Losing the plot: Indian protesters attack Bollywood film set

Bollywood star Deepika Padukone, who plays Padmavati, took to Twitter to defend the period drama following the first attack, saying "there is absolutely no distortion of history" in the movie

Indian protesters burned costumes and vandalised the set of Bollywood movie "Padmavati" this week over tabloid rumours the film will romantically link a legendary Hindu queen with a Muslim ruler.

Bollywood stars came out in support of director Sanjay Leela Bhansali after a group of up to 30 assailants on Wednesday torched props at the film set near Mumbai.

It came after members of a caste-based group called Rajput Karni Sena slapped and pulled the hair of Bhansali while filming was taking place at a fort in Jaipur, in Rajasthan in January.

A case has been filed for "arson, rioting and unlawful assembly", police Inspector General Vishwas Nangare Patil in Kolhapur, Maharashtra state, where the filming was moved to after the first attack, told AFP.

The protesters are apparently unhappy at speculation that the film will feature romance between Rajput queen Padmavati, also known as Rani Padmini, and the 13th and 14th century Muslim ruler Alauddin Khilji.

The Rajput caste were historically Hindu warriors, who ruled over kingdoms in western India.

A spokesperson for Bhansali's production company denied that there is any truth to the plot rumours, while supporters of the film say the speculation is being fuelled by opportunistic fringe groups who cannot have read the script.

Rajput Karni Sena accuse the film's makers of distorting historical facts, but historians say the queen is a mythical character and there is no clear evidence that she ever existed.

"Rani Padmini is a character created by (poet) Malik Mohd (Muhammad) Jayasi in his Padmawat (poem) written in 1540. No mention in any historical record before this," Indian historian S. Irfan Habib tweeted after the January incident.

Bollywood star Deepika Padukone, who plays Padmavati, took to Twitter to defend the period drama following the first attack, saying "there is absolutely no distortion of history" in the movie.

India's Hindi film industry churns out hundreds of movies every year but filmmakers often face intimidation from fringe groups, as well as an over-zealous censor board, which fuels fears over creative freedom in the country.

A Rajasthan minister has said that "Padmavati" would not be screened in the state until it had first been viewed and approved for release by Rajput community leaders.

Police say they will provide protection at the set in Kolhapur while directors have rallied behind Bhansali, whose "Goliyon ki Rasleela Ramleela" (2013) and "Bajirao Mastani" (2015) were also the subject of protests.

Bollywood director Karan Johar, whose own film was the subject of violent protests last year by Hindu nationalist groups for featuring a Pakistani actor, told reporters the attacks on "Padmavati" were "deeply saddening".