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Nagappa in a picture taken when he was in the forest with Dr Rajkumar and other hostages Gopal returns, says Veerappan is
changing hide-out

R Gopal, negotiator for the Tamil Nadu and Karnataka governments, returned from the forests on Saturday, saying his negotiations with Veerappan had to be stopped mid-way after Nagappa ran away to freedom.

Gopal told reporters in Chennai that he had shown Veerappan papers to prove that the governments had moved the Supreme Court to release ultras held in Mysore and Chennai jails.

The magazine editor and official go-between said he had almost convinced Veerappan to release his hostages when Nagappa escaped. Veerappan wanted to change his hide-out and so the negotiations could not be continued. Gopal says he will return to the forests as soon as he gets a message from Veerappan.

Nagappa had volunteered to go with Rajkumar when Veerappan abducted the Kannada star. Strangely, Nagappa's brave escape has not won him many admirers, and even Rajkumar's family feels he has abandoned the star in difficult circumstances. Nagappa told reporters Veerappan would not harm Rajkumar as "his work won't get done otherwise".

Nagappa Maradagi, one of the four people held hostage by Veerappan, gave the slip to Veerappan and his men and escaped to freedom after walking through thick jungles the whole of Wednesday night.

He got off a bus in Gajanur village around 6 p.m. Thursday evening, and told media persons that he had escaped around 2 a.m. and walked through the forest.

A haggard Nagappa told reporters in Bangalore on Friday, in the presence of Chief Minister S M Krishna and Home Minister Mallikarjuna Kharge, that he had pushed away Sethukuli Govindan, who had tried to stop him. "I struggled with him for a while," he said.

Nagappa had an injury on his forehead, and spoke in a faint, weary voice. Two of his lower teeth are broken. Nagappa said he had asked for permission to pee, and when that was given, had slid off a hillock to make his escape. He overcame one of Veerappan's men who stopped him. He banged his head against some boulders as he walked through the lush foliage. He said he had taken a lift on a scooter, and borrowed Rs 15 from someone once he had reached Bannari. He then took a bus to Gajanur, from where he and the superstar had been taken away by Veerappan on July 30.

In footage shown by Udaya News on Friday, he was pestered by reporters in Gajanur to answer scores of questions, which he did patiently till exhaustion took over. He stayed the night at the house of the superintendent of police.

In Bangalore Friday afternoon, he said Rajkumar was safe. "I couldn't bear to hear Parvathamma cry during her radio message, and felt I should see her," Nagappa explained. Veerappan, he revealed, moves his hostages to a new location every two or three days.

Nagappa's wife, interviewed on TV, said she would have been happy if all the hostages, and not just her husband, had returned. His little daughter still thinks he is away shooting on location somewhere. In his native village, near Dharwad, Nagappa's father could hardly believe the news that he was free.

Meanwhile, Parvathamma was discharged from Mallya Hospital, where she was being treated for hypertension.

A report from Chennai said Veerappan had sent another tape in which he reportedly said his patience was running out, and that the Tamil Nadu and Karnataka governments should heed his demands instead of blaming others for the delay. He threatened that the issue wouldn't be settled amicably otherwise, and that he was "adamant" because he was espousing a "revolutionary cause".

Previous report:

The Karnataka bandh called to protest against the star's release passed off without any violence on Thursday. No commercial activity took place in Bangalore and the southern districts.

Dr Rajkumar, in captivity for nearly two months "We are not against the Karnataka or Tamil Nadu governments... we want the Centre and the Supreme Court to understand our concern and help secure his release," Sa Ra Govindu, who heads the apex Rajkumar Abhimanigala Sangha, told reporters late on Wednesday.

Mallikarjuna Kharge, Karnataka's police minister, had repeatedly appealed to the actor's fans to withdraw the bandh call, but another leader of his Congress party, S Bangarappa, had supported it. Incidentally, Bangarappa's daughter is married to Rajkumar's son Shivaraj Kumar. The differences within the Congress could signal political turbulence, and pose a threat to the chief ministership of S M Krishna.

