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Protest by stars, a crowd-puller

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Packed: A section of the crowd at the venue of the fast staged by film stars in support of the Hogenakkal drinking water project, in Chennai on Friday.
Packed: A section of the crowd at the venue of the fast staged by film stars in support of the Hogenakkal drinking water project, in Chennai on Friday.

Ananth Krishnan

Unruly fans brave lathi charge to get close to their favourites

CHENNAI: For the thousands who gathered in Chepauk on Friday braving the blazing sun, there was never any doubt about what brought them out.

A who’s who of Tamil cinema, led by the ‘Superstar’ himself, were staging an eight-hour fast outside the Government Estate to protest the attacks on cinema halls in Karnataka and to express solidarity with the Tamil Nadu Government in its stand on the Hogenakkal drinking water supply project. But for many fans, the Hogenakkal issue was incidental.

Besides Rajnikanth, the likes of Kamal Haasan, Satyaraj, Sarath Kumar, Ajith, Suriya, Madhavan, Trisha, Nayantara and Namitha graced the temporary wooden stage erected on Wallajah Road and drew a large crowd. The galaxy of stars also included Kollywood actors from Karnataka, including Prakash Raj and Arjun.

For some, a rare glimpse of their heroes in flesh was too much to handle. The excitable crowd gave the police an impossible task of maintaining order, and the unruly mob braved several lathi charges to throng the barricades, trying to get close to the stars. Those sitting inside the tent set up for the press and visitors in front of the dais had a few nervy movements, as the whole structure threatened to buckle under pressure from the surging crowds, but the pegs stood firm. “My family came here to see Rajni,” confessed Ravikumar, an autorickshaw driver from Chennai. “And we really don’t know too much about the problem.”

Ilayaraja and Ramaswamy said they made the trip all the way from Salem to see the stars, but after eight hours of fiery speeches, they said they were also left with strong views on the political problem. The strong rhetoric of the speeches, mainly Mr. Rajnikanth’s, drew a huge applause from the crowd, but there were also calls for calm and a quick resolution to the problem. “The people here should not forget with all the stars here that there is an important issue at hand,” said Baskar of Thiruvottiyur. “Both States have to be united and find a solution to the problem that is peaceful.”

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