India’s supreme court has overturned a ban imposed by several states on the release of a controversial Bollywood film about a mythical Hindu queen.
The court cleared the way for the film, Padmaavat, to be shown after its producers went to court to fight the bans.
The film is based on an epic poem about a 14th Century queen – but right-wing Hindu groups say it falsely depicts a romance between Queen Padmavati of the Hindu Rajput warrior clan and a Muslim ruler.
The director, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, has been accused of distorting history.
At least four Indian states, including central Madhya Pradesh, had banned the film, citing security threats, despite its clearance by a censor panel.
“Cinemas are an inseparable part of (the) right to free speech and expression,” said chief justice Dipak Misra.
“States… cannot issue notifications prohibiting the screening of a film.”
A school in Madhya Pradesh was vandalised by protesters after students danced to a song from the film, which is set to open on 25 January.
Deepika Padukone, the actress who portrays Queen Padmavati, has also received death threats.
Last January, protesters from a hardline Hindu group attacked the film’s director and vandalised the set during filming in Rajasthan.
The leader of the group also offered 50 million rupees (£560,000) to anyone who beheaded lead actress Padukone or director Bhansali.
“Every story can’t be told how bullies want it,” tweeted author and screenwriter Chetan Bhagat in response to the court’s ruling.
“Artists, just as anyone else, have freedom to express in India. The states involved should respect (the) decision and curb bullies.”
There are fears of protests and violence on the film’s release date.