Michael W. Smith just released a new single from his upcoming album, due out in February 2018. The title song, “A Million Lights,” showcases Smith’s fantastic voice, which remains clear and crisp despite 30 years of professional use. The tune has an electronic dance music vibe, so church praise bands probably won’t pick it up en masse. Since it only uses pronouns and figurative language to refer to God, it might get some crossover play on secular radio stations and playlists. —L.L.
An Indian filmmaker has government censors breathing down his neck, activists marching against him, and a bounty on his head, all before his movie has even premiered.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film Padmavati tells the story of a Hindu queen from 16th century poetry who chose to kill herself rather than be captured by the Muslim sultan of Delhi. Many in India accept the legend of Queen Padmini as historical fact, though scholars are uncertain.
Earlier this year, activists attacked Bhansali and threatened to burn down theaters that showed his movie, all because of rumors about a dream sequence that shows a romance between Padmini and her would-be captor. Bhansali said such a scene doesn’t appear in the film. But the mere suggestion that the queen, a beloved Hindu symbol, had a relationship with a Muslim sparked a storm of outrage.
Politician Suraj Pal Amu, a member of India’s Hindu nationalist ruling party, offered the equivalent of $1.5 million to anyone who beheaded Bhansali or the film’s lead actress, Deepika Padukone. The film was set for release Thursday, but has not won approval from the country’s Central Board of Film Certification. A committee in Parliament has taken interest in the controversy and called Bhansali to testify Thursday.
Violence by Hindu extremists is on the rise in India since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s political party took power in 2014. The party, Bharatiya Janata, promotes Hindutva, the idea that the Hindu way of life should define Indian culture. As Modi has gradually filled government posts throughout India with Hindu nationalists, prosecutions of crimes against religious minorities have slackened and local governments have closed Christian churches. The campaign against Bhansali’s film shows that just barely a crack is left open in India’s window of tolerance, and only conservative Hindu beliefs can squeeze through. —L.L.