Watch CBS News

Kidnapped Indian Actor Freed

A popular Indian film star kidnapped more than three months ago by a notorious bandit was released unharmed early Wednesday, a state official said.

The actor, Rajkumar, was taken from his vacation home July 30 along with three companions. His release came after months of tortuous negotiations between Veerappan, the outlawed bandit, and the state governments of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

"Rajkumar was released early this morning," said a statement by N. Karunanidhi, the chief minister of Tamil Nadu. "Rajkumar informed me that he is hale and hearty."

The 72-year-old Rajkumar, a veteran of more than 200 Kannada-language movies, is famous in southern India, where riots erupted when he was kidnapped. Actors and directors went on strike for several weeks to demand his release.

Today, jubilant fans of the actor burst firecrackers and handed out sweets to passers-by in Bangalore, capital of Karnataka, while police stepped up a vigil to prevent any disturbances.

"We don't expect any problems since they (fans) are rejoicing...but we are making all arrangements to ensure that there are no problems," a senior police official said.

Veerappan, 56, is wanted for the deaths of 130 policemen, slaughtering elephants and felling thousands of sandalwood trees. He has achieved near-legendary status in southern India as an advocate of the poor and the minority Tamil group.

Veerappan, who has eluded capture for more than two decades, was seeking $12 million in ransom. But he had made mostly political demands for Rajkumar's freedom, including the release of 51 associates serving sentences for murder, sandalwood smuggling and poaching.

The Supreme Court on Nov. 7 blocked the state governments of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka from releasing the convicts.

None of Veerappan's demands were met and it was not immediately clear why he agreed to free Rajkumar. Police in both states said they had no information about the actor's release.

Like many people in southern India, the bandit and the actor use only one name.

Rajkumar was in Erode, a town 281 miles northwest of Madras, the capital of Tamil Nadu, and was headed toward Bangalore, Karnataka's capital, Karunanidhi's statement said.

United News of India news agency quoted another actor, Ambareesh, as saying that Rajkumar had been taken to a guest house.

During the captivity, tapes of the actor were released and aired on television and radio. He said he was in good health and urged his supporters not to commit violence.

Rajkumar's son-in-law, S.A. Govindaraj, who had been kidnapped with him, was freed Oct. 16. Another kidnap victim, a friend of the family, escaped Sept. 28. There was no immediate word on the third man who had been taken away with Rajkumar.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.