Under attack for a poster of her documentary “Kaali” showing the goddess smoking and holding an LGBTQ flag, filmmaker Leena Manimekalai on Monday said she will continue to use her voice fearlessly till she is alive. The poster has led to a social media storm with the hashtag 'Arrest Leena Manimekalai', allegations that the filmmaker is hurting religious sentiments and a member of a group going by the name ‘Gau Mahasabha’ saying he has filed a complaint with Delhi Police.
In response to the attacks, the Toronto-based director hit back to say she was willing to pay with her life.
"I have nothing to lose. Till the time I live, I wish to live with a voice that speaks what I believe without fear. If the price for that is my life, it can be given," Manimekalai wrote in a Twitter post in Tamil in response to an article on the controversy.
The Madurai-born filmmaker had shared the poster of "Kaali" on the microblogging site on Saturday and said the film was part of the 'Rhythms of Canada' segment at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto.
Manimekalai also urged people to watch the film to understand the context behind the poster.
"The film is about the events during Kaali's strolls through the streets of Toronto city one fine evening. If they watch the movie, they will put the hashtag 'love you Leena Manimekalai' rather than 'Arrest Leena Manimekalai'," she added in reply to another article.
Ajay Gautam, a member of the 'Gau Mahasabha', sent reporters a copy of his police complaint against the filmmaker for allegedly presenting the goddess in a "derogatory and offensive manner" thereby hurting "religious sentiments of millions of devotees including the complainant".
A senior police officer from the Cyber Cell told PTI they are yet to receive the complaint.
"The film depicts Maa Kali smoking a cigarette in a very objectionable form!! Very embarrassing!! Hindu Sena demands from @DelhiPolice to register an FIR against @LeenaManimekali," tweeted Hindu Sena national president Vishnu Gupta.
"Arrest those who make fun of religion or reprimand them well, Sanatanis (sic)," another user said.
"This is not freedom of speech, this is attack on our culture, our sentiments (sic)," added one more.
Manimekalai, who made her feature directorial debut with 2021's "Maadathy - An Unfairy Tale", isn’t the first filmmaker to find herself in trouble over religious references.
In 2017, for instance, filmmaker Sanal Kumar Sasidharan courted controversy over the title of his Malayalam film "Sexy Durga", which explored religious divides in Kerala society. The film was later rechristened "S Durga".
Last year, Prime Video’s political saga “Tandav” was at the centre of trouble for a scene depicting Lord Shiva in a college theatre programme.
The scene was eventually dropped and the streamer issued an unconditional apology.
“Kaali” is yet to be shown to Indian audiences.