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Ajay Devgn and Kichcha Sudeepa Image Credit: IANS

If you’ve noticed strange Twitter hashtags that appear to spark a debate on the national language of India, then you may want to turn your heads towards an exchange between Bollywood actor Ajay Devgn and South Indian star Kichcha Sudeep that is at the centre of this storm.

Ajay Devgn in the poster for 'Runway 34', which used to be called 'MayDay'
Ajay Devgn in the poster for 'Runway 34', which used to be called 'MayDay' Image Credit: twitter.com/ajaydevgn

Devgn, who is awaiting the release of his film ‘Runway 34’ on April 29, put out a message in Hindi to the ‘Dabangg 3’ star following a controversial statement by Sudeep during the trailer launch of ‘R: The Deadliest Gangster Ever’. Responding to a comment on a spate of pan-India releases across the country, with the recently released blockbuster Kannada movie ‘K.G.F: Chapter 2’ being used as an example, Sudeepa took a supposed dig at Bollywood while adding: “Everyone says that a Kannada film was made on a pan-India level but a small correction is that Hindi is not a national language anymore.”

He added that Bollywood produces many pan-India movies that are released in Telugu and Tamil but these films struggle to find success on the same scale that South Indian films are commanding. “Today we are making films that are going everywhere,” he said.

Reacting to the comment, Devgn tagged the Kannada star on Twitter and asked him why the actor continued to release dubbed versions of his film in Hindi if he believed that it wasn’t the national language of India. Devgn ended his statement in Hindi by adding: “Hindi was, is and always will be our mother tongue and national language. Jan Gan Man.”

Sudeepa immediately responded to his Bollywood co-star stating that his intentions weren’t to cause disharmony. “Hello @ajaydevgn sir.. the context to why i said tat line is entirely different to the way I guess it has reached you. Probably wil emphasis on why the statement was made when I see you in person. It wasn’t to hurt, Provoke or to start any debate. Why would I sir [sic],” Sudeepa replied, before continuing: “And sir @ajaydevgn, I did understand the txt you sent in hindi. Tats only coz we all have respected,loved and learnt hindi. No offense sir,,,but was wondering what’d the situation be if my response was typed in kannada.!! Don’t we too belong to India sir.”

The Kannada star further added: “I love and respect every language of our country sir. I would want this topic to rest,,, as I said the line in a totally different context. Mch luv and wshs to you always. Hoping to seeing you soon.”

While Devgn responded in kind to Sudeepa and accepted his explanation, that didn’t stop the rest of Twitter from weighing in and sharing their own thoughts on the subject, starting with Indian filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma who replied to the Kannada actor to say: “Nothing can drive the point better than ur question on ,what if you answer in Kannada to a Hindi tweet from @ajaydevgn.. Kudos to you and I hope everyone realises there’s no north and south and india is 1.”

Former Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, however, reacted strongly to Ajay Devgn’s tweet. “Hindi was never and will never be our National Language. It is the duty of every Indian to respect linguistic diversity of our country,” he said.

In recent months, several actors have spoken out against the usage of the term pan-India to describe films from the Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam or Kannada industries that are being dubbed in different regional languages.

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Dulquer Salmaan Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Malayalam star Dulquer Salmaan recently also revealed that the usage of the word upset him. “The word pan-India really irks me. I just don’t like hearing it. I love that there is so much exchange of talent happening in cinema, it’s great, but we are one country. I don’t think anyone says pan-America. I don’t get it, even though they say it sweetly,” the 35-year-old actor told PTI.