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Goddess in god’s own country
- Tina Turner tours temples for tips on her role as Kali

Thiruvananthapuram, Feb. 15: Tina Turner and Ismail Merchant are in town, but love’s got nothing to do with it.

The goddess of pop is in Kerala to pick up tips about another goddess — Kali — before she sets out “to sing and dance — on the back of a tiger”, as the promo for the next Merchant movie says.

Turner, accompanied by the director, is visiting temples and looking at deities before she plays Kali in the Merchant-Ivory production, The Goddess.

Yesterday, they were spotted at the backwater resort of Kumarakom in Kottayam — this was where Atal Bihari Vajpayee had taken a year-end holiday some time ago. She visited the Eraveeswaram temple at Kudamalur and left for a tour of northern Kerala to grab some idea of Malabar’s myths and folk dance forms like Theyyam.

Merchant was scheduled to shoot The Goddess this spring, much of it in India. After Kerala, the visitors are expected to tour Bengal, famous for its Kali temples and the annual worship that is the second biggest religious festival after Durga puja that coincides with Deepavali, the night of lights. The team has already visited temples in Varanasi. The shooting schedule will be finalised after shortlisting the locations.

Tabla maestro Zakir Hussein is expected to score the music and the script would be written by Gujarati writer Suketu Mehta.

“Turner’s dying to do it,” James Ivory, the co-producer, was quoted as telling a popular magazine recently.

Ivory describes Kali as “one of the main Hindu goddesses, a recycler of souls, a destroyer as well as a creator who wears a necklace of men’s skulls”.

No movie on Kali can be complete without her dance of destruction when she, by mistake, steps on a supine Shiva. Therefore, the mandatory tongue sticking out from her mouth in idols.

At 62, Turner, called the sexiest sexagenarian, should be able to do that dance, or possibly any dance — she has done a 50-city run promoting her latest album, Twenty Four Seven. It has reached platinum status in Europe and gold in the US.

“The ever-youthful pop diva who had said she planned to sing until she turned 90 couldn’t have come here at a better time, when the lush green and silver sands of Kerala beaches sport a pre-summer ambience while in much of Europe it is still chilly,” said Tour India manager Babu Varghese.

Merchant is not new to Kerala. Three years ago, he had directed a movie, Cotton Mary, on the life of the Anglo-Indian community in Fort Kochi.

Tourism officials here are gung-ho about the visit, hoping to cash in on the fact that Kerala — promoted as God’s own country — is turning out to be a hot destination for celebrities. The trip was kept a closely-guarded secret like the one made by the singer, Paul McCartney, last year.

At the time, McCartney’s tour operators had succeeded in sticking to the confidentiality clause until he had wound up nearly a fortnight-long sojourn here.

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