Actor. TV anchor. Talk show host. Reality show judge. Singer. And now, politician. Meet Shekhar Suman, the Congress candidate who will be vying with the BJP’s Shatrughan Sinha for the Patna Sahib parliamentary seat in the coming elections.
The clash of the Bihari babus of Bollywood has already generated considerable media interest. New entrant Suman insists that his political aspirations were fuelled by his inability to build a centre for pediatric cardiology in his hometown after his son Aayush’s untimely demise.
“Even though my father, Dr Phani Bhushan Prasad, is an eminent surgeon, I found it difficult to get support for my hospital and realised that you needed political standing to do common good,” he asserts.
Those on the sidelines — like designer-turned-politician Shaina NC — believe that Suman, a political greenhorn, doesn’t stand much of a chance against Sinha, who is an experienced politician. “Shatrughan Sinha been associated with the BJP for decades; he’s served as a cabinet minister and has interacted with voters at large,” she says. “The public will have more faith in a proven candidate rather than a new face”.
Furthermore, Suman is aware that without the RJD’s support, the Congress is disadvantaged in Bihar: “We don’t have a local base there. This is the first time we will be fighting the elections alone,” he says continuing with a smile: “In that sense, I’ve joined the weakest party and cannot be accused of being a political opportunist”.
So what will happen if Sinha wins? Will Suman join hands with him to work for a cause? He shrugs, “If one door closes, 10 others open. Now that I’ve jumped in, I plan to stay on and do something for my city, which is as decrepit as ever,” he says.
Sudha Chandran, the actor’s co-star in Naache Mayuri and Pati Parmeshwar, says that Suman has always been a survivor. “I’ve seen him ride the rough patches — be it his son’s death or career lows — to become the most saleable face on TV. Shekhar doesn’t do anything erratically. Once he takes a decision, he forges ahead,” she says.
As Suman gets ready to hit the campaign trail, you wonder if his actor son Adhyayan will also be joining him. “I’d like to have him around provided he can bear the heat. He’s used to air-conditioned luxury. Being on the road will give him a taste of the real world. Sitting in the drawing room and criticising the government for everything that’s gone wrong is easy... I’ve done it on my TV shows too,” he says with wry humour.
Suman’s lampooning ways are well known – he’s spoofed everyone from Atal Bihari Vajpayee to Lalu Yadav on his TV shows. Now it’s his turn to be at the receiving end. “Anyone’s welcome to try. I don’t mind being on the other side of the firing line. Being on shows like The Great Indian Laughter Challenge and Comedy Circus, I’ve learnt to laugh at myself and life’s problems,” he philosophises. Flexing his muscles, he quips. “I’m probably the only politician who can boast of a six pack and a ready smile.”
Could his son’s steady date, Kangana Ranaut’s star power come in handy too? “I don’t need anyone outside of my family. Kangana is close to Adhyayan but having her around would only create security problems,” he says.
Okay, how about Rekha, considering he is still remembered as the actor who flagged off his career while seducing the ultimate male fantasy? “I hope I can seduce the voters now,” he laughs. “I’d love to have Rekha rooting for me. That would be the real Utsav.”