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Smoking ‘Kaali’ Row: Dismantling Gods For Creativity Sake?

Smoking ‘Kaali’ Row: Dismantling Gods For Creativity Sake?

Smoking 'Kaali' Row: To What Extent Should Religion Be Put on Sale?

Mythology is a vast genre to cover if one has to keenly look into the depths of it. But what comes out to be showcased to everyone, often ends up hurting religious sentiments. Now it could mean, that we are too sensitive or intolerant as an audience or things are being taken too far to get those reactions. The latest controversy of Leena Manimekalai’s documentary ‘Kaali’ featuring the Goddess smoking a cigarette definitely falls under the second category.

Religion is a touchy subject, and people are constantly taking punches at it, in the name of creativity. How much longer should we watch while our Gods and Goddesses get tattered and maligned as forms of creative expression?

India is already having its own communal crisis as faiths unknowingly pit against one another. And the timing of the ‘Kaali’ poster release couldn’t have been worse. It is no surprise, that social media saw instant uproar, and condemning voices came in for the filmmaker. Hindus in Canada clamored to withdraw ‘Kaali’ from screening at Aga Khan Museum.

It is not only about Hindus and their intolerance alone. Nupur Sharma’s comments on Prophet Muhammad sparked international outrage among the Muslim community. Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and Bahrain joined the condemnation, threatening to sever ties. And when Indians defend this vandalization of Gods, they become intolerant. This itself can spark a separate debate.

Meanwhile, Leena Manimekalai maintains a stance that she’s has “got nothing to lose.” Well, that is, fortunately not how freedom of expression works, by losing all religious sensibilities and considerations of religious sentiments, specifically targeting one. The freedom of expression does not exclude Hindu Gods, does it? And it most definitely does not have to include religious idols acting as per your whims. Her confidence in asking people to trend #LoveyouLeenaManimekalai, after watching her film, is even scarier. Her tweets, as of now remain deleted.

This documentary is not a story of some rebellious girl who experiences an initial brush with freedom or advocates for rights for everyone. This is about Goddess Kaali who is roaming the streets of Canada one night. The next thing we know, we have Gods chilling in a bar, sipping down some drinks, while discussing what humanity’s (their own creations) creative expressions have come to!

A premise that I know is too wild, even while I put it down here.

Creative liberty shouldn’t have to experiment with religious angles, for bringing out something unique and calling it progressive. You can question some notions of faith, some acts of rituals, and some forced beliefs, but to have idols with vices, is desecrating.

Religion plays a pivotal role in one’s societal upbringing, be it Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, or any other. It impacts one’s attitudes and beliefs toward their faith.

In the global world of influencers, to have a Goddess that supports an act of smoking on the streets, or we don’t know how many more ‘controversial acts,’ would obviously affect the audience, don’t you think?

I don’t speak as a preserver of my own religion, but as an entity of it becoming a commodity to play on. Today, in the name of creativity, we are dismantling Gods and Goddesses in our vivid perceptions. Let’s not make a showreel out of religions, one or all.

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