Violence over Bollywood film 'Girlfriend'
Violence erupted in two Indian cities Monday as protestors demanded a ban on the Bollywood film Girlfriend, objecting to its theme of alternate sexuality.
The protestors tore down posters and banners of the movie that was released Friday. They smashed windowpanes and name boards of cinema halls screening the film.
Attacks on theatres were reported from the Hindu holy town of Varanasi and India's financial capital Mumbai.
Senior Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leader K.S. Sudershan told reporters in Nagpur, Maharashtra, that such movies should be banned as they threatened to corrupt society with bad thoughts.
"At a time when alternate sexuality has come under attack even abroad, including Australia, the movie seeks to introduce such ideas (of homosexuality) in our society," he said.
"These are the practices that have cost society dear and are responsible for new diseases like AIDS," Sudershan said.
Theatre owners in the Indian capital expressed apprehension about screening the movie that stars Isha Koppiker, Amrita Arora and Ashish Chowdhry.
"There have been no demonstrations, but we are worried," an official of Sangam cinema hall in south Delhi said declining to give his name.
An official of Gagan cinema hall in central Delhi said the movie was "not doing so well, but we might remove it in view of the violent protests in cities like Mumbai".
Theatre owners said they had not sought police protection, but they were anticipating trouble and were in touch with senior police officials.
Directed by Karan Razdan, "Girlfriend" is being screened in nine halls in the capital.
The theme of lesbianism has always stirred controversy in a conservative society like India. Popular director Deepa Mehta's film "Fire" on the same subject had generated countrywide protests a few years ago.
An official of Ginni Arts, which has the distribution rights for "Girlfriend" in Uttar Pradesh and Delhi, said the firm was surprised by the violent protests.
"The movie has been cleared by the censor board and I feel no one should have problems with the content," he said.
Censor board chief and actor Anupam Kher, however, said it was the duty of police to stop the screening if they felt it would lead to social tension.
"Our duty is only to give certificates to films and cut objectionable portions," he told a TV news channel from Mumbai.
"It is the state government's duty to ensure peaceful screening of the film and if they feel it can cause trouble, police have every right to remove it from the theatres," Kher said.