The vandalised set of Padmavati in Kolhapur on Wednesday. (PTI)
New Delhi, March 15: Vandals attacked the sets of Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Padmavati with petrol bombs in the early hours today, reducing about 100 period costumes of junior artistes to ashes.
The attack came near the Panhala fort in Kolhapur, Maharashtra, where Bhansali had moved his sets from Rajasthan in the hope of unhindered shooting.
Earlier, the Shri Rajput Karni Sena had raided his sets in Jaipur on January 27 alleging the movie distorted history and denigrated the legendary queen of Mewar, Rani Padmavati or Padmini.
After that attack, Bhansali and Bhansali Productions CEO Shobha Sant had issued several statements, including a written one, clarifying the film had no dream sequence showing Sultan Allauddin Khilji romancing Padmavati.
It was not clear who last night's raiders were and what their motive was. Estimates of their number ranged from 20 to 60.
Shobha said the mob "vandalised our costume and jewellery and set them on fire".
Designers Rimple and Harpreet Narula said months of work had been destroyed. Period film costumes need to be correct down to every particular, they said, and Bhansali is a stickler for detail.
"We will work day and night and make up for the damages, but morally we are very low. We are broken sentimentally. For creative people like me, Harpreet and Mr Bhansali, it is very shocking," PTI quoted Rimple as saying.
An officer said the attackers damaged two pandals, including one where the horses were kept, and destroyed much of the fodder.
Maharashtra's junior home minister Deepak Kesarkar told reporters the government had "deployed an officer and 12 other policemen" to protect the film crew, PTI said.
Bollywood, which had spoken out against the January attack, was comparably muted today. Among the few who protested was Javed Akhtar, who saw the Padmavati vandalism and the alleged "fatwa" against Indian Idol singer Nahid Afrin as two sides of the same coin.
"Again a fatwaagainst a girl for a heinous crime like singing. Again violence against a film that no one has seen. Where are we going?" he wondered.
Filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri tweeted: "A set is a workplace and it's as condemnable as torching any workplace."
Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis posted several tweets through the day on a host of issues but remained silent on the attack on a film set in his state.
Bhansali Productions, however, thanked Maharashtra police "for the quick and efficient support on Padmavati vandalised sets".
Historians say that Rani Padmavati is a character created by Awadhi poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi in his epic poem Padmawat, penned in 1540. Allauddin headed the Khilji dynasty between 1296 and 1316 but no contemporary historian of the Sultanate period mentions a Rani Padmini or Padmavati.
Tanuja Kothiyal, who teaches at Delhi's Ambedkar University and has specialised in the history of western Rajasthan, says there is no history of Padmavati to distort in the first place.
But she acknowledges that arguments based on historical evidence make little impression on the Rani's admirers.
"The story of her defiance of Allauddin Khilji is now an integral part of the (Rajput) community's imagination and identity," she has said.