Kuala Lumpur, July 5 — A film poster portraying the Hindu goddess, Kali, smoking whilst holding a Pride flag has triggered an uproar in India.
Kali, the goddess of destruction is worshipped by millions of Hindus, and many portrayals in media have been heavily scrutinised by followers.
Canadian-based filmmaker and activist, Leena Manimekalai, was targeted after sharing her film Kaali’s poster on Twitter which quickly went viral.
Super thrilled to share the launch of my recent film - today at @AgaKhanMuseum as part of its “Rhythms of Canada”Link: https://t.co/RAQimMt7LnI made this performance doc as a cohort of https://t.co/D5ywx1Y7Wu@YorkuAMPD @TorontoMet @YorkUFGSFeeling pumped with my CREW pic.twitter.com/L8LDDnctC9— Leena Manimekalai (@LeenaManimekali) July 2, 2022
Many Hindus were angered by the insulting depiction of the goddess in the film, calling for her arrest and for the tweet to be taken down.
"It is horrendous. They are just attacking everyone in my crew, my family, my friends and even the people who follow me on social media handles,” Manimekalai told The Federal.
Described as a performance documentary, the film depicts Manimekalai dressed up as the goddess in a ‘candid shoot’, wandering the streets of Toronto.
The film was made under the 'Rhythms of Canada' segment programme at the Aga Kan museum in Toronto, a multimedia project exploring racial diversity.
Manimekalai said that the depiction of Kali in her film was not to spark hatred but to celebrate life and embrace love, portraying a goddess of free spirit.
Being a prominent activist of the #MeToo and queer movement in India, Manimekalai’s past films have been similarly attacked for their portrayal of Hindu deities.
Her 2019 feature film, Maadathy: An Unfairy Tale, follows a young girl from a marginalised caste group who becomes immortalised as a deity.
Proud Tamil QueerFirst ever Tamil Queer Collective/Pride in Toronto. pic.twitter.com/EdPwehUxu6— Leena Manimekalai (@LeenaManimekali) June 20, 2022
In response to the hate on Twitter Manimekalai responded: "I have nothing to lose. I want to be with a voice that speaks without fear of anything until it is. If the price is my life, I will give it.”
“எனக்கு இழப்பதற்கு ஒன்றுமில்லை. இருக்கும் வரை எதற்கும் அஞ்சாமல் நம்புவதைப் பேசும் குரலோடு இருந்துவிட விரும்புகிறேன். அதற்கு விலை என் உயிர் தான் என்றால் தரலாம்” https://t.co/fEU3sWY4HK— Leena Manimekalai (@LeenaManimekali) July 4, 2022
"When I am creating, I don’t allow self-censorship to block my way. I create, I own and take all the bruises in the process. That’s been my path,” she said.
The filmmaker was selected by Bafta recently as one of their 10 India breakthrough talents.
She currently continues her film studies at the Toronto Metropolitan University.