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Indian movie star says he used acting skills to win freedom

Rajkumar
Indian movie star Rajkumar, center, greets journalists at a news conference on Thursday upon his arrival in Bangalore, India  

November 18, 2000
Web posted at: 7:37 AM HKT (2337 GMT)

BANGALORE, India (Reuters) -- Ultimately, kidnapped film icon Rajkumar had to do what comes best to him -- act.

The 72-year-old screen hero of 210 Kannada-language films had to dramatize his ill health to convince his captor, dreaded bandit Koose Muniswamy Veerappan, to end the 108-day ordeal in the forests of southern India and set him free.

"He was quite unwell when the three new emissaries met him at Veerappan's hideout but it didn't show on him as much," a source close to the three new emissaries, who clinched Rajkumar's freedom earlier this week, told Reuters on Friday.

"He was very depressed and had turned blue in the face...his pulse was also very low," the source said. "So they had to ask him to actually look unwell."

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A sunburnt, pale and dazed Rajkumar returned home on Thursday to the city of Bangalore, where thousands of ardent admirers danced in the streets to celebrate his freedom.

There was no official word on why the camouflage-clad, mustachioed bandit -- charged with 120 killings and dozens of other horrific crimes -- released his most-prized victim of kidnapping to date when his key demands had not been met.

Local newspapers hinted that a large ransom was secretly paid to Veerappan during the initial rounds of negotiations, but officials strongly denied the reports.

Jockeying for credit

Later on Friday, a flurry of statements, denials and counter-claims by key emissaries involved in the abduction saga, signaled some frantic jockeying for credit.

wellwishers
Wellwishers and fans of movie star Rajkumar dance in the streets of Bangalore after news of his release spread on Wednesday  

A government official had told Reuters that three new emissaries, a woman doctor, a businessman and a third unidentified person, clinched Rajkumar's freedom after convincing the bandit that the actor was indeed in poor health.

The superstar, who had himself admitted as much, made a complete turnaround and denied in a statement that he had been set free by Veerappan after dramatizing his illness.

Rajkumar said that he had earned his freedom only through the strenuous efforts of Tamil nationalist leader P. Nedumaran, a key emissary trusted by Veerappan, since October.

Banu, the woman doctor, called off a news conference in Bangalore saying she was unwell. She later said in a statement that her role was limited to that of a "medical attendant."

In Madras, capital of Tamil Nadu state, Nedumaran said that Rajkumar was released solely due to the trust reposed in him by Veerappan, the Press Trust of India reported.

Copyright 2000 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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