More riots in India over lesbian film
June 16 2004 12:00 AM ET
Hard-line Hindus vandalized cinemas in India for the second day on Tuesday as protests against the screening of a Bollywood film about a love affair between two women spread to more cities. Hindu activists, mostly groups of young men, tore down posters and ripped billboards advertising Girlfriend at halls in Jabalpur and Indore, cities in the central Madhya Pradesh state, police said. Tuesday's violence came a day after similar attacks by Hindu groups on cinemas in Bombay and the northern city of Varanasi over the film that has enraged India's conservative right. In Jabalpur, stick-wielding activists of the hard-line Shiv Sena and Bajrang Dal groups smashed windows of a cinema hall even though it had canceled the scheduled film screenings.
"About 50 right-wing activists walked into the theater, pushing aside security personnel, and created mayhem," police inspector I.S. Chauhan told Reuters by phone. Police have been posted outside dozens of cinemas, including many swanky multiplexes showing Girlfriend in Bombay, New Delhi, and several northern cities. In Indore, the commercial hub of Madhya Pradesh, activists smashed the glass doors of a theater before being chased away by police. The movie continued to be screened after the incident, and nobody was injured, police said.
Members of the Shiv Sena said they plan more protests over Girlfriend. "We'll not allow such a film to be screened," Arun Pathak, a leader of the group, told Reuters from Varanasi. "What one does in the bedroom and bathroom should not be displayed publicly." Some critics have panned the film, with one reviewer saying it was "redolent with cliches" and filled with "C-grade raunch." Recent films by some Bollywood directors have featured unconventional treatments of such themes as adultery, usually handled in strictly traditional ways by commercial Hindi cinema. Fire, a film by Indian-born director Deepa Mehta, also drew the ire of Hindu hard-liners in 1998 because it featured a relationship between two women. Screenings were later halted. India produces about 1,000 movies a year--the largest number in the world--many of them three-hour boy-meets-girl cotton-candy dramas with lavish sets and song-and-dance scenes.