Hyderabad: If success has its price to pay, the hugely successful Telugu film director SS Rajamouli has just started realizing this fact. After eye-popping pre-release shows of Baahubali 2 in Hyderabad and Chennai, the mega film makers are facing hurdles in Bangalore, the most cosmopolitan city in the South where the movie is due to be released on April 28 along with other cities and towns in India and abroad.
Why Baahubali, the invincible hero of epic proportions in the fantasy film, is facing a hostile reaction in the neighbouring state of Karnataka? The opposition to it is not so much to the film as to one of its key characters Kattappa, played by Sathyaraj.
Ever since Rajamouli and his team have embarked on the massive promotion of Baahubali’s sequel about two weeks ago in India and abroad, the air is thick with the talk of Baahubali 2 breaking all Indian records in box office collections and it is estimated to have netted Rs 1000 crores even before the film’s release.
None in the Indian film industry has an iota of doubt about its collections, given the track record of Baahubali 1. But the least expected is spoilsports who pop up from some corner of the country raising an objection or concern about the story, dialogue, dress, portrayal of characters or even the title. Their resentment to a scene, a dialogue or a character or anything that is worthy of notice runs on familiar lines: The community’s sentiments are hurt. Nobody dare to challenge such claims as the embers of controversy could inflame sentiments, feelings and traditional beliefs. In a majority of cases, film directors and producers accede to the lumpen elements’ demands to avoid a bigger controversy or resolve the issue behind the scenes.
Rajamouli is facing such a situation in Karnataka when his fans are eagerly awaiting Baahubali 2. Several Kannada organizations are up in arms against the film’s release as they claim Sathyaraj is a supporter of Tamil Nadu in Cauvery water row. Vatal Nagaraj, the organizations’ leader and a former MLA, has called for a day-long bandh on April 28 to protest against Sathyaraj’s remarks, apparently made nine years ago. The bandh call would be revoked if Sathyaraj tenders an unconditional apology.
In effect, what it means is, if Sathyaraj does not accede to the protesters’ demand, the film won’t be allowed to be released in Karnataka, causing a heavy loss of revenue, particularly in Bangalore where the movie is expected to be released in Telugu, Kannada and Hindi in multiplexes.
Nevertheless, Nagaraj has made his stand clear. He told the media in Bangalore on Thursday: “Our dissent is not against the movie Baahubali, but against Sathyaraj, who had made derogatory comments about Kannadigas and Karnataka leaders. We want him to apologise to the people of Karnataka and only then will we allow the screening.”
Obviously piqued by Nagaraj’s stance, Rajamouli said, “Sathyaraj had made those remarks nine years ago and till now, around 30 films starring him have been released in the state (Karnataka). Linking his old remarks with the current scenario and posing an obstacle to the release of movie is not in the interest of the industry.”
Like any director or producer who stands on moral ground, Rajamouli has a point. Why rake up a decade-old issue concerning an actor who happened to be a key player in his anticipated blockbuster now, that too at the time of release.
The immediate thought that flashes in our minds is where were the agitators when Baahubali 1 was running to packed houses all over Karnataka? The acclaimed (or reviled?) Kattappa (Sathyaraj) was very much there in the film. Nobody remembered or recalled his anti-Kannadiga comments at that time. Only now they had been dug out of history to stop the film’s screening!
The drama being enacted by some Kannada organizations reeks of an ulterior motive. Industry sources attribute it to the super success that the film is going to be and everyone wants to have a slice of the cake by hook or by crook.
Obviously, there is more to the protest agitation than meets the eye. Press reports suggest that the film had not been sold to any local distributors. Instead, producers themselves are said to have been releasing it, a move that has enraged the small Kannada film industry.
Ironically, Kattappa alias Sathyaraj has unwittingly become a villain of the piece in the release of Baahubali 2 in Karnataka. A spin-off was a promotional event scheduled to be held on Thursday in Bangalore was cancelled.
The film’s release in that state looks packed with as much suspense as the sequel itself!