By Syed Akbar
Inspired by his reel life antics, several fans of "mega star" Chiranjeevi created a virtual mayhem by chasing down senior film hero Rajasekhar, his actress-wife Jeevita and two children in Hyderabad. The fans stopped short of lynching Rajasekhar and his family.
This is not the first time that Chiranjeevi's fans have attacked rivals in the Tollywood. Of late, the fans of the mega star have become notorious for assaults on people who do not toe their line of thinking.
Shamefully, the attack on Rajasekhar and Jeevita took place on Monday right in front of the office of the assistant commissioner of police, Panjagutta. Re-enacting Chiranjeevi's "mega fight scenes" in real life, the fan following of Chiranjeevi chased Rajashekar's vehicle in four cars. They attacked him with stones causing injuries. The only "fault" Rajasekhar had committed to invite the wrath of Chiranjeevi's fans is his statement that he will not join Chiranjeevi's proposed political party "because the mega star has no experience in politics".
The irate fans, who have been known to lose their cool quite fast, reacted sharply to Rajasekhar's statement and decided to "teach a fitting lesson" to the film hero in a Tollywood style.
Rajasekhar, Jeevita and their children were treated at Apollo Hospitals in Jubilee Hills. What's horrified the entire Tollywood is that Chiranjeevi's fans had been tracking Rajasekhar right from Guntur. They searched trains for Rajasekhar but could not find him.
When word reached them that Rajasekhar had reached Hyderabad and was going towards his residence in a car, the fans chased him. Not only did they attack Rajasekhar, they also recorded the entire "episode" and sent video cassettes to TV channels for telecast.
Rajashekar said ,"if he floats a party does it mean that we all should join it. If we do not join him, do they kill us? In democracy everyone has the right to express his or her opinion. I only said I will not join his party as he has no experience in politics. I said this when mediapersons repeatedly asked me the same question".
He said the fans tried to attack him in the train too, in Guntur while "I was returning from Bhimavaram". He wondered whether the fans would attack all those who refuse to join Chiranjeevi's party. " What way he is so great? Mr Chiranjeevi, are you satisfied now?" Rajashekar said.
A shocked Jeevita recalled the horror she and her family went through at the hands of the Chiranjeevi's fans. "One of the stones hit just behind my daughter. Had it hit her head, there would have been a grievous injury. Another stone hit my shoulder. I suffered internal injury on nose and on the cheek."
She said after the attack an unidentified fan told reporters, "how dare they comment on our mega star Chiranjeevi. We attacked him at Panjagutta. If he has guts he would have stayed there and made comments on Chiranjeevi."
Meanwhile, Panjagutta police filed a case against "unknown persons" suspecting to be Chiranjeevi's fans under Sections 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting armed with deadly weapon), 324 (voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapon or means), 427 (mischief causing damage to the amount of Rs 50 or upwards), 341 (punishment for wrongful restraint), 506 (criminal intimidation) read with 149 (unlawful assembly with a common object) of the IPC.
Later in the day, in a fire-fighting exercise Chiranjeevi went to the residence of Rajasekhar and sought "apology on his own behalf and on the behalf of his fans". He described the attack as "unfortunate". Chiranjeevi waited at Rajasekhar's residence for about an hour and met the Rajasekhar couple after their return from a TV studio where they went for a recording.
Panjagutta police inspector M Malla Reddy said the police rushed to Apollo Hospital on receiving information about the attack. They recorded the statement of Jeevita and registered a case. The police suspect it to be the handiwork of Chiranjeevi fans.
West zone deputy commissioner N Madhusudhan Reddy said, "we are identifying the persons involved in the attack and launched a hunt to nab them".
Jeevita alleged that the fans shot the attack in a video camera and distributed the recordings to TV channels. Rajashekar's car went into wrong side of the road amidst the moving traffic in a dangerous manner. The enraged fans of Chiranjeevi broke the window panes of the car after a hot chase.
"If at all my husband was not driving the car we don't know what would have happened to us today. They attacked us so inhumanely. They didn't bother to see the woman and kids in the car. Is violence the solution to problem. They would have discussed with us and sorted it out," she said.
Jeevita said "how great the fans may be and how much affection they may have for him. It is not the way to behave and act. My husband didn't say anything about Chiranjeevi's party. He simply expressed his opinion. Rajashekar is free to choose his career. Whoever has instigated the fans should be brought to book".
Rajasekhar told reporters that he would meet Chief Minister YS Rajashekar Reddy and seek security in view of the attack.
The attack on Rajasekhar took a political turn with Greater Hyderabad Congress chief Danam Nagendar visiting Rajashekar's residence and expressing solidarity. City police commissioner B Prasada Rao said the police would provide a security cover to the film actor. The police had formed four special parties to trace the attackers. The vehicles used by the fans have been identified and a picket has been posted outside Rajasekhar's house.
