Gujarati cinema icons hit campaign trail
They sing, they dance and they deliver speeches full of histrionics as their audiences blow shrill whistles in appreciation.india Updated: Dec 06, 2002 09:50 IST
Meet actor Naresh Kanodia, considered the Amitabh Bachchan of Gujarati cinema, who is trying to wrest the Karjan assembly constituency in Vadodara district from the opposition Congress party.
The glamorous candidate of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has the able assistance of his equally talented older brother Mahesh, among the top playback singers in Gujarat.
Mahesh -- who is known as Gujarat's Lata Mangeshkar because he also sings in a female voice -- is, naturally, lending his melodious voice to his brother's campaign.
Naresh, who is best known for playing a legendary warrior saint in "Vir Bhathiji Maharaj", has been banking on that image to pull in votes. Bhathiji Maharaj had died protecting cows, animals that many Hindus revere.
Though the BJP has never won in Karjan, a largely rural constituency, Naresh is hoping his portrayal of Bhathiji Maharaj would draw the support of the constituency's mostly socially underprivileged electors who worship the saint.
Most villages in the Karjan area have temples dedicated to Bhathiji Maharaj.
So Naresh and Mahesh, who has been a BJP MP, begin the day with prayers to the saint and then lead processions. The actor dons Bhathiji's famous turban, sword and robe every morning as he moves from village to village riding a horse, as the saint was portrayed in the film.
The candidate's speeches begin and end with "Vir Bhathiji Maharaj ki jai" (Hail the brave Bhathiji Maharaj).
Then begins what is perhaps the most colourful and entertaining campaign for the December 12 elections. While Mahesh belts out popular Gujarati songs, Naresh dances on. The duo has also made parodies of hit Gujarati songs to take digs at the Congress party.
"People come and touch my feet as if I am Bhathiji Maharaj," said a beaming Naresh Kanodia.
Added Mahesh: "I am helping my brother as he helped me win a Lok Sabha election earlier. Neither of us is complete without the other. We are a duo, and entertainment is our life."
While their star value is pulling in the crowds, local BJP workers aren't sure whether the curious onlookers would actually vote for the Amitabh Bachchan of Gujarati cinema.