Twitter on Wednesday pulled down Canadian filmmaker Leena Manimekalai’s tweet that carried a poster of her documentary ‘Kaali’ depicting the Hindu deity smoking.
“This Tweet from @LeenaManimekali has been withheld in India in response to a legal demand,” read a message in place of the original post.
Controversy erupted after Manimekali tweeted the poster of the documentary showing a woman dressed as the Hindu deity Kaali. Apart from smoking a cigarette, she was also seen raising the pride flag of the LGBTQ community.
On Tuesday, the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto had issued an apology after complaints were registered against Manimekalai for sharing the poster. The documentary was screened at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto on July 2 as part of the week-long festival called Rhythms of Canada.
The museum issued the statement a day after the Indian High Commission in Canada urged the authorities and the event organisers to withdraw all the provocative material.
The Delhi and Uttar Pradesh Police have registered separate first information reports against the Madurai-born filmmaker after two complaints were filed accusing Manimekalai of hurting sentiments of the Hindu community.
On Tuesday, the Aga Khan Museum said that the Toronto Metropolitan University had brought together works from students of diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds for the project titled, Under the Tent. Each participant had to explore their individual sense of belonging as part of the project, the museum added.
“Toronto Metropolitan University’s project presentation was hosted once at the Aga Khan Museum on July 2, 2022 in the context of the Museum’s mission to foster intercultural understanding and dialogue through the arts,” it said. “Respect for diverse religious expressions and faith communities forms an integral part of that mission.”
The documentary will no longer be shown at the museum, according to the statement.
“The Museum deeply regrets that one of the 18 short videos from ‘Under the Tent’ and its accompanying social media post have inadvertently caused offence to members of the Hindu and other faith communities,” it clarified.
Several Twitter users have demanded for Manimekalai’s arrest. But the filmmaker said that these social media users are spreading hate and have got nothing to do with faith.
She added that the outrage over the poster shows the “deteriorating socio-political condition” in India.
“The country is sinking into a dark hole of hate and bigotry,” the Madurai-born filmmaker said. “These trolls are not only after my artistic freedom but also academic freedom. If I give away my freedom fearing this mindless mob mafia, I will give away everyone’s freedom. So I will keep it, come what may.”
Manimekalai is known for her debut feature film, Sengadal: The Dead Sea (2011). It won the Network of Women Film Festivals Award in Tokyo. Her documentary Goddesses (2007) was recognised at the Mumbai and Munich film festivals as well as the Asia Pacific Screen Awards.