The historical epic has ignited a storm of attacks and counter-attacks in India and beyond.

The movie features the controversial traditional practice of jauhar, practiced by shamed, widowed or abandoned women, or those at risk of capture and rape during times of war.

Padmaavat opened in India to violent protests and publiccondemnation and furious Bollywood star Swara Bhaskar wrote an open letter to Padmaavat director Sanjay Leela Bhansali slamming his portrayal of women.

In response, Padukone released a more measured, but barbed, statement. 

Bhaskar said: “Women have the right to live, despite being raped, sir. Women have the right to live, despite the death of their husbands, male ‘protectors’, ‘owners’, ‘controllers of their sexuality’.. whatever you understand the men to be.

“Women have the right to live — independent of whether men are living or not. Women have the right to live. Period. Women are not only walking talking vaginas.” 

In reply, Padukone said: “She probably missed the disclaimer at the beginning of the film. You probably went out to buy some popcorn and missed the initial disclaimers that come out.

“I think, secondly, the fact that it is important to view a film in totality and to see in which period it was set in. Third of all, I think for me this film is not just about the act (jauhar) that they all committed, but it stood for so much more. For me, it’s a celebration of women and their strength, power and dignity.”

Jauhar traditionally involved a group act of self-immolation (burning yourself alive).

Padmaavat is out now in UK cinemas.

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