By Maya Palit
Sanal Kumar Sasidharan, a Malayalam director, has been getting flak from a Hindu group for the title of his thriller Sexy Durga, which recently won the Tiger Award at a film festival in Rotterdam.
According to a report on Scroll, he is being threatened by an individual, who is apparently the president of the Hindu Swabhiman Sangh, who insists that he’s being disrespectful to the goddess Durga even though Sasidharan made it clear that his film has not much to do with her. It’s a film about public spaces at night, and how women navigate them. A couple is harassed after venturing out alone at night in a town in Kerala, and the only bit that features Durga at length is the beginning, where there is a procession celebrating the goddess.
Screenshots uploaded by Sasidharan onto a Facebook post show the incessant trolling he had to deal with, including being told that a ‘legal team’ was working on a PIL and an FIR against him, and that he should keep Hindu Swabhiman Sangh in mind the next time he attempts to make a film. (Last year, the outfit was declared to be training in Uttar Pradesh for a ‘dharma sena’ to fight the Islamic State.)
Ridiculous trolling aside, though, the title itself is pretty unexceptional. “The title is very loud for me – it is about how we worship goddesses on the one hand and how we treat women on the other,” Sasidharan said in a previous interview with Scroll, where he suggested that the film was also meant to encapsulate the fact that at nights, our streets take on a different character and are primarily ruled by men who move around in groups.
But he’s hardly doing anything new or impressive by pointing to this dichotomy: It was cited repeatedly as an inherent hypocrisy in Indian culture a few years ago, and rehashing it doesn’t do too much besides deflect from the central issue at hand here, which is presumably sexual and other forms of violence against women. So while Sasidharan should naturally not be trolled for the title of his film, it’s not that innovative a title either way.