The Telegraph
Friday , April 21 , 2017

Bahubali folded-hand appeal

- Director pleads on video for film's release in Karnataka

A grab of Bahubali director SS Rajamouli‚Äôs video appeal uploaded on his Facebook page

Bangalore, April 20: Bahubali director S.S. Rajamouli has appealed to pro-Kannada groups to allow the release of the blockbuster film's sequel in Karnataka, after a provocative speech by an actor on the Cauvery water dispute angered them.

Rajamouli's appeal reminded many of the "hostage video" Karan Johar had to bring out to ensure the release of his 2016 film Ae Dil Hai Mushkil.

Faced with objections from the Shiv Sena because of the presence of Pakistani actor Fawad Khan in the film that came out in the aftermath of the "surgical strikes" across the Line of Control, Johar, incidentally one of the distributors of the Hindi version of Bahubali: The Beginning, had to release a video proclaiming his allegiance to India. Four months later, Johar had dubbed the video as "one of the top three worst moments" of his life.

In an old video that surfaced last week, Tamil actor Sathyaraj, who plays Katappa in Bahubali, is seen urging Tamils purportedly at a demonstration by the Tamil film industry in solidarity with farmers seeking water from Karnataka to stand up for their rights and not be passive like a tree every dog would urinate on.

Pro-Kannada activists have objected to the "dog" reference that they felt was about Karnataka residents opposing the release of Cauvery waters to Tamil Nadu and vowed not to allow the release of Bahubali 2: The Conclusion until Sathyaraj apologises.

Actor Sathyaraj in the movie

With no sign of the actor yielding to the demand, Rajamouli today sought to distance the film from Sathyaraj's comments and issued a fervent appeal through a video uploaded on his Facebook page to allow the release of the film in Karnataka.

Speaking in Kannada, Rajamouli, who was born in Karnataka and lives in Andhra Pradesh and works in the Telugu film industry, said: "Sathyaraj is neither the director nor the producer of the film. He will not suffer any loss if the movie is stopped (in Karnataka)."

"It won't be fair if so many people are affected for a comment he made," Rajamouli said. "We have spoken to Sathyaraj and explained the situation. But there's nothing more we can do. It's our request that you don't involve us in an issue we are not connected with in any way."

The director said no one associated with the film had any idea about Sathyaraj's comments until the controversy erupted.

"This comment was made nine years ago, after which many of his movies, including Bahubali: The Beginning, was released in Karnataka. We can only request your full support to Bahubali 2," Rajamouli added.

The pro-Kannada groups have, however, claimed that Sathyaraj, who had starred alongside Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone in Chennai Express, had made the comments last year.

The groups, led by Vatal Nagaraj, a self-appointed flag-bearer of Kannada pride, have called for a shutdown in Karnataka on April 28, when Bahubali 2: The Conclusion is slated for a worldwide release, if Sathyaraj does not apologise.

Bahubali 2: The Conclusion, starring Telugu superstar Prabhas and Rana Daggubati besides Sathyaraj, has been made on a budget of Rs 250 crore. The trailer, a high-on-VFX visual spectacle, has already generated huge expectations and clocked over 46 million views on YouTube.

Bahubali: The Beginning, originally shot in Tamil and Telugu, is one of the biggest blockbusters of Indian cinema, with the film collecting over Rs 650 crore.

According to industry sources, the first part had raked in more than Rs 50 crore in just 20 days in Karnataka alone, its second biggest collection after Andhra Pradesh. Even Rajinikanth's much-hyped Kabali had failed to replicate Bahubali's success in Karnataka, where movies in Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam, besides Hindi, do well.

Last week, Bahubali: The Beginning was re-released as a build-up to the sequel.

The distributors plan to release Bahubali 2: The Conclusion in around 300 theatres in Karnataka, almost 100 more than the first part.

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