The excitement among the fans of Allu Arjun’s upcoming film Pushpa-2 has reached a new high with the release of its first-look poster. And now, fans in Odisha have an extra reason to celebrate, as the highly-anticipated sequel is set to be filmed in Swabhiman Anchal, once a bastion of red rebels, in Malkangiri district.
Mythri Movie Makers, a Hyderabad-based film producing company, has carried out recce of the terrain of Swabhiman Anchal, which was earlier an isolated land surrounded by water from three sides due to construction of two major reservoirs at Machhkund in 1960s and Balimela in 1980s.
This approximately 900 square km region, Swabhiman Area, was once a no-go zone for civil and police administration as left wing extremists under the Andhra-Odisha Border zone of the CPI (Maoist) were calling the shots.
“Our senior production team comprising fight master, associate director and art director is satisfied after seeing the terrain of Swabhiman Anchal. Hantalguda, Saptadhara and Jhulapola are the locations which have been tentatively finalised for shooting of Pushpa-2,” said P. Venketeswar Rao, Production Manager, Mythri Movie Makers.
Mr. Rao said the Pushpa-2 makers were looking for a location, where a lorry could be seen chasing a jeep, and the Swabhiman Anchal was found to be perfecting background for this.
“We have taken permission from the Malkangiri District Collector and the Superintendent of Police for shooting. We had discussion with the Border Security Force. Everyone was ready to cooperate in the shooting. If everything goes as per plan, the shooting could commence in May,” he said.
According to the production house, about 150 to 200 people could enter Swabhiman Anchal for shooting. It has not yet been ascertained, if Allu Arjun, the protagonist of Pushpa-2, would participate in the shooting which will be done during daytime under the close watch of security forces.
Massive mountain ridges and isolated tribal habitats may have attracted Pushpa-2 makers for choosing Hantalguda as one of the spots. But, the place was witness to the security forces’ combined efforts to reclaim Hantalguda from the clutches of left wing extremists.
Operation Swabhiman, the biggest ever counter–LWE operations conducted in the State so far, was launched in Swabhiman Anchal from January 8, 2020 to January 13, 2020 in close coordination with the Andhra Pradesh police and Central Armed Police Forces comprising more than 900 security personnel. During the operation, almost the entire area was covered. A 15-km long road from Jantapayi to Jodambo via Hantalguda was laid under security cover by cutting ghats.
The six-day-long operation was one of the small victories of the security forces against the CPI (Maoist) which had turned the remote Swabhiman Anchal, which used to be called ‘Cut-Off’, into sort of headquarters of the organisation.
The Cut-Off region had a bloody history. As many as 51 security personnel were killed by the Maoists in separate incidents, including 37 Andhra Pradesh Greyhounds jawans, 7 BSF jawans, four Odisha police personnel and 3 Gram Rakhies. More than 50 civilians were also killed by the Maoists in the area.
Abduction of Collector
On February 16, 2011, Maoists had abducted R. Vineel Krishna, the then Collector of Malkangiri district, while he was on a visit to the area to oversee development projects. He was kept hostage for nine days before his release.
The turning point came when Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik dedicated a long-awaited Gurupriya Bridge over the Balimela Reservoir on July 26, 2018. While dedicating the Gurupriya Bridge, Mr. Patnaik christened area as ‘Swabhiman Anchal’. He had announced ₹100 crore special packages under SETU (Socio-economic Transformation and Upliftment) for the development of this Maoist bastion and another ₹115 crore package for the area for a mega piped water supply project.
The Swabhiman Anchal is no more remote. Not long ago, horses used to be main mode of transportation for people within the area. About 150 villages could be accessed by boats from the Chitrakonda area. Wide blacktop roads — which were once fiercely opposed by Maoists — have now been laid.
After 12 years of his abduction, Mr. Krishna recently spent a night at the same place from where he was abducted. Top police officials told The Hindu that not a single cadre of the CPI (Maoist) is present in Swabhiman Anchal. The Andhra Odisha Border zone is almost defunct following non-recruitment of fresh cadres. It was possible as the government approached the long-standing human crisis by pumping in developmental projects and ensuring assurance of security forces.