That a lot of expectations and money are riding on S S Rajamouli’s 200 crore sequel Baahubali the Conclusion, due for release on April 28, is well known. It was therefore quite convenient for the pro-Kannada groups like Karnataka Rakshana Vedike to seek some gloating satisfaction by threatening to prevent the Karnataka release of Baahubali the Conclusion, in order to force an apology out of Tamil actor Sathyaraj for his nine-year-old controversial remarks on the Cauvery issue.
It is at the stage of theatrical distribution, that a movie’s whole fate and business depends. Speaking to a news channel, director SS Rajamouli said that pro-Kannadiga groups targeting Baahubali 2 because of Sathyaraj was “not right.” “[We] learned that whatever comments Mr Sathyaraj made it was nine years back. And after that, about 30 films of his were released in Karnataka. Baahubali 1 released. No one had problems with that. And suddenly, raking up the issue at this point in time … ,” said Rajamouli. Of course, only Sathyaraj won’t be affected by this threat. But that is exactly the leverage for blackmail — when the stake against the risk is just too great and involves a whole crew of unrelated people, it is easy to browbeat somebody into senseless demands to selfish, parochial ends.The KRV has done this before in 2008, to get an “apology” from superstar Rajnikanth for his statements on the Hogenakkal project dispute, prior to the release of his movie Kuselan.
In the country that is wild about movies, blockbuster movies like Baahubali make for cultural phenomena generating a lot of buzz, influence and capital. Over and over these days, this has been making movies and its makers easy targets for arm-twisting by fringe groups that know only too well that they possess the brazen muscle power of the mob to disrupt any hopes of soft power. They have the willing “activists” to attack where movies are vulnerable — at the sore point of revenue. This is exactly what also transpired in the case of Karan Johar’s dark apology video to Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, pleading them to spare his Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and in Shah Rukh Khan’s reassurance meeting with Raj Thackeray to ensure a smooth landing for Raees. It seems that as long as the law and order would not come to the active rescue of the filmmakers, any organisation with brawn and some political clout will feel brave for seeking such self-aggrandising settlements through soft coercion.