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Anger as film star supports police firing

Indian film actor Rajinikanth announces his entry into politics to his many fans in Chennai, 31 December 2017Image copyright
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Rajinikanth is one of the most popular actors in Asia

Officials in Tamil Nadu state have beefed up security at film star Rajinikanth’s home after he justified a police decision to fire live bullets into a mass protest last week.

The police action killed at least 13 people in the port city of Tuticorin.

The star said that “anti-social elements” in the crowd had to be “dealt with an iron hand”.

The deadly protest against a copper smelting plant in the city caused authorities to shut it down.

Locals allege that the Sterlite Copper plant owned by the Vedanta conglomerate has been causing ground water and air pollution. They have been protesting against it for more than 20 years now.

Vedanta denies the charges.

“The protest against the Sterlite unit was going on peacefully for 100 days, but the rally turned violent [on 22 May ] due to the intrusion of anti-social elements and ended in bloodshed. The anti-social elements should be controlled with an iron hand,” Rajinikanth said during a speech in Tuticorin.

His comment has sparked angry reactions from activists and locals who say the police action was disproportionate. A regional political party has also planned protests in front of his house on Thursday.

The state police maintain they had no choice but to open fire as the agitated crowd began overturning vehicles and committing arson.

Who is Rajinikanth?

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The Tamil actor is one of Asia’s best-paid stars

Referred to simply as “The Superstar” in his native Tamil Nadu state, Rajinikanth famously worked as a bus conductor in the southern Indian city of Bangalore before heading to Chennai in 1973 to pursue an acting career.

He has a devoted fan base in the state, which is home to more than 70 million people.

In a career spanning four decades, the 65-year-old actor has starred in over 170 films, most of them in Tamil language.

One of Asia’s highest paid actors, Rajinikanth is considered one of the most bankable stars in India

Rajinikanth, whose real name is Shivaji Rao Gaekwad, has appeared in close to 200 films since 1975, many of which have broken box-office records.

In 2016, his film Kabali swept India with hundreds of thousands of fans flocking to cinemas across the country.

Businesses gave employees time off to avoid “sick” days, a jumbo jet was repainted in honour of the film and Twitter India “broke” several times.

The film made $30m (£20m) in rights sales before it was even released.

His announcement in December that he was entering regional politics created national headlines.

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