Tue. Dec 6th, 2022
'Kaali': Filmmaker Leena Manimekalai faces death threats over controversial Hindu goddess poster

Written by Oscar Holland, CNN

A Toronto-based filmmaker says she has obtained a deluge of dying threats and abuse from Hindu nationalists in India after she depicted the goddess Kali smoking a cigarette.

The picture, which featured on a poster for her unbiased movie “Kaali”, has sparked nationwide debate in India, with politicians, diplomats and native police reportedly amongst these accusing director Leena Manimekalai of offending spiritual sentiments.

The movie, which makes use of another English spelling of the goddesses’ identify, was amongst 18 works supposed to discover multiculturalism on the Toronto Metropolitan College’s “Underneath the Tent” showcase on the Aga Khan Museum.

Described as a “efficiency documentary,” it imagines the Hindu goddess “descending onto a queer feminine filmmaker” and viewing Canada — and its numerous folks — by way of her eyes, Manimekalai defined.

“She is a free spirit. She spits at patriarchy. She dismantles Hindutva (an ideology that seeks to remodel secular India right into a Hindu nation). She destroys capitalism. She embraces everybody with a thousand arms.”

Kali “chooses love” and accepts a cigarette from “working-class avenue dwellers,” Manimekalai added in an electronic mail.

A promotional poster, which options the director dressed as Kali, exhibits the Hindu goddess smoking and holding aloft a rainbow flag, a logo of the LGBTQ neighborhood.

Manimekalai, who’s from the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu and is at present a graduate fellow at Toronto’s York College, shared the poster to Twitter on Saturday. It quickly went viral, eliciting livid responses from some Indian social media customers — a lot of whom referred to as for her arrest. Inside days, tens of 1000’s of tweets had appeared with the hashtag #ArrestLeenaManimekalai.

In a statement printed Monday, the Indian Excessive Fee in Canada’s capital, Ottawa, urged the nation’s authorities to “take motion” towards what it referred to as a “disrespectful depiction.” The Aga Khan Museum — having screened an excerpt of the movie over the weekend — then introduced that Manimekalai’s work was “now not being proven.”
“The Museum deeply regrets that one of many 18 quick movies from ‘Underneath the Tent’ and its accompanying social media submit have inadvertently precipitated offense to members of the Hindu and different religion communities,” the museum mentioned in a statement Tuesday.
Toronto Metropolitan College additionally distanced itself from the movie, expressing “remorse” at having “precipitated offense”.

In a press release, the college added: “We’re dedicated to fairness, variety and inclusion whereas on the similar time respecting the range of beliefs and factors of view in our society.”

Manimekalai expressed her disappointment with the 2 establishments, accusing them of getting “traded off educational freedom and creative freedom to save lots of their pores and skin.”

“It’s unhappy to see these establishments working in a sovereign nation like Canada bowing right down to the worldwide enforcement of Hindutva’s totalizing narrative and relentless quashing of free expression.”

The controversy performed by way of the week on TV debates, the place critics argued that Manimekalai’s portrayal had disparaged a sacred determine. Parliamentarians in India have additionally weighed in, with Vinit Goenka, a spokesperson for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Celebration (BJP) calling the picture an “insult to all Indians.” Indian-born Canadian politician Chandra Arya additionally expressed concern, writing on Twitter that seeing the poster had been “painful.”
Police in each Delhi and the state of Uttar Pradesh have filed formal complaints towards the director, in response to CNN affiliate CNN-News18, although Manimekalai mentioned she has not been served any official notices.

Torrent of abuse

The director blames the indignant on-line response on what she referred to as a “mercenary troll military” of BJP supporters and right-wing nationalists. She mentioned that members of her movie crew have been doxed, whereas household and buddies have additionally obtained on-line abuse.

Manimekalai claims that she has been subjected to “hatemongering” from 1000’s of social media accounts. Dozens of screenshots, shared with CNN by the director, seem to indicate threats of violence, together with direct dying threats.

In Uttar Pradesh state, Hindu spiritual chief Mahant Raju Das printed a video by which he threatens the filmmaker with beheading. The Instances of India in the meantime reported Thursday that police in Tamil Nadu had arrested a girl over one other video containing threats towards the director.
The controversy is certainly one of a rising variety of situations by which depictions of Hindu gods have attracted accusations of non secular insensitivity — from Nestlé withdrawing KitKat chocolate bars wrappers that includes numerous deities to Rihanna dealing with backlash for posing topless with a pendant of the god Ganesha.

Kali, the Hindu goddess of dying, time and doomsday, is worshipped all through India. The spouse of Shiva, she is usually portrayed as blue or black, with an extended tongue and a number of arms.

Giant statue of the Hindu Goddess Kail at a Hindu temple in Kadaloor, Tamil Nadu, India.

Big statue of the Hindu Goddess Kail at a Hindu temple in Kadaloor, Tamil Nadu, India. Credit score: Inventive Contact Imaging Ltd./NurPhoto/Getty Photographs

Manimekalai maintains that her depiction of the goddess is constant along with her personal spiritual interpretation.

“In rural Tamil Nadu, the state I come from… she eats meat cooked in goat’s blood, drinks (the alcoholic beverage) arrack, smokes beedi and dances wild(ly),” she mentioned, including that that is the model of Kali that “I grew up with and … have embodied within the movie.”

Manimekalai plans to finish a director’s reduce of “Kaali”, with a view to screening it at a movie pageant.

“I’ll proceed to make artwork,” she mentioned.

Prime picture caption: A photograph of the filmmaker.

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