Film flashback: A Kannada comedy from 1978 about a power-mad actor makes complete sense today

In MS Sathyu’s allegory, Gajasimha finds that politics is no different from acting.

What a week it has been for Karnataka politics. The drama that has been unfolding since the results of the Assembly election were declared on Tuesday has resulted in a nail-biting race for the chief minister’s chair. The three major parties in the state that made a bid for the position – Bharatiya Janata Party, Indian National Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) – have been justifying their actions by saying that they are following the will of their voters and have the welfare of the state’s residents at heart.

A classic Kannada movie from 1978 features a similar bid for power being made in the name of the people. MS Sathyu’s brilliant allegory Chitegu Chinte (A restless corpse), set on the imaginary island of Gajadweepa, is a hilarious and hard-hitting tale about one man’s relationship with power. Gajasimha (CR Simha) is an actor, who, despite his lack of talent, is widely loved by audiences. He reports to a man who is forever lying on a hospital bed. Although we never see this man’s face, Gajasimha refers to him as “Boss”.

One day, Boss instructs Gajasimha to contest in the upcoming elections. Overnight, the actor transforms into a politician, and effortlessly too. Politics, in fact, offers Gajasimha greater scope to fulfill his narcissistic interests.

“As an actor until today, my services were restricted to my art alone,” Gajasimha says at a rally. “That my services were needed even in the political sphere was clear to me thanks to the love of the people and their insistence. Unlike an actor, a politician has to perform throughout his career. An actor and a politician are two sides of the same coin.”

He may be a newly minted politician, but Gajasimha does not shy away from giving his followers advice on how to vote. “In an election, more than the candidate, the party he is from is important,” he argues. “Therefore, as voters, please don’t fret about trivial things such as a candidate’s eligibility, his credentials or his reputation. Just vote for the party – in this case the Akhila Vishranti Paksha [All India Party for Relaxation].”

Sathyu ensures the self-serving anti-hero is as exaggerated as he can be. The movie takes its tone from the comic books that Gajasimha is fond of reading. The screenplay, by Sathyu and Javed Siddiqui, suggests that people get what they deserve, and that Gajasimha is but a reflection of the wider population. The song Naavella Kurudaru (We are all blind), sung by a blind choir in the film, bluntly delivers the point of the film.

One of the best scenes is the one in which Gajasimha is sworn in as chief minister. As the governor begins to read out the oath so that Gajasimha can repeat after him, Gajasimha interrupts him, takes over and declares his real intentions: “I, Gajasimha, with God, my conscience and the Constitution as witness, will never distance myself from possessing this authority. At all costs, I’ll protect my self-serving intentions and relationships. Until I die, I’ll ensure that my relationship with the seat of power is protected under all circumstances. With Gajadweepa and this chief minister’s chair as witness, I, on my own, will protect this democracy.”

Gajasimha is power hungry and venal, but at least he is honest.

Chitegu Chinte (1978).
Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Decoding the symbolic threads and badges of one of India’s oldest cavalry units

The untold story of The President’s Bodyguard.

The national emblem of India; an open parachute and crossed lances – this triad of symbols representing the nation, excellence in training and valor respectively are held together by an elite title in the Indian army – The President’s Bodyguard (PBG).

The PBG badge is worn by one of the oldest cavalry units in the India army. In 1773, Governor Warren Hastings, former Governor General of India, handpicked 50 troopers. Before independence, this unit was referred to by many titles including Troops of Horse Guards and Governor General’s Body Guards (GGBG). In 1950, the unit was named The President’s Bodyguard and can be seen embroidered in the curved maroon shoulder titles on their current uniforms.

The President’s Bodyguard’s uniform adorns itself with proud colours and symbols of its 245 year-old-legacy. Dating back to 1980, the ceremonial uniform consists of a bright red long coat with gold girdles and white breeches, a blue and gold ceremonial turban with a distinctive fan and Napoleon Boots with spurs. Each member of the mounted unit carries a special 3-meter-long bamboo cavalry lance, decorated by a red and white pennant. A sheathed cavalry sabre is carried in in the side of the saddle of each trooper.

While common perception is that the PBG mainly have ceremonial duties such as that of being the President’s escort during Republic Day parade, the fact is that the members of the PBG are highly trained. Handpicked by the President’s Secretariat from mainstream armored regiments, the unit assigns a task force regularly for Siachen and UN peace keeping operations. Moreover, the cavalry members are trained combat parachutists – thus decorating the PBG uniform with a scarlet Para Wings badge that signifies that these troopers are a part of the airborne battalion of the India Army.

Since their foundation, the President’s Guard has won many battle honors. In 1811, they won their first battle honor ‘Java’. In 1824, they sailed over Kalla Pani for the first Burmese War and earned the second battle honour ‘Ava’. The battle of Maharajapore in 1843 won them their third battle honor. Consequently, the PBG fought in the main battles of the First Sikh War and earned four battle honours. Post-independence, the PBG served the country in the 1962 Indo-China war and the 1965 Indo-Pak war.

The PBG, one of the senior most regiments of the Indian Army, is a unique unit. While the uniform is befitting of its traditional and ceremonial role, the badges that augment those threads, tell the story of its impressive history and victories.

How have they managed to maintain their customs for more than 2 centuries? A National Geographic exclusive captures the PBG’s untold story. The documentary series showcases the discipline that goes into making the ceremonial protectors of the supreme commander of the Indian Armed Forces.


The National Geographic exclusive is a landmark in television and is being celebrated by the #untoldstory contest. The contest will give 5 lucky winners an exclusive pass to the pre-screening of the documentary with the Hon’ble President of India at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. You can also nominate someone you think deserves to be a part of the screening. Follow #UntoldStory on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to participate.

This article was produced by Scroll marketing team on behalf of National Geographic and not by the Scroll editorial team.