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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 May 2006, 17:18 GMT 18:18 UK
Punjab ban for Da Vinci Code film
Scene from the film
It is the second most successful film opening in history
India's northern Punjab state has banned the screening of the new Hollywood film The Da Vinci Code.

Chief Minister Amarinder Singh told the BBC that he ordered the ban following an appeal by leaders of Punjab's minority Roman Catholic community.

The film is to be released in India on Friday a week after the original date.

Indian censors cleared the film last week after its makers agreed to insert a legal disclaimer to say it was of a "fictitious nature".

The government of the north-eastern state of Nagaland - which has a predominantly Christian population - has already imposed a ban on the film and the book on which it is based.

Relief

Several Catholic priests, including Bishop Symphorian Keeprath from the diocese of Jalandhar in central Punjab, told Mr Singh that the contents of the film were "shameful and liable to hurt the religious sentiments of the Christians of Punjab if its screening was permitted".

A spokesman for the diocese, Father Franco Mulakkal, said: "Fictional details attributed to Jesus Christ in the film The Da Vinci Code are highly offensive and intolerable to all Christians."

Father Franco thanked the Punjab chief minister, saying the ban had come as "a huge relief" to Punjab's Christian community.

Copies of The Da Vinci Code on sale at his roadside book stall in Bangalore
Nagaland has banned both the film and the book

The priests in Punjab say they are hopeful that other Indian states will follow suit.

The Censor Board of India delayed the release until Sony Pictures said they would insert a "legal card which clearly indicates the 'fictitious' nature of the film at the beginning for 15 seconds".

The legal card will also be screened at the end of the film.

The disclaimer is in addition to the one already being shown at the end of the film.

One of Hollywood's most awaited films, The Da Vinci Code was released worldwide last week after a star-studded premiere at the Cannes film festival.

Based on author Dan Brown's novel, the film stars Oscar winner Tom Hanks. It took $231.8m (122.6m) at box offices around the world despite a string of bad reviews.

Film distributor Columbia has said this is the second most successful opening in history after Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, which made $253m (134m) in its first weekend after release.


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