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A God Man for real?

A soon-to-release film, Swaha, has characters admittedly inspired by Asaram Bapu, Govinda, Subhash Ghai and two netas who go by the name of Deshmukh and Shinde.

india Updated: Feb 17, 2010 19:12 IST
Hiren Kotwani

Film folk are a superstitious bunch. They believe in lucky stones, auspicious muhurats and God Men who inspire blind trust. It’s these babas who have inspired producer Pravin Bharadwaj’s soon-to-release film, Swaha.

Bharadwaj frankly admits that Ishrat Ali’s character in the film, Asanandji Maharaj, has been modelled on Asaram Bapu.

The fourth child of a wealthy businessman, Aasumal Sirumalani, has over the years transformed into self-realised spiritual guru, Sant Shri Asaram Bapu who is headquartered in Ahmedabad, but has 350 ashrams scattered across the globe and a following among the rich and the famous. It’s easy to draw parallels between reel and real life.

An aide calls up the guru in the movie directed by Manoj Sharma, to ask if Chi Chi bhaiya should report for a 9 am shift. Asanandji tells him that the star should arrive on the sets only at 5 pm and give his first shot at 5:30 pm,” informs Bharadwaj.

No prizes for guessing that the muse for Chi Chi bhaiya’s character is Govinda who goes by that nickname too. The actor is infamous for his andh-vishwas (blind faith) on auspicious timings, dates and colours. Bharadwaj admits that this particular sequence is based on what he’s read about the actor.

No lights, no problem
After the actor reports for work, eight hours late, there’s a generator failure. Immediately, the aide is on the phone with Asanandji who reassures him saying that even if there’s no light, Chi Chi bhaiya should give his shot at 5.30 pm. That will ensure that the film is a hit.

Whoa!
There’s more. Subhash Ghai, who is still to recover from the debacle of Yuvvraaj, is also being parodied in the film. A filmmaker by the name of Sudesh Ghai goes to Asanandji to mourn the failure of Yugraj. And is told that his film flopped because of the title.

Political control
Bharadwaj has also included two ministers, Deshmukh and Shinde, who consult the guru over distribution of seats in the elections.

When quizzed on allusions to Vilasrao Deshmukh and Sushil Kumar Shinde, Bharadwaj says, “No, there are similarities there. I brought them in to underline the fact that not just the filmis, even politicians consult these babas whose ashrams are important power centers.”

The idea came to him after watching features on news channels. “Such sant-mahatmas become God Men with assets worth Rs 3,000-4,000 crore,” he points out, adding that a couple of his friends went to Asaram Bapu’s ashram in Goregaon undercover to ferret out information.

Bharadwaj spent almost Rs 1 crore to replicate the ashram at Madh Island for the shoot.

In one scene, an aide calls up the guru to ask if his actor-boss, Chi Chi bhaiya, should report for a 9 am shift. “Asanandji tells him that the star should arrive on the sets only at 5 pm and give his first shot at 5:30 pm,” informs producer Pravin Bharadwaj.

No prizes for guessing that the muse for Chi Chi bhaiya’s character is Govinda who goes by that nickname too. The actor is infamous for his andh-vishwas (blind faith) on auspicious timings, dates and colours. Bharadwaj admits that this particular sequence is based on what he’s read about the actor.