A semi-fictional feature film Modi Ka Gaon, based on the PM’s rural development scheme, faces objection from the Censor Board of Film Certification, which has asked the makers of the film to get an NOC from the Prime Minister’s Office. Meanwhile, the actor playing the Prime Minister’s part has also come into the spotlight for his uncanny resemblance to Modi.
Hailing from Mumbai’s Malad locality, Vikas Mahante is a happy man and has every reason to be so. Being a dead ringer for Prime Minister Narendra Modi is quite remarkable, and 52-year-old Mahante is enjoying his newfound fame. Recounting his first ever encounter with the premier, Mahante shares how Modi checked him out from head to toe and kept laughing non-stop. Though he is not a member of any political party at present, he has been campaigning for Shiv Sena and BJP in Mumbai for quite a while now; he just accompanies the candidates and waves at the crowd. Clearly, the political parties are cashing in on the fact that Mahante has become a crowdpuller.
We got up close and personal with Mahante and how fame has impacted his life.
How has life changed ever since you have been recognised and acknowledged as PM Modi’s lookalike?
Of course, there’s a celebrity touch that’s there now. Whenever I step out, people crowd around me. Some want to take a selfie; others want an autograph with Modi’s signature. So you experience these pleasant things, but it becomes a bit difficult when I am out campaigning. Still, it’s fine. However, it’s not a great thing to carry someone’s identity with you all through your life. At times, it looks cheap as well.
Have you ever met Modi in person? How was it?
It was in 2014 before the Lok Sabha election when I got to meet him in Gandhinagar. He was the CM [of Gujarat] and had a huge clout even then and was much talked about. The public was as excited as they are today to see him and hear him talk. Actually, for the 2012 Vidhan Sabha elections in Gujarat, I campaigned for Ramanbhai Patkar in Umbergaon town of Gujarat’s Valsad district. After he was elected with 28,000 votes, he told Modiji, “There’s someone who looks like you and he campaigned for me.” Later, I got a call from Patkar that he’s fixed a date, time and an appointment for me to meet Modiji. I went along with five friends from the BJP. After Patrkar introduced me to Modiji, he looked at me from head to toe and started laughing. He rarely smiles, but he gave me his biggest smile. He asked me, “Lok Sabha elections hain, kuch planning kiya hai prachar ka?” I said, “Zarur kiya hai. Zor shor se kaam karenge.” I also remember giving Modiji a shawl.
Do you wish to meet him again?
Unfortunately, that was the first and last time I met Modiji. I couldn’t meet him after he became the Prime Minister. I really want to meet him again, and I think he should meet me — I am sure he would feel equally great to see and meet me again.
Is there anything special you do to maintain your looks and weight and continue looking like Modi?
My weight is slightly less than that of Modiji, so I am trying to maintain that. Also, whenever I am watching TV and if I see Modiji, I stop right there and study his way of talking, facial expressions and body language. I try hard to imitate him in the best possible ways. Whenever I give a speech, I start in Hindi, though I am from Maharashtra. I often give speeches in his style and I’ve crammed it fully. I try and use some couplets and poetry and sometimes, I talk in Gujarati also. Once, while campaigning in Gujarat, I went to a large Gujarati society and all the elderly people there came to see me and they thought Modiji has arrived. They touched my feet and one even asked me to give a speech in Gujarati, and I did so, though only for a few minutes.
Being Modi’s doppelgänger, have you ever pulled a prank on friends or relatives?
I often get invites from people whom I don’t even know, to attend a wedding in their family. To oblige, I have been to a few of them. Once I went to such a wedding and they had kept special bodyguards for me. The moment I entered, people gathered to click pictures, shake hands and meet me. The funniest thing was that there was barely anyone on the stage with the bride and the groom and all the crowd was around me. Interestingly, for half an hour, the hosts didn’t say anything to their guests — that I was not Modiji. Only much later, they announced that I was his lookalike Vikas Mahante.
Is Modi Ka Gaon your first film or have you faced the camera before?
I did a cameo in Farah Khan’s movie Happy New Year (2014). I was approached by her assistant and got to meet actors Anupam Kher and Jackie Shroff on the sets. Also, I have done a couple of reality shows such as India’s Got Talent where the promo with me was aired for almost two weeks on TV.
How did you bag this role in Modi Ka Gaon? Were there any apprehensions?
The director, Tushar Amrish Goel, got my number from somewhere and called me and told me about this film. And I instantly agreed. Picture mein koi role milta hai toh koi naa nahi bolta hai. So I said yes. I have a full-fledged role in the film. I was in Dharbhanga district in Bihar for five days for shooting and we also shot in Madh Island and Malad, in Mumbai.
So was there always an urge to act on screen?
(Laughs) In school, I used to act a bit. So thoda sa keeda toh tha. And after Happy New Year and reality shows on TV, I got more confident.
How long have you been campaigning for Shiv Sena and the BJP and participating in their rallies?
At the time of Lok Sabha elections, both Shiv Sena and the BJP were working together, so I got to work for both. I campaigned for almost all the candidates and I used to conduct some five-six rallies each day. I’d leave early in the morning and come back only late at night. One thing is that whoever I have campaigned for — be it a candidate from Shiv Sena or from the BJP — they have always been elected and won the seat. Suddenly, there’s a lot of demand that I should be a part of rallies because of my face.
So are there any aspirations to join politics eventually?
I don’t work for money. I have done so much campaigning and put in all my hard work, but I have never taken a single penny from any political party or candidates. I worked during Lok Sabha elections with the vision that Modiji should become the PM.
Who ensures your security and safety at crowded rallies?
Once, I was called to attend a function ‘Chai Pe Charcha’ in Dharavi and people started pelting stones at me. The moment I entered, went up to the stage, gave the speech and inaugurated the event, the mob got out of control. The person who threw the stone ran away, but party workers shielded me and brought me back to the car safely. The problem is when you get hit or you bleed in public, it becomes national news. Otherwise, whenever I get a call from a party to come for their campaigning, I make sure to do everything in a systematic way and take everything in writing, like whether they’ll provide me with security or should I bring along my own. I follow these rules and remain strict about them. Also, I do have my own bodyguard with me all the time; he doesn’t let the public come close to me. And somehow it’s required because Modiji is on the hit-list even today, so I take proper measures to ensure that nothing goes wrong with me just because of the resemblance.
One best moment that you’d like to share with us?
When I share the same platform with so many big leaders and ministers during rallies, the public gets so excited to see me, thinking I am the real Narendra Modi. It feels great to see such love. Bolna nahi chahiye, but I get so many flying kisses [from the women] that you cannot imagine.
And any really scary experience?
Once I was chased by a gang of men around midnight, while I was returning from a rally and was driving home alone. They shouted and asked me to stop and I could make out from their attitude that something was wrong. So without thinking, I stepped on the accelerator, jumped all signals and didn’t stop anywhere.
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