Last edited: June 20, 2004

Hindu Mobs Attack Indian Cinemas Over Lesbian Film

Reuters, June 14, 2004

NEW DELHI—Hardline Hindus hurled stones and damaged cinema halls in India Monday to stop the screening of a Bollywood film about a relationship between two women, saying it violated Indian culture.

Nearly 100 activists of the student’s wing of the Shiv Sena group smashed window panes, ripped up posters and burned effigies at a hall screening the Hindi film “Girlfriend” in Bombay, capital of India’s prolific movie industry, witnesses said.

The film show was stopped after the attack on the hall.

Shiv Sena members also attacked a hall screening the film in the northern Hindu holy city of Varanasi, police said. There were no reports of any injuries in either incident.

“The film has some lesbian scenes and we got many complaints from the public, especially women, so we decided to take action,” Nitin Amberkar, a member of Shiv Sena’s student wing, said in Bombay, minutes before tearing up posters of the film.

About 20 Shiv Sena activists were detained in Varanasi after the incident. The cinema proceeded to screen the film under tight security, police said.

Arun Pathak, the Varanasi unit chief of the hardline Hindu group, said the film violated Indian traditions.

“This film is out to degrade Indian culture. We will not allow anyone to do this,” he told Reuters. The director of “Girlfriend” said his film did not violate Indian culture but merely reflected a slice of society that has long been brushed under the carpet.

“If my film doesn’t not offend any religious or spiritual sentiments, then why the breakage?” Karan Razdan told Zee News television. “I’m just trying to show what’s happening in society.”

The box office response to the film, which opened on Friday, has been poor.

India turns out 1,000 movies a year—the most in the world—many of them three-hour boy-meets-girl candyfloss extravaganzas with lavish sets and song-and-dance routines.

In recent years, some Bollywood film-makers have stepped off the beaten track and made movies on themes considered unorthodox by old-school producers. However, strict censorship still prevents on-screen nudity and profanity.

“Fire,” a 1998 Bollywood film that portrayed an intimate relationship between two women, provoked the wrath of hardline Hindus who said it promoted what they called the alien practice of lesbianism and hurt Indian culture.

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