Art & Entertainment

‘Kaali’: Celebs Open Up About The Ongoing Controversy Around Leena Manimekalai’s Documentary’s Poster

Leena Manimekalai’s documentary, ‘Kaali’s poster has created a stir in the country. The poster has created a controversy with people talking in favour of creative freedom and also against hurting religious sentiments. Here’s what some celebs have to say about this controversy.

Celebs Talk On Leena Manimekalai's 'Kaali' Poster Controversy
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Of late, there have seen numerous instances where people's religious sentiments have been hurt by film content or people have been offended for some progressive ideas by a filmmaker. ‘Angry Indian Goddesses’, ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’, ‘Laxmmi’, ‘Veere Di Wedding’ ate just a few examples. The latest is the poster of the documentary, ‘Kaali’ by Leena Manimekalai, where goddess Kali has been shown smoking and also brandishing an LGBTQ flag.

The controversy has been growing bigger and bigger every day. There are numerous FIR’s lodged against the filmmaker. Also, reports suggest that many authorities have asked for taking strict action against the filmmaker. At the same time, there are also people who have spoken up about the expression of freedom and how every filmmaker has the right to express themselves in whichever way they want.

We caught up with some of the popular names in television and film industry about the entire controversy around the ‘Kaali’ poster. Here’s what they have to say:

Sharad Malhotra | Actor

Not only in India but everywhere, there is sensitivity around the representation of religious topics. Many other moviemakers and actors have experienced backlash for including religious themes or references in their work. Making sincere and thought-provoking films and tales undoubtedly requires creative freedom. To be inconsiderate to the audience's religious beliefs or to portray a particular group of people negatively solely to stir up controversy and grab media attention, however, does not fit under the creative paradigm. Why choose a topic that touches on people's beliefs and emotions when there are so many other things to do? If any religious feelings are offended, there will undoubtedly be outrage.

Prem Raj Soni | Director

I am absolutely not in favour of any goddess being depicted in a disrespectful manner. We, as Indians and religious people, must respect the religious sentiments and love for gods and goddesses. India possesses a lot of heritage and is rich in culture. I, as a filmmaker and an Indian citizen, would value and respect that. Creatives can enhance goodness but not hurt the feelings and grace of our goddesses, and that’s is my opinion. Let’s depict our culture and religion for what it stands not for what creates controversy.

Indranil Banerjee | Filmmaker

In many temples of goddess Ma Kali wine is offered as oblation or prasad, which is considered to be amrit or pious when touched to Ma Kali’s tongue. Here alcohol is portrayed as something very pious as inferred by the goddess and her devotees. In this instance alcohol consumption or portrayal is not considered a sin or anti-religious. Then what is the problem if a woman is attired in Ma Kali’s dress with a cigarette dangling from her mouth? It’s just the human mind-set or unnecessarily urging people to war among themselves using such posters as scape goat. A truly religious person knows the value of their religion and its value. They won’t get instigated by mere film posters. These anti-religious movements, showcasing religious sentiments are nothing but a propaganda. It’s a hurdle to progressive thoughts and coming in the way to a filmmaker’s creativity. These are ways of showing religious intolerance, anti-feminism and a stumbling block to creativity and progress. What this situation demands is an open positive mind and education to understand the creativity behind a person’s mind and his take at his creation. No one can create anything novel if he or she is pulled back by wrong religious sentiments, backward ideas and narrow constricted thinking.

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Nyrraa M Banerji | Actress

Films are only for entertainment. Nobody really wants to hurt sentiments. I’m a Bengali Brahmin. I worship Kali maa. But as an actor I know it’s a creative story and I'm sure it’s not to hurt anyone’s sentiments. Also we watch films that are all fiction stories just like story books. I’d say, those who would want to watch, let them (watch it). Those who don’t (want to), don’t (watch it). Everyone has the freedom of speech, choice and expression.

