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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 June, 2004, 11:50 GMT 12:50 UK
Police guard Indian lesbian film
Scene from Girlfriend
The film has been criticised by numerous groups
Police are to guard dozens of Indian cinemas after Hindu hardliners tore up posters and burned effigies in protest at a film about a lesbian love affair.

Officers will flank cinemas showing the Hindi film Girlfriend in Bombay, New Delhi, Lucknow, Varanasi and Bhopal.

"We are mounting a close watch on theatres showing Girlfriend in view of incidents in other parts of the country," said a police spokesman.

The movie has also upset women's groups who say it is a "stereotypical".

Nearly 100 student activists of Hindu group Shiv Sena smashed window panes at a cinema in Bombay showing the controversial film, which was released on Friday.

Defiant

Members of the right-wing group said they plan to mount more protests against the film.

"We'll not allow such a film to be screened," Arun Pathak, one of Shiv Sena's leaders, told the Reuters news agency.

"What one does in the bedroom and bathroom should not be displayed publicly," he added.

But officials said they would not let the group disrupt further screenings.

"The film has been passed by the censor board," said Dharam Singh, a senior government official in Varanasi.

"We will deal with troublemakers firmly. We've deployed enough police outside movie halls," he added.

Amrita Arora is one of the stars in Girlfriend
Critics say the film is pornographic

Women's groups say that the latest film - about jealousy and hidden desire coming between two women when one of them finds a boyfriend - is "highly regressive".

A member of a women's organisation, Forum Against Oppression of Women (FAOW), Tejal Shah said that Girlfriend is pornographic and has been made entirely to give pleasure to heterosexual males.

"All the negative popular myths about lesbians [have] been woven into the storyline, and I think it will antagonise society even further," she said.

As the lesbian character in Girlfriend becomes more possessive about her partner, she also becomes more psychopathic as the film reaches its conclusion.

Defence

The film's director, Karan Razdan, said the movie was about a woman who becomes a lesbian due to her circumstances rather than her sexual orientation at birth.

''I have not made a pro-lesbian film but my film has started a debate about the subject," he said.

"Whether my film generates good or bad publicity, my intention is to start a discussion about this subject, and create an awareness in society.

"Lesbians should be accepted in society because freedom of sexual preference should be allowed in a free and democratic country," he said.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Sanjoy Majumber
"Hardline Hindus have ripped up posters of the film in protest"



SEE ALSO:
'Girlfriend' causes India storm
14 Jun 04  |  Entertainment
India awards annual cinema prizes
23 May 04  |  Entertainment
Bollywood in spotlight at Cannes
07 May 04  |  Entertainment
Bombay cinemas to strike over tax
07 Oct 03  |  South Asia
Getting intimate in Bombay's cinemas
05 Aug 02  |  South Asia


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