(CNN) – Producers of a Bollywood movie have delayed its release amid fears for the safety of its female star, following death threats from prominent Hindu hardliners.
The quasi-historical movie, entitled Padmavati, has ignited anger among right-wing Hindu groups owing to its rumored depiction of a romantic dream sequence involving a mythical Hindu queen and an invading Muslim sultan.
The filmmakers have repeatedly denied the movie includes such a scene.
Much of the anger has centered on the movie’s female lead, Deepika Padukone, who has been subject to a sustained campaign of abuse and intimidation. On Sunday, a member of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), Suraj Pal Amu, offered a reward of $1.6 million to anyone who beheads her, sparking an immediate outcry and calls for Amu to retract the threat.
Security for Padukone, one of India’s biggest movie stars, was increased earlier in November, Mumbai’s joint commissioner of police Deven Bharti told CNN. It came as a member of little known right-wing Hindu group, Kari Sena, publicly threatened to cut off Padukone’s nose.
After months of intimidation and protests, the producers of the movie, Viacom18 Motion Pictures, issued a statement Sunday announcing its December 1 release date had been “voluntarily deferred,” sparking concerns over issues relating to freedom of speech in the world’s largest democracy.
The deferment hasn’t ended the controversy, however. On Monday, the chief minister in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh — which is ruled by the BJP — said the movie will be banned unless so-called offensive scenes are removed.