Ajith Kumar’s cop-thriller Yennai Arindhaal, dubbed in Kannada as Sathyadev IPS, could not open in Bengaluru yesterday after protests broke out at theaters. While the exact reason behind the protests is unclear, it is being attributed to the simmering resentment among the Kannada speaking people in Karnataka over the success of non-Kannada films (dubbed Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Hindi films) compared to Kannada films. While the dubbed film is running elsewhere in Karnataka, its release in Bengaluru has been indefinitely stalled.
Protesters allegedly wielding weapons tore down posters of Ajith Kumar from some theatres, and demanded that all shows be stopped. One Sathyadev IPS distributor told Silverscreen that he has no plans of going forward with the release. Directed by Gautham Menon, the film also stars Arun Vijay as the villain, along with Anushka Shetty, Trisha Krishnan, and Parvathy Nair.
The film’s Karnataka release was scheduled for 3 March at nearly 60 theatres across Karnataka. However, as reported by The Hindu, exhibitors in Bengaluru backed out a day before its release. The protests followed on Friday.
The Kannada film industry had recently eased restrictions on dubbing films into Kannada, and many had been looking forward to watching the dubbed version of Ajith’s 2015 blockbuster.
Meanwhile, G Krishne Gowda, president of Kannada Film Chamber of Commerce (KAFCC), told The Hindu, “Since the exhibitors in Bengaluru backed out at the last minute, we are not able to release it here. But it will hit screens in other cities.”
Local media agencies allege that these acts of violence are the work of Vattal Nagaraj, a pro-Kannada activist who came to prominence during the Cauvery riots.
Meanwhile, many tweeted that while the alleged goons protested against Sathyadev IPS, they had no qualms about allowing the Tamil version of the Kannada film Nagarahavu (Shivanagam in Tamil) to run in theatres last year.
— Praveen Raju (@raju777_praveen) March 3, 2017
— மிஸ்டர்.உத்தமன் (@MrUthaman) March 3, 2017
— Kannada Box-Office (@KannadaBO) March 3, 2017
Earlier, the Times of India had reported that some Kannada celebrities were against the screening of dubbed Tamil films in Karnataka because of the volatile relationship between the two states. Actor Prajwal Devaraj had said, “I am definitely not for dubbing. The problem is that our industry is already battling very hard to release films with limited screens with at least 3-4 films releasing every week. Most of these dubbed films have bigger releases of their original versions as well in the bigger centres in the state, like Bengaluru, Mysuru and Hubballi.”
For nearly two decades now, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka have been at loggerheads for a number of issues, with the Cauvery water issue being a central point of contention.
Historically, the dispute over sharing Cauvery waters dates back to the British era. A 1924 agreement between the (then) Mysore princely state and the (then) Madras Presidency had seemingly resolved the water sharing issue. However, in September last year, Supreme Court order asking Karnataka to release 15,000 cusecs of water for 10 days to Tamil Nadu, sparked agitation among farmers in Karnataka (and citizens in Bengaluru).
Another contentious issue between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu is Veerappan’s kidnapping of Kannada superstar Rajkumar in 2000. Given that Veerappan is Tamil, violence broke out in Karnataka at the time and continued for the 75-odd days that the actor remained in Veerappan’s custody. In that time, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu remained on edge with frequent incidents of violence erupting.
Feature Image: Karnataka Box-Office’s Twitter account