That Paresh Rawal is playing Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a biopic is old news. The yet untitled film is currently at the writing stage, and shooting is likely to begin in September-October, the veteran actor recently informed a leading national daily. He is also bankrolling the project.
Paresh Rawal is of course not new to biopics. He had earlier played the title role in director Ketan Mehta’s Sardar (1993), a biographical drama film based on the life and works of one of the most revered freedom fighters in India, Vallabhbhai Patel. The film won critical acclaim, particularly for the realistic portrayal of Patel’s differences with the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru.
But not many are aware that Paresh Rawal had played a rip-off of Modi’s political rival Lalu Prasad Yadav in a 1998 film. Titled Dand-Nayak, the film had Naseeruddin Shah, Ayesha Jhulka, Manek Bedi, and Inder Kumar in major roles.
Paresh Rawal played Bankhelal Chaurasia a simpleton from Uttar Pradesh who comes to Bombay (now Mumbai) in search of work. He starts a business of raising and keeping buffaloes, and selling milk. Bankhelal gets involved in petty crimes to earn easy money. He gets involved in a crime syndicate and soon rises up the ranks to emerge as a don in the Bombay underworld. People begin to call him Bhaiyaji.
But Bankhelal only fears police inspector Vishal Sharma (Naseeruddin), his bête noire. Vishal, who has a reputation to complete his mission by all means, has sworn to put Bankhelal behind bars.
Paresh Rawal as Bhiaiyaji, dressed, walked and talked like the Rashtriya Janata Dal chief in Dand-Nayak. Even his hairstyle in the film resembled that of Lalu Prasad. It may be recalled that the former Bihar chief minister, now in prison, had once famously said that he looks like Dilip Kumar with Sadhana hairstyle.
At the time when Dand-Nayak was being made, Lalu was found involved in the fodder scam and was jailed as an undertrial. He earned infamy for alleged nepotism, tender racketeering, land grabbing, widespread corruption, and several other crimes.
Biopics were not popular in Hindi films until recently. They were even rarer in the nineties. Dand-Nayak director Sikander Bharti had told the media back then that Bhaiyaji was shown involved in every possible crime. But they kept one escape route. They didn’t show Bhaiyaji as a politician, and neither was Lalu’s name mentioned anywhere in the film to avoid legal hassles, Bharti had said.
Dand-Nayak bombed badly at the box office. Made at a budget of ₹2.25 crore, it raked in ₹1.47 crore in box office collections and was declared a flop. But it was Paresh Rawal’s caricature of Lalu Prasad Yadav which is still remembered by the audience.
Paresh Rawal is a BJP lawmaker from the Ahmedabad East constituency.