ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Privileged Outlaw

The media coverage of the abduction of Kannada actor Rajkumar by Veerappan and the subsequent events as well as the handling of the more than a decade-old problem by the governments of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu offer an interesting opportunity to peep into both the Indian popular psyche and the Indian political system.

Sherwood Forest is a far cry from the forests straddling Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, where a modern-day Tamil ‘Robin Hood’ can afford to hold for months a Kannada ‘Errol Flynn’ as a hostage – both enjoying equal media publicity. The abduction of Rajkumar by Veerappan has brought together two competing types of popular infatuation in a rather uneasy relationship – the delirious adoration of modern film stars on the one hand, and the traditional fascination for Robin Hood type outlaws on the other.

For all that one knows, unlike the bandit hero of English folklore, Veerappan may end up by becoming an MLA, an MP, or even a minister! Otherwise, if arrested and convicted, his fans in Tamil Nadu might threaten to go on a self-immolation spree. In Karnataka again, Rajkumar, endowed with a new mystique after his release, may have to cope with a flood of offers from the film industry in Bangalore, which had suspended its operations all these months – just to show its solidarity with him. One of his fans was shown on television rolling over the roads for several days from a distant village to reach Bangalore to demand Rajkumar’s release! The drama has all the potentialities of a Bollywood-type happy ending. But in the meantime, the media coverage of the present happenings, as well as the handling of the more than a decade old problem by the two state governments of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, offer us an interesting opportunity to peep into both the Indian popular psyche and the Indian political system.

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