ACTOR PLAY-ACTS PATIENT WITH LADY DOCTOR 

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By FROM T.N. GOPALAN in Bangalore
  • Published 16.11.00
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Bangalore, Nov. 16 :    Bangalore, Nov. 16:  Snapping into theatrical form, Raj Kumar today said he too played his part, prompted by a lady doctor, in ending the jungle ordeal. "Bhanu (the doctor) asked me to act ill and that as if I had a heart problem... and I did," Raj Kumar told a news conference here, a day after his release from Veerappan's clutches. He was flown to the city this morning in a helicopter. The Kannada matinee idol said he was surprised to hear a woman's voice when P. Nedumaran's team of negotiators reached the bandit's hideout a few days ago. "I first heard Nedumaran speak to Veerappan and later was surprised to hear a woman talk. A few moments later, Bhanu walked up to me with a stethoscope and said she wanted to do a medical examination," the actor said. Bhanu then told Raj Kumar to pretend that he was not feeling well. "I went along, acted tired and sick and told Bhanu when Veerappan was within earshot that my heart was giving trouble," Raj Kumar said. "She then took my pulse and told Veerappan that it was low." As reporters were wondering about the mysterious doctor, a close-cropped, short woman made a dramatic entry into the hall where the news conference was being held. No introductions were made but it was clear who she was. Bhanu greeted the journalists, refused to answer any questions, retired to the back of the hall and quietly slipped out later. Raj Kumar took pains to argue that it was Nedumaran who had drawn up the plan for the "play-acting". By doing so, Raj Kumar sought to scotch speculation that his release was orchestrated by the LTTE. However, earlier at Bhoodappadi village in Tamil Nadu's Salem district, Raj Kumar had admitted that Kolathur Mani, a Tamil nationalist leader, had accompanied the negotiators. Mani, who clinched the deal with Veerappan, is a known LTTE conduit. Even Bhanu is learnt to have links with nationalists. She is believed to be part of a well-known Left organisation whose leader, a woman, is a common sight at Tamil nationalist fora. Raj Kumar, however, was silent on whether any LTTE supporter was part of the delegation. The actor scoffed at the efforts of Nakkeeran editor R.R. Gopal, who was left out of the final mission. "Gopal came several times to the forests, but nothing seemed to come out. But the moment Nedumaran stepped in, there was a visible difference," he said. The 72-year-old star admitted that he often lost hope and wondered when he would see his family again. "Every night brought with it the horrors of being away from the people I love," he said. In Bhoodappadi, Raj Kumar said he believed it was his karma which had landed him in the bandit's clutches. The actor hoped that the past would be forgotten and Tamils in Karnataka and Kannadigas would share a "harmonious relationship".