Bollywood film "Padmaavat" on Thursday released in over 4,000 screens across India -- barring some states -- amid high security and tension, after months of protests by some Rajput outfits in an attempt to deter the tale of Rajput pride, honour and sacrifice from releasing.
The Congress came down heavily on the Modi government, asking the Prime Minister to take moral responsibility for the violence unleashed in the name of protests against "Padmaavat". An attack on a school bus in Gurugram in Haryana became a bone of contention.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi accused the BJP of unleashing "hatred politics" for "setting the nation on fire".
The Sanjay Leela Bhansali film, caught in a row that has lasted over a year, did not release in BJP-ruled Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat due to protests by Shri Rajput Karni Sena over alleged distortion of Rajput history. Some theatres in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh also did not screen it but most shows in Delhi, Mumbai and elsewhere attracted a good number of viewers.
According to the Bhansali Productions and Viacom18 Motion Pictures, occupancy levels for shows were "very strong across more than 4,000 screens - with most running houseful".
"We are hopeful that every Indian - across all states - will get a chance to see the film especially as we celebrate our great nation's 69th Republic Day," a Viacom18 spokesperson said.
Starring Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh and Shahid Kapoor, the movie is based on 16th century poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi's famed "Padmavat", widely regarded as a work of fiction.
The Karni Sena had been up in arms against Bhansali since the movie's inception over a romantic dream sequence involving Rajput queen Rani Padmavati and Muslim invader Alauddin Khilji -- a scene which does not exist.
Karni Sena remained adamant in its demand for a ban on the movie. But the Supreme Court on Tuesday cleared the decks for an all-India release.
Still, it was not screened in 179 screens in Rajasthan on Thursday amid a shutdown called by the Karni Sena, whose activists took out a bike rally in Jaipur.
Chittorgarh turned into a fortress with heavy police deployment while Nagaur, Banswara, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Sikar, Jaisalmer, Sawai Madhopur, Pratapgarh and Khetdi also witnessed the impact of the shutdown.
In Madhya Pradesh, theatre owners voiced security concerns and did not release "Padmaavat". They held talks with Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and are hoping for a solution to the impasse. Protesters burned a car outside a theatre.
The Madhya Pradesh government will file a review petition in the Supreme Court.
There were protests in Bihar, with many theatres refusing to screen the film as a mob attacked a cinema hall, tore up posters, damaged vehicles and threatened to set ablaze the theatre if the movie was screened.
Fearing repercussions, all cinema hall owners in Vaishali, Gaya, Bhagalpur and Purnea decided against screening "Padmaavat". In Bhojpur and Buxar districts, Karni Sena activists along with Rajpur Mahasabha staged violent protests.
Even in Uttar Pradesh -- where two dozen people have been rounded up for protests, effigy burning and demonstrations -- many theatres and multiplexes, including in Lucknow, refused to show the film citing "lack of security".
In some theatres in Gurugram, viewers hardly turned up, officials said.
However, the film opened in Haryana and Punjab to "good response" and in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, it released in about 300 theatres.
While several fans of the filmmaker and actors went to catch the first day first show, a 12-hour shutdown across Karnataka -- not over "Padmaavat" -- delayed the screening as movie halls remained shut till the evening.
The screening of the movie -- earlier titled "Padmavati" -- mostly went on disruption-free in Delhi and Mumbai amid heavy security.
Popular cinema halls in central Delhi had barracades to keep away troublemakers.
In the country's entertainment capital Mumbai, the police guarded the theatres, some of which adopted a strategy of not putting up the film's posters inside or outside.
The movie's lead actress Deepika is confident it will register "earth shattering" figures at the box office.