Nagavalli, the much-awaited sequel to Rajnikanth-starrer Chandramukhi, is all set to hit the screens in the UAE this weekend. A remake of the Kannada original, Aptharakshaka, the supernatural thriller has been mired in speculation that late Aptharakshaka actors Soundarya and Vishnuvardhan had died because of the so-called "curse of Nagavalli".

Soundarya died in a helicopter crash while on an election campaign in the south Indian state of Karnataka in 2009, while Vishnuvardhan, who had claimed to have experienced unusual occurrences during the shooting of Aptharakshaka, his 200th movie, died of a heart attack soon after its release. He had also played the lead role in the prequel, Apthamitra.

These deaths have apparently had such an effect on Rajnikanth that he refused to appear in Nagavalli. Rajni's loss proved to be Tollywood hero Venkatesh's gain, after Nagavalli director P. Vasu convinced Venkatesh that these deaths were coincidental and had nothing to do with the film.

Despite the fact that Rajnikanth conducted pujas (Hindu rituals) at several temples to ward off the curse of Chandramukhi, no amount of persuasion could convince the superstar to accept the offer. His role as Dr Vijay, with his catchphrase "laka laka laka..." to snub Chandramukhi, a ghost that haunts a mansion, was a big hit both in the Tamil original and Telugu version.

Nagavalli is being released three days after Venkatesh's birthday. Jyothika, who played the lead role as the one possessed by Chandramukhi, is replaced by Anushka who has done a stellar role in Arundhati, which also deals with reincarnation, ghosts and haunted houses.

While many industry pundits and astrologers have pooh-poohed the idea of screen ghosts casting an evil spell on actors involved in the film, all eyes are on Venkatesh and Anushka.

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Nagavalli is released in Dubai on Friday.