This Article is From Jul 07, 2022

"I Don't Feel Safe Anywhere": Filmmaker In 'Kaali' Poster Row Tweets About "Largest Hate Machine"

Canada-based filmmaker Leena Manimekalai is facing cases in India and threats on social media for a poster of her documentary 'Kaali'

'I Don't Feel Safe Anywhere': Filmmaker In 'Kaali' Poster Row Tweets About 'Largest Hate Machine'

Leena Manimekalai was born in Tamil Nadu's Madurai and now lives in Toronto.

New Delhi:

Canada-based filmmaker Leena Manimekalai — facing cases in India and threats across social media for a poster of her documentary 'Kaali' — has said, "I do not feel safe anywhere at this moment." 

Ms Manimekalai, born in Tamil Nadu's Madurai and now living in Toronto, tweeted some bits of what she told a news outlet, particularly a portion referencing India's trajectory over the past few years. "It feels like the whole nation - that has now deteriorated from the largest democracy to the largest hate machine - wants to censor me," she posted.

The poster that sparked the controversy shows a woman dressed like Goddess Kali and smoking. A rainbow flag used for LGBT solidarity is seen in the background. The tweet that carried that poster has since been removed by Twitter. Cases have been filed against her in several places in India, including Delhi, Assam and Uttar Pradesh, on charges of hurting religious sentiments. 

She had earlier said, "I have nothing to lose," as she faced trolling and complaints were made against her to police and the Home Ministry in India.

"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," she had tweeted in response to social media attacks.

In her interview to The Guardian — parts of which she tweeted — she argues, "In rural Tamil Nadu, the state I come from, Kaali is believed to be a pagan goddess. She eats meat cooked in goat's blood, drinks arrack, smokes beedi [cigarettes] and dances wild… that is the Kaali I had embodied for the film.”

She describes online threats as a “grand-scale mass lynching” by right-wing Hindu groups. “I have all rights to take back my culture, traditions and texts from the fundamentalist elements,” she says. “These trolls have nothing to do with religion or faith.”A six-minute excerpt of her film was shown on July 2 as part of the 'Under the Tent' programme of Toronto Metropolitan University at the Agha Khan Museum, Toronto.

As the row gained traction, and the Indian High Commission in Ottawa too asked the Canadian authorities to withdraw what it described as "disrespectful depiction of Hindu Gods on the poster of a film", the museum said it "deeply regrets" it. It said it is longer showing the video which was part of a set of 18 small videos.