For releasing the controversial poster of her anti-Hindu documentary titled Kaali, filmmaker-cum-activist Leena Manimekalai has hurt religious sentiments of millions of Hindus. For misusing her creative freedom, the filmmaker has also landed herself in legal trouble after police complaints were filed against her in UP, Assam and Delhi.
The poster of the film depicted a woman dressed in a costume portraying the Goddess and smoking. To add insult to the injury, a flag of the LGBT community is seen in the background. Understandably, Leena is facing a barrage of criticism. The poster has sparked off strong reactions on social media over the way Goddess Kali has been depicted. One Twitter user even took a swipe at the apex court for maintaining a silence over this issue. ‘Now why is the Supreme Court not seeing anything, why this double standard?
On social media, Leena posted her documentary’s trailer. It made its debut at the Aga Khan Museum as a part of Rhythms of Canada.
Misusing Creative Freedom
Born in Madurai in Tamil Nadu, Leena has used her creative freedom to demean the highly revered Hindu Goddess Kaali. In the process, the filmmaker has hurt the feelings of millions of Hindus in the country, particularly in West Bengal. Many critics see the poster as a ploy by this Toronto-based filmmaker to invite the ire of devotees. They believe it is an affront to Hindus as depicting a smoking Goddess offends sentiments of innumerable devotees of Kali. The filmmaker has been using her freedom of expression to make an anti-India stand.
On April 12, this year, Leena tweeted: “How difficult is it for all of us to say that Indian society should not be allowed to become one that tolerates and inflicts violence on Muslims? Even if this violence never hurts the interest of Hindus, it is surely still impermissible.” The filmmaker even took on Prime Minister Narendra Modi by retweeting a controversial tweet of Asadaduddin Owaisi against the PM.
“Next time, we will not give anyone a chance to speak against our Gods and Goddesses. We will not stop protesting until she holds her ears and apologises”
—Suvendu Adhikari, Opposition leader
The fact of the matter is that the objectionable portrayal of Goddess Kali in the poster has received a lot of flak from the social media users who have demanded that the poster be withdrawn immediately as it hurts the sentiments of Hindu devotees. Some even demanded strict action against Leena Manimekalai. In fact, the hashtag ‘#ArrestLeenaManimekal’ is trending on Twitter.
A lawyer from Delhi, Vineet Jindal, registered a complaint against the filmmaker over the controversial poster. He has demanded that a ban on the objectionable photo and the clip from the documentary be imposed.
According to Jindal, a woman dressed as Goddess Kali smoking a cigarette offends the Hindus. The lawyer has made it clear that the poster is “hurting the sentiments and beliefs of the Hindu community.”
Hurt with the offending poster and the controversial clip from Kali, Gau Mahasabha member Ajay Gautam has also filed a complaint against Leena.
After facing flak over her poster, Leena, who came into limelight after extending her support to Asia’s first ‘Genderqueer Pride Parade’ in July 2012, and for penning Antharakanni, a poetry collection in Tamil on lesbian love, took to Twitter in a bid to defend herself.
Devotees of Goddess Kali are offended by both the objectionable poster of the Toronto-based filmmaker as well as the outburst of an MP, whose party is known for indulging in minority appeasement
Calling upon the people to choose “love over hate” amid the negative feedback, Leena, said in her tweet, “The film revolves around the events that take place one evening, when Kali appears and strolls the streets of Toronto. If you see the picture, don’t put the hashtag “arrest Leena manimekalai” and put the hashtag ‘love you
While Leena is trying to play the victim card, several films made in the dream factories of Bollywood have in the past got into trouble for hurting religious sentiments. Noted Bollywood filmmaker Anurag Basu invited trouble after his film Ludo faced Twitteratis’ ire for purportedly promoting ‘Hinduphobic’ content. In 2021, Hindi film actor Saif Ali Khan-starrer web series Taandav raked up a row for creating a possibility of religious tension by portraying Hindu Gods in a bad light. n