Film poster showing Goddess Kali smoking and waving Pride flag sparks furious backlash

The poster for the upcoming documentary film Kaali, depicting a woman dressed as the goddess smoking a cigarette and holding a Pride flag

A poster for an upcoming documentary film has sparked outrage after it featured a depiction of Goddess Kali with a Pride flag and a cigarette.

Filmmaker Leena Manimekalai shared the poster in a tweet on Saturday (July 2) saying: “Super thrilled to share the launch of my recent film – today at [Aga Khan Museum] as part of its Rhythms of Canada.”

The poster for her upcoming film Kaali depicts a woman dressed in a costume resembling the goddess smoking a cigarette with a Pride flag held in her hands.

Backlash sparked almost immediately, with the hashtag #ArrestLeenaManimekal trending soon after she published the tweet. Several users also threatened her in the replies, with some sending death threats and other horrible messages.

A complaint was registered by the northern Indian state police of Uttar Pradesh on Tuesday (July 5) for the “disrespectful depiction” of the Hindu god.

Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Vinit Goenka tweeted that the depiction “is an insult to all Indians as Maa Kali is worshipped as Shakti. Projecting her in this way is hurting the sentiments of Indians across the world and not only just Hindus.”

According to the BBC, the Indian High Commission in Canada had also pressured the organisers of Rhythms of Canada to withdraw the “provocative” poster.

Manimekalai was interviewed by The Times of India after the backlash ensued, telling the publication that: “The film revolves around Goddess Kali when she appears on the streets of Toronto.”

She then asked people to watch the movie first, saying that once they do, they will say “love you Leena Manimekalai” instead of “arrest Leena Manimekalai.”

She also spoke to the BBC, saying that the depiction of the goddess “champions humanity and embraces diversity”.

“As a poet and filmmaker, I embody Kali in my own independent vision,” she continued. “In my film, Kali chooses me as a spirit, holds a Pride flag and a camera in her hands and meets the First Nations, the People of African, Asian, Persian descent, the Jews, the Christians, the Muslims and the mini-universe that one can capture across any cross-section of Canada.”