the film. CCCA president Jai Prakash Chaukse said: "We'd have liked to release the movie, but have decided not to risk life and property. The state government has failed to assure us security and seems to be backing groups opposed to the release of the film."
In Rajasthan, the epicenter of protests against Sanjay Leela Bhansali's film, cinema and multiplex owners had already decided against screening the film. Though no official stand was taken by their counterparts in Bihar, there are no takers for releasing the film in the eastern state too.
The Multiplex Association of India said it has decided not to screen the film in four states. "We have decided not to play the film in four states—Rajasthan, Gujarat, MP and Goa—as the local management has told us that the law and order situation is not conducive," Deepak Asher, president of the association, said.
However, Padmaavat will have a smooth ride in south India. The distributors, Viacom 18 Motion Pictures, are releasing the film in three languages — in its original version in Hindi and dubbed in Tamil and Telugu. "As on Wednesday evening, it is getting released in about 600 screens across the five southern states," a source in Viacom 18 Motion Pictures told TOIon condition of anonymity.
Cinema owners in Haryana, Delhi, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Himachal have also decided to go ahead with the film's release.