‘Challenging’ Crime: Kannada Actor Darshan Arrested over Fan’s Murder; Here’s What We Know

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Famously called the “Challenging Star”, Kannada actor Darshan Thoogudeepa, his partner Pavithra Gowda and eleven others have been arrested in a murder case that unfolded in a filmy style.

Both actors, along with 11 others — Pavan, Vinay, Pradosh, Nandeesha, Deepak, Lakshman, Nagaraju, Karthik, Nikhil, Keshav Murthy, and Raghavendra — have been sent to seven days’ police custody by a city court.

Renukaswamy, known to be an ardent fan of Darshan, was said to have been sending a series of lewd and defamatory texts to Pavithra. In his texts he held Pavithra responsible for Darshan’s separation from his wife Vjayalakshmi and said that she should stay away from him or face consequences, said a police source.

Renukaswamy was found murdered, with his body dumped in a drain in Kamakshipalya in Bengaluru on June 8. The deceased, the police say, was kidnapped from Chitradurga and kept captive in a farmhouse in Bengaluru’s Rajarajeshwarinagar, was tortured, and at around 11 pm died from his injuries. He used to work at a pharmacy in Chitradurga.

On June 9, an unidentified body was found being eaten by dogs by a security guard working in a nearby apartment, who reported it to the Kamaskhipalya police. The deceased was later identified as Renikaswamy, police sources told News18.

Another twist in the case came when Raghu Darshan alias Raghvendra, a district president of Darshan’s fans association, who was arrested in the case along with two others, on questioning began spilling the beans and the story slowly started unravelling.

Tracing the identity of the body using CCTV cameras and forensic analysis led the police to three men who allegedly had kept Renukaswamy captive in a shed. One of them belonged to the Darshan fan association and Renuakswamy was traced through a member of it.

“On finding an unidentified body of a male aged around 30 years and the injuries on it, a murder case was registered. We have analysed data using CCTV footage and other technical evidence which helped us identify the deceased as Renukaswamy,” Bengaluru police commissioner B Dayananda confirmed in a media conference.

Explaining how the incident took place, a police official said that one of the accused, Raghavendra, went to Chitradurga, picked the victim up forcibly from there, and put him in a godown or shed in Pattanwaddagere, RR Nagar. They assaulted him continuously for over an hour and he succumbed to his injuries at around 11 pm. CCTV footage and technical analysis showed that Darshan and Pavithra were there at the scene of the crime. It was further revealed that Darshan’s cellphone number was found in the mobile network area of the scene of the crime between 11 pm and 3 am.

Darshan is then said to have left the place.

“After this, the accused dumped the body near Kamakshipalya, and on finding the body, we (police) registered a case,” said the senior police official.

The police arrested the Kannada film star after they found links and visual footage of Darshan and Pavithra at the location where Renukaswamy was brutally assaulted. It was revealed that first, a black Scorpio with the victim’s body left the location, followed by a red Thar belonging to the actor, seen in the CCTV footage obtained from cameras from a nearby residential complex. This places them at the scene of the crime and shows them entering around 11 pm and then leaving around 3.30 am. The timing of the vehicle approaching the godown and leaving was on the intervening night of June 8 and 9.

Using new-age digital mapping and identification, the Bengaluru police were able to identify Renukaswamy’s body and find his cellphone, which they used to access his call detail record (CDR) and social media handles. The investigation into the victim’s social media accounts also revealed that he had sent several obscene messages to Pavithra Gowda and received a series of calls from the arrested accused, three of whom are known to be working as Darshan’s personal security personnel.

Darshan was arrested in Mysuru on Tuesday morning while leaving a gym and Pavitra was held in Bengaluru later in the day after their link was established with the case.

According to the timeline of the incident, Pavithra, also a Kannada actor, had been ignoring the indecent texts from Swamy, who was unhappy with her relationship with Darshan. However, it is learned that over the past few months, the deceased not only continued sending lewd texts but also had been threatening her. This was brought to the notice of Darshan and his team. The police are yet to establish a direct link between the murder and the Kannada actor. He has been arrested based on the statements made by the ten other accused apprehended in the murder case.

Confirming Darshan and Pavithra’s arrest, the Bengaluru police have now launched a full-fledged investigation into the murder case and the involvement of others in kidnapping the victim from Chitradurga to Bengaluru and later disposing of his body in the city.

Darshan, who goes by one name, is the son of veteran actor Srinivas Thoogudeepa, and his brother Dinakar is a director. Having started his cinematic journey as a light boy in the Kannada film industry, he went on to become an assistant for veteran cinematographer BC Gowrishankar. He initially worked in small-budget films and television shows, but his first major role as an actor in a lead role was in the 2001 film Majestic. Hits like Kariya (2003), Namma Preethiya Ramu (2003), Kalasipalya (2005), Gaja (2008), and Saarathi (2011) built his image as a popular star with a large fanbase. He also lent his voice to many Kannada cartoon shows loved by kids.

Not new to controversies, Darshan over the years has had many brushes with the law.

January 2024: Darshan was accused of partying at Jetlag Restobar in Bengaluru past the 1 am deadline to celebrate the success of his film Kaatera. The police filed an FIR in April against Darshan, actors Abhishek Ambareesh, producer-director Rockline Venkatesh, and Dhananjaya, as they reportedly continued a party past the deadline with loud music. Notices were issued to all involved.

November 2023: Darshan was accused of setting dogs on a woman who parked her car near his residence. An FIR has been registered against him under IPC section 289 stating negligence on Darshan’s part. The police later said that Darshan was not on the scene when the incident happened, but the woman claimed they were the actor’s dogs.

January 2023: The forest department raided Darshan’s farmhouse in Mysuru and seized four bar-headed geese and other migratory birds. He was booked under the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA) 1972 for illegally possessing the birds, which fall under Schedule 2 of the WPA.

December 2022: Darshan made a controversial statement during an interview for his film Kranti: “The Goddess of Luck does not always come knocking on your door. So, when she does come, grab her, drag her, and lock her in your bedroom without giving her clothes.” This comment sparked a massive backlash, including an incident where a fan threw a slipper at him during an event in Hospet.

July 2021: Darshan was accused of assaulting a waiter at a hotel in Mysuru. Allegedly, the waiter was paid Rs 50,000 to cover up the case, and no charges were filed. In the same year, Kannada film producer Bharat filed a complaint against Darshan, stating that he had been threatening him.

March 2016: Vijayalakshmi filed a police complaint stating that Darshan hit her again and threatened to shoot her. Doctors found bruises and a wound on her head requiring four sutures. Darshan claimed he was intoxicated and had no memory of the incident when produced in front of the police.

September 2011: Vijayalakshmi for the first time complained that Darshan had assaulted her. Their relationship turned tumultuous and was marked by multiple separations due to alleged domestic abuse and violence, though they did not formally divorce. Vijayalakshmi filed a case in the family court, which they resolved out of court.

Recent controversy: Pavithra publicly confirmed that she was in a relationship with Darshan for over ten years despite his being married to Vijayalakshmi. Pavithra’s Instagram post compiling moments with Darshan, captioned “One decade down, forever to go. It’s been 10 years of our relationship. Thank you,” sent Vijayalakshmi into a tizzy, who threatened legal action against her. Pavithra responded with a post showing a ‘diya’, expressing her love and care for Darshan over the past decade and mentioning the abuse she and her daughter have faced. Darshan has not spoken on the issue to date.


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