Filmmaker in row of ‘Kaali’ posters tweets about ‘biggest hate machine’, says ‘not safe anywhere’
Canadian filmmaker Leena Manimekalai – facing cases in India and threats on social media over a poster for her documentary ‘Kaali’ – said: “I don’t feel safe anywhere right now.
Ms. Manimekalai, who was born in Madurai of Tamil Nadu and now lives in Toronto, tweeted a few snippets of what she said to a media outlet, in particular a part referring to India’s trajectory over the past few years. “I feel like the whole nation – which has now deteriorated from biggest democracy to biggest hate machine – wants to censor me,” she posted.
The poster that sparked the controversy shows a woman dressed as the goddess Kali and smoking. A rainbow flag used for LGBT solidarity is visible in the background. The tweet that carried this poster has since been deleted by Twitter. Lawsuits have been filed against her in several places in India, including Delhi, Assam and Uttar Pradesh, for offending religious feelings.
She had earlier said ‘I have nothing to lose’ as she faced trolling and complaints were filed against her with the police and Home Ministry in India .
“I want to be with a voice that speaks fearlessly until it is. If the price is my life, I will give it,” she tweeted in response to social media attacks.
In her interview with The Guardian – parts of which she tweeted – she said: “In rural Tamil Nadu, the state I come from, Kaali is considered a pagan goddess. She eats meat cooked in goat’s blood, drinks arrack, smokes bedi [cigarettes] and wild dances… it’s the Kaali that I played for the film.
She describes the online threats as “mass lynching on a large scale” by right-wing Hindu groups. “I have every right to take back my culture, my traditions and my texts with fundamentalist elements,” she says. “These trolls have nothing to do with religion or faith.” A six-minute excerpt from his film screened July 2 as part of Metropolitan University of Toronto’s “Under the Tent” program at the Agha Khan Museum in Toronto.
As the row gained traction and India’s High Commission in Ottawa also called on Canadian authorities to remove what it called a “disrespectful portrayal of Hindu gods on a movie poster,” the museum said he “deeply regrets” it. He said he is no longer streaming the video which was part of a set of 18 short videos.