Elsewhere in Chittoor TD activists staged a protest against Chiranjeevi expressing solidarity with Rajashekar. Incidentally, Rajashekar supported TD during the last elections. Chiranjeevi's fans burnt the effigy of Rajashekar in different parts of the State.
The Chiranjeevi's fans have always been embroiled in controversies. Film producer Bellam Konda Suresh, who produced the film, Chennakeshava Reddy, faced the ire on the accusation of making indirect comments on Chiranjeevi.
Chiranjeevi fans had staged a dharna at Bellamkonda's residence in Jubilee hills, Hyderabad on October 10th, 2002. Hordes of fans came and tried to barge into the producer's house.
Last year during 75 years of Telugu Film Festival actor Mohan Babu was upset the way Chiranjeevi was honoured as legend of Telugu cinema and Mohan Babu as celebrity. Following this Chiranjeevi refused to accept the award. This made Chiranjeevi fans angry and they burnt the effigies of Mohan Babu.
The clashes between Chiranjeevi fans with Balakrishna and Junior NTR fans have become routine affair in Diviseema in Krishna and Konaseema in Godavari and in other coastal AP districts. Ongole recently witnessed a clash between the fans of Chiranjeevi and Balakrishna during the release of film Okka Magadu.
The marriage of Chiranjeevi's daughter Srija with Bharadwaj also took violent turns with the couple complaining that they have threat to their life from Chiranjeevi's family. Delhi High Court intervened and asked Chiranjeevi and his family not to interfere in the married life of Srija and Sirish Bharadwaj.
Chiranjeevi's brother and actor Pavan Kalyan visited the Jubilee Hills police station and deposited his revolver. He also announced Common Man Protection Force. CPI Secretary Narayana criticised this move and said it would become a private army. The on going case in Vishakapatnam family court against Pavan Kalyan filed by his wife Nandini highlighted the litigation haunting the family.
"Rajasekhar has only expressed his own opinion. My fans should not have taken the law into their hand. Their aggression was unwarranted. What the fans did was their own hasty decision. I am very sorry about the incident. Rajasekhar and I were like brothers. I will advise my fans not to repeat such unruly behaviour again in the future. Violence is not in our culture and I would never encourage a violent act,” Chiranjeevi said after meeting Rajasekhar and his wife, Jeevita.
After the apology, Rajasekhar said he stood by his statement that led to the incident. Actor Mohan Babu along with his family called on Rajasekhar and Jeevita after Chiranjeevi left the place. He expressed anguish over the incident but said he was there to show his solidarity and condemnation in his personal capacity.
“I have come in my personal capacity. I do not speak for the entire Telugu film industry. The attack on Rajasekhar has caused me a lot of pain. In a democracy, every person has a right to express his or her opinion without any fear. Had anybody from the Rajasekhar family got seriously injured in the attack, no amount of monetary compensation or apology would have served the purpose. It is an unpardonable act. Rajasekhar is a highly respected name in the film industry and he was never caused any hurt to anyone,” said Mohan Babu.
He, however, denied political hues to the incident. “All the politicians who came to see Rajasekhar and his family came so only in their personal capacity,” he added. Minister for housing Botsa Satyanarayana also turned up at Rajasekhar’s bungalow.
Maganti Venkateshwara Rao, minister for minor irrigation, who was the same train as Rajasekhar and family, came to their rescue. His body guards fended off the Chiranjeevi fans at the Sattenpalli railway station in Guntur district when they banged on the doors of the first-class air conditioned coach on Sunday late night.
Police took into their custody the white Hyundai Accent car of Rajasekhar that was attacked by Chiru fans for investigation. Jeevita said she was aware of the pre-planned attack by Chiranjeevi fans as she had got a phone call while in the Narsapur Express from her supporters.
“As such I called up the north zone deputy commissioner of police from the train. Upon our arrival at the Secunderabad railway station, police escorted us. At Somajiguda, police escort turned back as we did not expect any trouble. But things turned out differently after that.” Jeevita recalled.
Many see the recent incidents involving Chiru fans as the result of a
new-found aggressiveness as the star was tipped to launch his political
party. “It’s as if to prove a point that Chiranjeevi fans started
showcasing their colours without realising its consequences.
Earlier, fans used to follow their idol’s advice scrupulously but now there are no such signals from either side,” a senior film producer observed.
As one who produced some films with Chiranjeevi himself and witnessed some weird reactions from fans, the producer pointed out that it was high time the stars “controlled” their followers and not let things precipitate into
a major crisis.
But, after speculation in media over Chiranjeevi’s possible political
arangetram began, trouble broke out between his fans and those of
Nandamuri Bala Krishna, notably in Prakasam district and spread to
neighbouring Guntur, over the erection of huge cut-outs. But with timely
intervention of the stars, the fans restored normalcy.