You might recognise the big brown eyes and glowing skin of Deepika Padukone.
The 31-year-old is one of India’s most highly-paid actresses, having starred in a deluge of Bollywood’s most lucrative films for over a decade. In January of this year, she briefly dipped into Hollywood, starring in Paramount Picture’s action blockbuster, xXx: Return of Xander Cage.
You might have even seen her pictured at the Vanity Fair Oscar’s afterparty in February.
Padukone is an award-winning actress, a newspaper columnist, a social media influencer, and vocal feminist. She has 20 million followers on Instagram, and a lengthy history of speaking her truth about mental health and misogyny.
She also currently has a AU$2 million price tag dangling from her ear.
Why? Because a member of India’s right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – one of the country’s two major political parties – would like Padukone to be beheaded for her role in an upcoming Bollywood film.
That film is Padmavati, an epic period drama set in the 14th century, which is loosely based on an ancient poem; a story historians say is fictional, but has incensed ultraconservative Hindu groups who believe it is based on true events and therefore, “distorts history”.
The chief media coordinator of the BJP in northern Haryana, Suraj Pal Amu, claims the film depicts a romantic dream sequence between the mythical Hindu queen and an invading Muslim sultan, which ends in the queen’s self-immolation because she would rather die than submit to a controlling and obsessive man. Padmavati producers deny such a romantic scene exists.
The medieval-esque, barbaric traditionalists have been trying to stifle the pro-woman film for months.
“I made this film with a lot of respect and responsibility and diligence. This film honours her courage and sacrifice,” said film director Sanjay Leela Bhansali in a press statement in November. “There is no dream sequence between Rani Padmavati and Alauddin Khilji in our film.”