‘Not deep-fake, it was me!’ says PM’s doppelganger over garba's clip
Vikas Mahante who runs a steel packaging business in Malad found his personal fortunes turning with Narendra Modi’s rise in public life
Mumbai: Last week the Prime Minister cautioned the country about the dangers posed by deep fake images and videos generated using Artificial Intelligence. To illustrate his point, he referred to a video of him playing the garba with a group of women that has gained wide traction on social media. “The reality is that I have not played the garba since I left school, I have been a victim of a deep fake video,” he told journalists in Delhi.
The prime minister was correct in pointing out that it wasn’t him in the video but neither was his image being manipulated using AI. Instead, as a businessman from Mumbai pointed out on Monday-- half sheepish, half proud-- that it was actually a case of him, Modi’s doppelganger, being mistaken for deep fake.
Vikas Mahante who runs a steel packaging business in Malad found his personal fortunes turning with Narendra Modi’s rise in public life. Mahante bears an uncanny resemblance to the Prime Minister and these days finds himself in increasing demand from Modi’s legion of admirers across the world to make an appearance at their functions. One such person is the UK-based Pankaj Sodha who flew Mahante to London to participate in his family’s pre-Diwali festivities. It was at one of those functions that Mahante was filmed playing the garba with the women in Sodha’s family, and which has become contentious since.
On Monday, Mahante who is a good 10 years younger than the prime minister, issued a video statement clarifying the mistake. “I am often invited to functions in India and abroad where I try and convey Modiji’s thoughts and ideas,” he said. “I wanted to clarify that the video is not deep fake but that it’s me, Vikas Mahante in that video. I am a businessman, and an artiste.”
The video clip featuring him dressed like the PM and looking like the PM have been circulating on social media without offering the all-important context, misleading several people into thinking that it is indeed prime minister Modi playing the garba, making his clarification important.
Mahante said he had met Modi only once in 2013 when he was introduced to him by the Gujrat MLA Ramanbhai Patkar in Gandhinagar. “We spoke for a bit but I was not allowed to take a photograph with him,” he said. Mahante has a steel-packaging unit in Vasai but these days it’s his sons who manage it. He himself is often busy attending various ribbon-cutting ceremonies and other functions he is invited to by BJP supporters. In November alone, he had attended 8 such events including the one in London. His dates, he told HT, were booked from December onwards as part of preliminary electioneering work.
“I have been working right from 2014 to spread the message of BJP, I have campaigned for many people including MP Arvind Sawant, Gajanan Kirtikar, Poonam Mahajan, Rahul Shewale, Gopal Shetty, Chintaman Wanga and several others. My job is to stand on a truck with the candidates when they go for roadshows and even make short speeches occasionally,’’ said Mahante who is hopeful that the party will eventually reward him with greater responsibility. He does get paid for his efforts but refused to divulge his fee. In fact, he said, sharing a clip of the film’s teaser, he is starring in a Modi biopic which is likely to be released early next year after clearance from the PM. He had spent several hours, he said watching Modi’s videos and though he tried to speak like him, he did not always succeed in sounding like him.