Maninee De | Actress

Liberty comes with sensitivity and freedom comes with responsibility. It’s very important to be mindful of not hurting anybody’s sentiments especially when it comes to somebody’s religious sentiments. The world is in a very volatile time and I just feel that creativity should not be hindered. I would say that keeping in mind how people can take it in another way or misconstrue it, it’s important to keep quite a few things in mind. One has to keep in mind a lot of factors that could possibly create outrage or hurt somebody’s sentiments. As a creative person, I feel that we create something and use symbolism which doesn’t mean we are hurting anybody but liberty should be coupled with sensitivity. Feminism can be expressed with various symbols and metaphors and I don’t really think that we need to offend someone to express our power or strength. I have watched ‘Angry Indian Goddesses’, ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’, ‘Veere Di Wedding’ and I don’t find anything offensive in that. It’s a story about women coming into power or realising their true strength. In none of these movies I saw anything offensive personally. People are highly strung right now so it’s best not to poke a bee’s nest. We need to be mindful of what we are saying and the conditions prevailing all around the world are not really conducive to many things. I am not condemning anybody or supporting anybody. Let’s just become a little more sensitive.

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Sudhanshu Pandey | Actor

I think it is outrageous and it's very hurtful for any one of us to see a poster where Mahakali has been depicted in such a way and I think it is absolutely criminal to do so. So, freedom of expression has to come with a great amount of responsibility because ultimately what you do, what you put out as a filmmaker is going to influence the society, influence people's minds. And I think that is the biggest responsibility because you cannot, sort of, influence people's mind and turn them in the wrong direction which is going to take away their awareness, their sensibility and sensitivity towards their own origin, their religion, their culture and everything else. Then I think if you are going to move away so far from all this, then there will be no society. There will be no boundaries, there will be no bindings and then we'll all become animals and I think it is a very insensitive thing to do. And I think this should be surely banned and absolutely it should be made sure that no one, no filmmaker ever takes so much liberty that it could hurt the sentiments of hundreds of crores of people around the world and Hindus are not just limited to Indians. There are Hindus who are also Europeans, there are Hindus who are also Americans. And I'm talking about white people. It's every one sentiment that is attached to this, and I think it's outrageous and it's very unfortunate. We should make sure that we stop promoting and supporting such stuff which hurts people's feelings.

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Nivedita Basu | Producer

I don’t think Leena Manimekalai did it deliberately to offend anyone or the goddess because it is a part of a scene of a film. If you put it out in public, you want the audience to come and watch the film. Being a Hindu or a Bengali you will feel a little bit of cringe seeing a goddess like that. If you ask me on a scale of yes to no, then it shouldn’t have been done because however open minded we become or accept that we are open to many things but I think somethings are a total no. Even if a character is dressed as Kali and walking the streets of Toronto with an LGBTQ flag and a cigarette in one hand then I don’t think it will be accepted and people won’t go to watch. Maybe there will be some liberals who will go and watch what exactly the film is about.

Charrul Malik | Actress

It should not have happened. People worship Kali Maa and worship gods and goddesses. It’s not religion-oriented. We should not show creativity with the gods and goddesses whom the people worship whether it is of any religion. The canvas is huge where you can display and exhibit your creativity so why only focus on religious sentiments. People do such things to get instant fame and a shortcut to trend. It’s in a bad light and shouldn’t be done. I am strictly against the directors and filmmakers who are using such a sentiment or theme in his or her work. Any religion shouldn’t be disrespected. Why show anything in a bad light to create hype? Strict action should be taken. Filmmakers and artists have various platforms to show their creativity and such religious things should be touched. We have seen so many shows like Ramayana and Mahabharata and the daily soaps that we see, they have such a big room where things can get haywire. If those people can take care of it then why not filmmakers. Why to show anything that is against the norms. Smoking is injurious to health and is prohibited in public places too then how can you show Kali Mata with a cigarette. It hurts sentiments. If you want to showcase something then show it in a certain limit and don’t go overboard and cross the line.

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