January 22, 2009 / 12:35 PM / 10 years ago

Nepal bans 'Chandni Chowk to China' over Buddha birth claim

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Nepal’s Maoist-led government banned the new Bollywood film “Chandni Chowk to China” on Thursday after angry protests over a reference in it to India being Lord Buddha’s birthplace, an official said.

Actors Akshay Kumar (R) and Deepika Padukone attend the Canadian premiere of "Chandni Chowk To China", in Toronto in this January 9, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Mike Cassese

Nepali film censorship authorities had removed the controversial scene from “Chandni Chowk to China,” but many had already seen the unedited version on illegal CDs/DVDs smuggled across the porous border with India.

“We have banned the film from being screened throughout Nepal,” said Narayan Prasad Regmi, spokesman of the Information and Communications Ministry.

“Our censor board had struck the controversial comments in the film before approving it for screening. But considering the popular sentiments we have banned it.”

At least two demonstrations were organised in Kathmandu after the Hindi-language film opened in theatres on Thursday, with protesters demanding the government ban it.

A narrator in the film, a comedy starring top Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar, is heard saying Buddha was born in India.

The Buddha, founder of Buddhism, was born in Lumbini, a rice growing area about 171 km (107 miles) southwest of Kathmandu more than 2,600 years ago.

He later attained enlightenment in Bodh Gaya in the neighbouring Indian state of Bihar.

Bollywood films are popular in Nepal, where Hindi is widely spoken.

At least two people were killed and dozens injured in Kathmandu eight years ago in similar protests against a Bollywood actor who was alleged to have said he did not like Nepal. The actor denied the charge.

For the latest Reuters news on Nepal see: in.reuters.com, for blogs see blogs.reuters.com/in

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