A day after the High Commission of India in Ottawa, Canada, asked the authorities there to immediately withdraw all “provocative material”, Aga Khan Museum tendered an apology and removed the presentation of the documentary — Kaali, directed by filmmaker Leena Manimekalai. The poster of the movie has triggered a controversy in India with many on social media demanding Manimekalai’s arrest.
In the apology letter, the museum said: “Toronto Metropolitan University brought together works from students of diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds, each student exploring their individual sense of belonging as part of Canadian multiculturalism for the project ‘Under the Tent.’ 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. Respect for diverse religious expressions and faith communities forms an integral part of that mission. The presentation is no longer being shown at the Museum. 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.”
On July 4, a statement was issued by the High Commission of India in Ottawa. It noted that they received complaints from leaders of the Hindu community in Canada about the disrespectful depiction of Hindu deities on the poster of a film showcased as part of the ‘Under the Tnt’ project at the Aga Khan Museum, Toronto.
“Our Consulate General in Toronto has conveyed these concerns to the organisers of the event. We are also informed that several Hindu groups have approached authorities in Canada to take action,” the statement read. “We urge the Canadian authorities and the event organisers to withdraw all such provocative material,” it added.
Meanwhile in India, on Tuesday, the Delhi and Uttar Pradesh police registered FIRs against filmmaker Leena Manimekalai for “hurting religious sentiment” with the poster of her new documentary film Kaali.
Leena Manimekalai, a Madurai-born independent filmmaker critically acclaimed for her works across film festivals, released the poster of her performance documentary on Twitter which showed a woman dressed as the Hindu goddess Kaali smoking a cigarette and holding a pride flag in her hand.
According to the filmmaker, the film was part of the Rhythms of Canada festival at the Aga Khan Museums in Toronto. “Super thrilled to share the launch of my recent film-today at @AgaKhanMuseum as part of its “Rhythms of Canada”,” she had tweeted on July 2, adding, “Feeling pumped with my CREW”.