Abstract

For much of the fall of 2000, a sensational crime dominated India's news. At a time when resurgent Hindu chauvinism had already called into question the possibility of a secular pluralistic nation, this affair threatened to topple the governments of two South Indian states and set off a renewal of intercommunity conflict, exposing new cracks in the Indian federation's increasingly fissiparous foundation. As V.S. Naipaul once said, India is a country of "a million little mutinies," fueled by "twenty kinds of group excess, sectarian excess, religious excess, regional excess" (in which Naipaul paradoxically foresaw a "liberation of spirit" and the "beginnings of self awareness"). The abduction of Rajkumar, a legendary idol of the Kannada screen, by a group of armed men who escaped with their captive into the South Indian jungle, was a radical instance of this phenomenon. For more than fifty years, the seventy-two-year-old actor and singer has been venerated by millions who filled theaters in Bangalore, as well as hundreds of cinema tents in small villages all over Karnataka, as the princely state of Mysore is known today. During the course of two hundred films, his roles had ranged from emperors and gods in historical and mythological extravaganzas to hard-bitten Bombay detectives or romantic heroes in more contemporary fare. Arrayed in a hairpiece, luxuriant false mustache, and eye shadow, a look of ferocity and determination animating his countenance, Rajkumar had rarely been less than convincing.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1946-0910
Print ISSN
0012-3846
Pages
pp. 26-34
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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