When a Film Critic & Godman Fought Over ‘Kaala’ and Got Banished

Kathi Mahesh’s blasphemy
On LIVE prime time TeeVee
Got him a load of vitriol
From a very angry Swami



That, in a nutshell, was the tipping point.

Kathi Mahesh, a film critic based in Hyderabad –- who gained popularity after participating in ‘Bigg Boss Telugu’ (season 1) last year – was externed (banished from the city) for six months by the police earlier this month for his unsavoury comments on Ramayana that allegedly hurt religious sentiments.

In response, Swami Paripoornananda, the politically active head of the religious organisation Sri Peetham, threatened to take out a rally to oppose Mahesh’s comments. The police took him under house arrest, and eventually externed him to his ashram in Kakinada.

What prompted Kathi Mahesh to speak on the Ramayana? Why did the police take Paripoornananda’s threats seriously? These incidents over the last two weeks in Hyderabad, that make for a great potboiler, have their roots in Rajinikanth’s ‘Kaala’.

Also Read: Rajini’s ‘Kaala’ Hits Hard At Hindutva-Driven National Politics

How It All Began

In May, Telugu news channel TV9 aired a one-hour special on a topic that had taken all of South India by storm – the story of Rajinikanth’s soon-to-release film ‘Kaala’. From its trailer and teasers, it was clear that Raavana was the hero and a 'devotee' of Ram was the movie’s villain.

Film critic Kathi Mahesh said, in support of the film, that a “Dalit narrative” has been allowed to come through in ‘Kaala’.

Gogineni Babu, an eminent rationalist/humanist, who is known for his critique on Indian culture and epics both in India and abroad, came into the picture. Babu lauded Mahesh’s views on freedom of speech and started talking about Ramayana more frequently, post ‘Kaala’.

And then Babu entered ‘Bigg Boss Telugu’ (season 2) as a contestant.

V Narayana, a former follower of Gogineni Babu, filed a series of sedition cases against him, chiefly for hurting the sentiments of Hindus through his speeches.

And now...

Around 29 June, Mahesh came out in support of Babu on another TV9 talk show. This is what he said over the phone:

Also Read: ‘Kaala’: Decoding Rajinikanth’s Nemesis, Nana Patekar as Hari Dada

"To me, Ramayana is just a story. I think Rama is two-faced / fraud. I believe Sita would have been better off and happier if she were to live with Ravana, instead of Rama." - Kathi Mahesh in a phone interview to TV9.Swami Strikes Back

Swami Paripoornananda filed a case against Mahesh, inciting the Bajrang Dal and VHP members to protest outside the Jubilee Hills Police Station.

It is worthwhile to note that Swami Paripoornananda is touted to become BJP's chief candidate from Secunderabad. As the head of Sri Matham, a religious organisation based in Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh, he has been gaining political clout and power since the last five years.

The police, hence, took his protests seriously.

"...Idols of Lord Rama should be installed in the Parliament and all State Assembly buildings. Persons who keep Hanuman idols in their pockets would be our leaders..." - Swami Paripoornananda said during his speech at a VHP rally in 2013.

Paripoornananda threatened to conduct a ‘Dharma Satyagraha Yatra’ against Mahesh, Babu and the likes who threaten and malign Hindu culture. The police, however, did not grant him permission for the yatra.

Kathi Mahesh was eventually externed for his controversial remarks. And thanks to his continued histrionics, Paripoornananda too was put on house arrest.

Swami Paripoornananda had been under house arrest for two weeks. And now, he too is being externed by the Hyderabad police for six months. Since he refused to leave on his own, the police have moved him to his ashram in Kakinanda. 

Moral of the Story?

Paripoornananda may have had a predetermined political agenda, while Mahesh may have wanted to prove a point and get his fifteen minutes (more) of fame. Gogineni Babu, meanwhile, is happily throwing tantrums inside the Bigg Boss house.

Interest and buzz around ‘Kaala’, of course, hit an all-time high.

In conclusion, there is no moral...but it is one helluva story.

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