Nearly 10,000 policemen, including platoons brought in from other States, were out on the streets on Thursday to prevent what the police call "untoward incidents". Offices, banks, schools and colleges remained shut. Six goverment buses were stoned in Bangalore.

In a tape received Wednesday morning, Rajkumar had appealed to his fans not to disrupt Dasara, the traditionally spectacular festival that began in Mysore on Thursday. There is nothing wrong in observing a bandh, but no damage should be done to government property or inconvenience caused to people, he had said.

It is two months since Veerappan, the bandit who reigns in the dense forests shared by Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, kidnapped Rajkumar and four others.

Tamil Nadu submitted before the Supreme Court on September 27 that it had not been able to capture Veerappan because he operates in dense forests and is known to ruthlessly kill policemen who encounter him.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court gave the Karnataka government a resounding rap on its knuckles for surrendering totally to Veerappan.

On September 1, the day Karnataka was celebrating a muted Ganesha festival, the Supreme Court in Delhi said it could not be a party to the state's authorities caving in to the killer's blackmail. The government had failed to do anything to nab Veerappan in the last eight years, and was now crawling to meet all his demands, "compounding negligence upon negligence", a three-judge bench said.

On September 2, M Karunanidhi said the court's observations would have a bearing on Tamil Nadu as well, from where Veerappan has demanded the release of five Tamil militants.

Abdul Kareem had filed a petition before the Supreme Court, questioning the wisdom of the Karnataka government releasing 51 suspected Veerappan supporters arrested in connection with the murder of his son Shakeel Ahmed. Veerappan had killed Shakeel Ahmed in 1994.

Rajkumar, the Kannada matinee idol, continues in captivity. In a tape brought back by R Gopal, -- the government emissary talking to Veerappan -- Rajkumar appeals to the Karnataka chief minister to give compensation to those affected in the 1992 Cauvery riots.

After a month's closure, theatres opened in Bangalore on September 1, but attendance was thin, ranging between 20 and 25 per cent of the capacity.

Rich musicscape: Read review of the Rajkumar collection in the HMV Legends series

Read previous reports on the Rajkumar kidnap

Visit site devoted exclusively to the crisis (external link)

Read archived review of an album of classical Navaratri songs sung by Chitravina Ravikiran's group

Comeback for radio countdown show

Geetmala, the legendary radio countdown, may soon be on the air again.

Binaca Geetmala was launched towards the end of 1952 on what was then called Radio Ceylon, and soon became the most popular radio programme in India. It was stopped in 1994.

Ameen Sayani, the man with the gravelly voice and stylised drawl, presented the countdown and became a household name.

Binaca changed its name to Cibaca, and the programme took that name for some time. Colgate came in as a sponsor later. The one-hour Wednesday night slot later moved to Vividh Bharati.

Sayani told Screen that he was working on reviving the countdown. Geetmala used to allot ranks to songs after taking into account sales figures. It had also built up a string of radio clubs on whose feedback also it based its ranking.

Rajasthani fete in Delhi

Teej, the festival of rain is celebrated throughout the northern plains with music and dance. In Delhi, Hotel Samrat got into the act as well -- as it has done for some 15 years now.

Called Teej ka mela, the August-end programme was described as a Rajasthani festival and it included music, dance, handicrafts and puppetry.

Small troupes played music and sang while others danced. The singers were usually adults and the dancers lively young children performing with both energy and skill. Especially impressive and entertaining was a boy in a horse costume. Shravan Kumar, organiser of the festival, says most artistes come from Bikaner and Joohjh. They are trained since childhood and are fulltime professionals. Kumar has taken his troupe all over the world to perform.

Besides the usual intruments such as dholaks and harmoniums the musicians also played the ravanatha -- a stringed instrument played like a violn.

The festival was nothing spectacular, but it was definitely worth watching the talented musicians perform.

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