The release of a Bollywood film has been put on hold after a $1.5m (£1.1m) bounty was offered to anyone who beheads lead actress Deepika Padukone and the film’s director.
Suraj Pal Amu, a member of India’s Hindu nationalist ruling party, made the call against the actress, who previously starred alongside Vin Diesel in the xXx franchise, ahead of her latest project Padmavati over its alleged portrayal of a relationship between a Hindu queen and a Muslim conqueror.
According to local media reports, the party member, a leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Haryana, declared that the film would not be allowed to release at all after it was scheduled to open to audiences on 1 December.
It has already been banned outright in two states.
There are now growing security concerns for Padukone, one of India’s biggest stars, who plays Rajput queen Padmavati in the film, based on a 16th century Sufi poem.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party has since condemned the call for beheading and has asked Mr Amu to apologise.
It comes as hardline Hindu fringe groups slammed the film and accused Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s portrayal of distorting history by depicting the Muslim character, Alauddin Khilji, as the Hindu queen’s “lover”.
The director was attacked on set in January by a Rajput group as some believe the queen chose to kill herself rather than accept the Muslim ruler’s advances.
Anil Jain, the head of the BJP’s state unit in Haryana, which Mr Amu belongs to, said: “We will not tolerate any violent remarks from our party members, but we also want the director to respect India’s history.”
The deputy chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Keshav Prasad Maurya, said he would not allow the film to show in his state unless scenes showing the queen in a “poor light” were deleted.
He said: “How can a Muslim aggressor be portrayed as the real hero and the Hindu king and queen as victims? This is factually incorrect.”
The head of the Central Board of Film Certification, Anurag Srivastava, said the producers’ application to release the film was turned down because they did not clarify if the film was based on fact or fiction.
The studio behind the $23m (£17m) production, Viacom18, said it “voluntarily deferred” the release date.
A spokesperson said: “We always have and are committed to continue following the established procedure and convention. We have faith that we will soon obtain the requisite clearances to release the film.”
Police have since offered increased security to Padukone and Bhansali.