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The Uttar Pradesh Police on 5 July lodged an FIR against director Leena Manimekalai for deliberately hurting religious sentiments by tweeting a poster of her new documentary film 'Kaali', where a woman dressed as the Goddess is shown smoking a cigarette.

An FIR was registered on July 4 at Hazratganj Police Station on charges of criminal conspiracy, offence in the place of worship, deliberately hurting religious sentiments and intention to provoke breach of peace against the filmmaker.

The FIR has been lodged under Sections, 120-B, 153-B, 295, 295-A, 298, 504, 505(1)(b), 505(2), 66 and 67 of Indian Penal Code (IPC).

The Delhi Police IFSO unit has filed the FIR under IPC sections 153A and 295A.

On 4 July, the Indian High Commission had urged the Canadian authorities to withdraw the disrespectful depiction of Hindu Gods showcased as part of the 'Under the Tent' project at the Aga Khan Museum, Toronto.

In an official letter, the Indian HC said, "We have received complaints from leaders of the Hindu community in Canada about the disrespectful depiction of Hindu Gods on the poster of a film showcased as part of the 'Under the Tent' 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," it said," read the press release.

Who is Leena Manimekalai?

Leena Manimekalai is Madurai-born, Toronto-based Indian filmmaker , poet and an actor. Her works include five published poetry anthologies and a dozen films in genres, documentary, fiction and experimental poem films. 

She has also been recognised with participation, mentions and best film awards in many international and national film festivals.

She has received numerous awards and recognition including the Silver Trophy for Best Documentary at the Europe Film Festival (2004), Best Documentary in Paris and Norway Independent Diaspora Festivals (2005), Jury Award for Best Cinema of Resistance (2007), Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan, Birds Eye View Film Festival, London (2008), Nomination to Horizon Award, Munich International Film Festival (2008), Visiting Scholar Fellowship, Berlinale (2008) and many others.

What is the controversy all about?

The director has landed herself in a controversy after she shared the poster of her upcoming documentary film. The poster shows a woman dressed like Goddess Kali smoking and has carried a flag of the LGBT community.

Sharing the fact that the film was part of the "Rhythms of Cananda" segment at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, Manimekalai said "Super thrilled to share the launch of my recent film - today at @AgaKhanMuseumas part of its 'Rhythms of Canada'. Feeling pumped with my CREW." She said also shared the poster along with the tweet. 

The poster of the film also led to a social media storm with the ##Arrest Leena Manimekalai and allegations that the filmmaker is hurting religious sentiments.

An FIR also was lodged against the director. A lawyer from Delhi, Vineet Jindal, registered a complaint against the filmmaker over the controversial poster. Gau Mahasabha Member Ajay Gautam also filed a complaint against Leena. 

However, taking a stand against the bashing, she later posted in Tamil: "The film revolves around the events that take place one evening when Kali appears and strolls the streets of Toronto. If you see the picture, don't put the hashtag "arrest Leena Manimekalai" but put the hashtag "love you Leena Manimekalai".

““I have nothing to lose. I want to be with a voice that speaks without fear of anything until it is. If the price is my life, I will give it," she said.

Past controversy:

A private complaint under CrPC section 200 was lodged by Tamil film director Susi Ganeshan against Manimekalai before the IX Metropolitan Magistrate in Saidapet alleging that her posts in the social media against him during the "Me too" movement in 2019, had tarnished his image in the eyes of the general public and, thereby, she had committed an offence of defamation under IPC section 500.

In December 2021, the Madras High Court had set aside an order of the Regional Passport Authority impounding the passport of Leena Manimekalai. 

Justice M Dhandapani, who quashed the September 9 order this year, however, directed Manimekalai to appear before a lower court, where a defamation case was pending against her and co-operate to complete the trial

Meanwhile, 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. 

Several other films and shows have in the past got into trouble for allegedly hurting religious sentiments. 

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".

Anurag Basu's 'Ludo' faced Twitterati's ire for purportedly promoting 'Hinduphobic' content in the movie. Recently, after Brahmastra's trailer was launched, it came under scanner after netizens pointed out that Ranbir is seen wearing shoes while entering the temple. 

In 2021, Saif Ali Khan-starrer web series 'Taandav' raked up a row for allegedly creating a possibility of religious tension by portraying Hindu Gods in a bad light.

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