The BJP’s Shatrughan Prasad Sinha thinks big: as a film star, he sees himself at par with Amitabh Bachchan and in politics, he compares himself to Congress President Sonia Gandhi.
Sinha on Bachchan first: “He bagged several roles originally written for me. We were friends till he became famous. He is only an inch taller than me but cameras do little justice to my height.” Sinha is known to regularly arrive late for shooting, while Bachchan always reaches on the dot. Sinha’s take: “Greatness and punctuality are two different things. I reach 15 minutes before pack-up and do a scene without a retake.”
On Sonia Gandhi, he says: “She Sonia, I Sonu (as he is popularly known); she December 9 born, I ditto; she living in 10 Janpath, I in 10 Talkatora (in New Delhi).” Each time Sinha wants his disillusionment with the BJP known, he hobnobs with the Congress or claims familiarity with Lalu Prasad Yadav. If Sonia was specially invited to watch his play, Pati, patni aur main, Sinha was the only BJP member present at Yadav’s daughter’s wedding. Sinha has often cried ‘wolf’ but has not parted company with the party that brought him into Parliament. His regret: the BJP sufficiently used his oratorical skills but took exceptionally long to induct him into the cabinet. That there are stories of what a disaster he was as a minister is another matter. Sinha says, “Slander campaign. I was effective, I checked corruption, ended coterie politics and brought in transparency. Given that I am not corrupt, a criminal or a womaniser, what can my critics say?”
But then Sinha is not exactly a saint. During his film career, his name was notoriously linked with several co-stars. His wife, Poonam, also a former Miss India, was forced into a 14-year vanvaas (exile) before they finally married. She was lovestruck, as was he when he first set eyes on her. The day he bought cine star Sharmila Tagore’s second-hand car, he proposed to Poonam. Her family rejected him on grounds that a “Bihari goonda” (ruffian) like him was no match for her. Sinha moved on, but Poonam was adamant. Had it not been for the white sari she decided to wear, which moved Sinha’s mother, he may have married another.
Sinha’s parents were childless till they actually “applied” to Ramramapati Bank in Varanasi. This particular bank does not accept cash deposits; it only accepts entries in the name of Lord Ram. Want a child? Apply with Ram’s name written on the form 1,25,000 times. Turn vegetarian for a year and you will be blessed with a child. The embargo: not more than four applications per couple. Shatrughan and his siblings are a result of four such ‘applications’. Having visited it, Sinha believes that he and his three brothers are “bank children”.