Amid Boycott Calls, Akhilesh Yadav Screens Deepika Padukone's 'Chhapaak'

Amid Boycott Calls, Akhilesh Yadav Screens Deepika Padukone's 'Chhapaak'

Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav has arranged a special screening of Deepika Padukone's new film - 'Chhapaak' - for party workers in Lucknow today. The move is aimed at expressing support for Ms Padukone who has been criticised on social media after her Tuesday evening visit to Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University, where she stood in solidarity with students injured in last week's vicious mob attack that left 34 people injured, including the JNU students' union leader Aishe Ghosh and several faculty members.

'Chhapaak', which also marks Ms Padukone's debut as a film producer, is directed by Meghna Gulzar and is based on the real life story of Laxmi Agarwal, a Delhi woman who was an acid attack victim.

"We are also watching the film because our president Akhilesh Yadav has always been concerned about the problems of acid attack survivors. He (Mr Yadav) had set up the Sheroes Hangout cafe in Lucknow for acid attack survivors," a senior party leader was quoted by news agency IANS.

Ms Padukone celebrated her birthday - January 5 - at the cafe with acid attack survivors.

UP Congress has also expressed support, with party leader Shailendra Tiwari putting up posters of the film around the city and calling on people to go and watch the film.

Two days after a mob of around 70 to 100 goons - wearing masks and wielding iron rods, sledgehammers and glass bottles - barged onto the JNU campus and went on a brutal and unchecked rampage, Deepika Padukone made a surprise visit to the university.

The 'Padmaavat' star reached the JNU campus at 7.30 pm on Tuesday, attended a public meeting for 15 minutes and left after speaking to a few members of the students' union.

The move by Ms Padukone, one of Bollywood's top stars, stood out amid conspicuous silence by film industry A-listers on student protests and the demonstrations across the country against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act.

Her decision instantly polarised opinion on social media, where she was both praised for her courage and targeted by trolls.

BJP spokesperson Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga posted a photo of Ms Padukone, standing in silence behind the injured Ms Ghosh, with an appeal to boycott her movies; 'Chhapaak' released in theatres today.

Support for Ms Padukone has also come pouring in from other states, with Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh (both Congress-ruled states) waiving entertainment tax on the screening of her film.

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath tweeted: "Deepika Padukone's film on acid attack survivor, Chhapaak is releasing across the country on January 10. I declare it tax-free in Madhya Pradesh".

Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel announced a similar move and also urged people to watch the movie with their families. "The film spreads awareness among people against heinous crime like acid attack on women in society. You all should go to watch the movie along with your families," he said.