Malayala Manorama, the biggest media group in Kerala, in December 16, 2016 edition of Bhashaposhini, a 125-year-old literary magazine, carried a painting, an artistic interpolation of Leonardo da Vinci’s classic 15th century mural — ‘The Last Supper.’ The painting was done by noted painter Tom Vattakkuzhi for a play.
The painter had depicted an image with nuns sitting around a bare-breasted Mata Hari in the style of the famous last supper scene. However, the issue simply and silently disappeared.
Some Christian groups reportedly protested the use of the painting as they felt the painting insulted the spirit of Christ’s last supper.
However the same magazine now had as its cover the photo of a sculpture of Sree Narayana Guru, a major enlightenment figure, in not exactly an honourable way.
Likewise, yet another group, BDJS (Bharat Dharma Jana Sena), that claims to represent Hindu interests and draws support from the Ezhava community, felt the sculpture denigrated Guru, who, it claimed, is revered as god.
The publishers faced a backlash on social media and outside. They tendered an apology and recalled the issue and removed the painting.
Soon after, the Hindu outfit also decided not to protest further.
However, according to a report in The News Minute:
“Though the magazine was withdrawn from circulation after sending a few copies to its subscribers by post, the church started a campaign to ban Manorama publications.”
The report said that there is speculation that a magazine owned by the Church is deliberately playing up the issue to cut down on the circulation of Bhasha Poshini and increase its own.
The Christian groups are continuing with their protests.
According to playwright Gopan, Kerala is going through a dangerous situation. “The intolerance to Vattakuzhy’s painting is frightening. It’s a war against the image. It is a pity that we have to live in these times,” Gopan said.
What is even more perplexing is that a publication in India’s most literate state is facing such issues.