Just a week ahead of the release of Baahubali - the Conclusion, actor Sathyaraj has apologised for his comments calling Kannadigas 'dogs'.
The actor, who plays Kaatappa in the Baahubali franchise, was in the middle of a storm in Karnataka, as pro-Kannada groups were blocking the release of the film over his comments which were made several years ago, when some people in Karnataka reportedly assaulted Tamilians in the state over the Cauvery issue.
"I have got to know that what I had spoken during the Cauvery water crisis has created a lot of tension among the people of Karnataka. I am not against Kannadigas or Karnataka," the actor said, in a statement.
"The biggest example for this is that for the last 30 years, my assistant has been Shekar, who is a Kannadiga. I would like to apologise for the statement that I had made nine years back, and would like to say that I am a small worker in Baahubali film and my comment should not affect the film," Sathyaraj said.
"Nine years ago, during the Cauvery protests, Tamilians in Karnataka were targeted and there were protests asking for stalling the release of Tamil movies. During a meeting of the film industry to condemn this, many people spoke out with passion against the move. I was one among them. In retaliation, my effigies were burnt in Karnataka," he said.
"In the last nine years, I have acted in at least 30 movies including Baahubali, that have released in Karnataka. I have also been offered many Kannada films, which I couldn't take up because of schedule issues," Sathyaraj said
"People have watched that video from nine years ago on Youtube now, and they have been hurt by it. I apologise for the certain words I used for the people of Karnataka," he said.
"I don't want the consequences of my actions to affect the hard work of thousands of people. I also have a duty to protect those Kannadiga distributors who have bought the rights for the release of the film," he added.
While pro-Kannada groups have been demanding an apology from Sathyaraj for several weeks now, and refused to budge even when the director of the film, SS Rajamouli, tried to have a dialogue with them, the demand for an apology from Sathyaraj had incited Tamilians, especially on social media, who were backing Sathyaraj.
In an attempt to forestall any tension between the two groups, Sathyaraj appealed to Tamilians to understand why he had to make an apology.
"I will in the future continue to fight for issue of Tamils, be it Sri Lanka, Cauvery or farmers’ rights," Sathyaraj said.
Sathyaraj also asked producers who were afraid of facing losses because of him to not approach him anymore. "I request those producers who think that their film will be affected by this to not approach a small actor like me anymore. You should not bear loss because me. Beyond an actor, I am a proud Tamil," he said.
According to President of Karnataka Rakshana Vedike, Praveen Kumar Shetty, the pro-Kannada groups have decided to allow the release of Baahubali 2 in Karnataka.
"But we will not allow any other film of Sathyaraj to screen in Karnataka from now on," he added.