Turner, who has been noted for highly charged stage shows since the 1960s, will portray Shakti, the symbol of female power and energy, in The Goddess, to be made by Ismail Merchant and James Ivory.
The Anglo-Indian duo is best known for A Room with a View, Howards End and The Remains of the Day.
Hindu organisations in Britain are threatening to picket cinemas that show the film, complaining that Turner’s sexually charged stage image is inappropriate for the role.
Hasmukh Shah, the chairman of Vishwa Hindu Parishad UK, a fundamentalist group, said: “These people would not dare to portray anything to do with Islam, but Hindus are easy targets for them. Our liberal attitude is taken for granted and our tolerance is exploited. But when pushed, Hindus will become intolerant.
“Why don’t they get a rock star to portray the Prophet Muhammad and see the wrath of Muslims? They wouldn’t dare. Casting Tina Turner is insensitive and we won’t stand for it.”
In Hinduism, Shakti is the female aspect of divinity and a manifestation of energy who is worshipped in temples across India. She is often worshipped in other forms such as the goddesses Devi, Kali, Parvati and Lakshmi.
Hindu Human Rights, another British organisation, is circulating a petition to be presented to Merchant-Ivory Productions.
“We have no quarrel with Ms Turner as such, but because of her reputation as a ‘sex icon’ it is improper to cast her,” it reads. So far, it has gained 1000 signatures.
The 65-year-old singer and actor has already toured India to steep herself in its culture and history. She has been a Buddhist for more than 20 years.
Merchant has defended the choice of Turner. “Shakti is the centre of female energy, and anyone who has seen Tina Turner on stage knows that the energy she radiates is incredible,” he said.
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