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A controversy over a 'Baahubali' actor's alleged anti-Kannada comment nine years ago threatens to stall the release of the second edition of the epic fantasy film in Karnataka next week with fringe groups today insisting on an apology from him.
The controversy had broken out after a video in which actor Sathyaraj made the alleged anti-Kannada comments in the context of the Cauvery river water row surfaced a fortnight back and went viral. Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are locked in a dispute over sharing of Cauvery waters.
Director S S Rajamouli sought to distance himself and his "Baahubali 2" team from the comments that have led to a protest in Karnataka against the film's release. He said the filmmakers were in no way related to the remarks.
He appealed to the activists of some Kannada fringe groups not to stall the release of the film.
But the appeal failed to pacify the Kannada outfits, who have called for a "Bengaluru bandh" on April 28, the date of the release of the much-anticipated film, as they insisted on an apology by Sathyaraj, who plays a key character.
"...We are not against the film or Rajamouli. Until Sathyaraj tenders unconditional apology, our protest will continue," Vatal Nagaraj, who heads 'Kannada Okoota', an umbrella organisation of Kannada bodies, said, in response to Rajamouli's appeal.
"There will be a Bengaluru bandh on April 28 andalso there will be protests across the state. We can'taccept anything else other than apology by Sathyaraj."
Sathyaraj, who plays the role of Kattappa in the multi- lingual drama, made the alleged anti-Kannada comments during the Cauvery River row between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka about nine years ago. Sathyaraj is from Tamil Nadu.
Rajamouli said the team was unaware of the actor's remarks till it saw a video on a social media site.
"The producer and I want to clarify on the issue... The comments must have pained some of you but we don't have any relation to it. Those were (his) personal comments and were made some nine years ago," the director said in a video message on his official Twitter page.
He also pointed out that many of Sathyaraj's films have been released since then, including the 2015 film "Baahubali".
"The way you accepted and appreciated 'Baahubali Part I', I request you to do the same for 'Part II'... Sathyaraj is neither the director nor the producer of this movie. He is one of the many artistes associated with this film.
"If you stall the release of the film, it may not affect him (Sathyaraj) that much. But it is not right to show your anger on this film for the comments made by him," he said.
The director said Sathyaraj has been "updated about the situation" but beyond that the team could not do much.
"I request you not to involve us in this matter as it is nowhere connected to us. We want your affection to continue," he said.
The film's producer, Shobu Yarlagadda, had also expressed the hope that the issue would be resolved amicably.
"This is a very sensitive issue, and I don't want to comment much on it. The only thing I want to say is - we will resolve the issue amicably in the interest of all concerned," he had said.