DHO DALA Sachin is homeless, while Sehwag is planning to move on by starting his own business
The World Cup debacle has hit the lookalikes of cricket stars very hard. Ketan Tanna on how some of them have gone broke after commercials and stage shows were suddenly cancelled
It was his dream to buy a one-room flat on the outer fringes of Mumbai. He had verbally fixed the deal with a broker for about four lakh rupees. His loan had been passed and he was certain that the balance amount would be raised in a matter of days. After all, 37-year-old Balbir Chand, the duplicate of Sachin Tendulkar, was being sought after in many advertisements and stage shows as the World Cup fever was rising. Then, on the 23rd of March, India lost to Sri Lanka. Sachin went for a duck. Suddenly, nobody wanted Balbir.
The next day, Balbir placed a call to Sahlon, some 50 kilometres from Ludhiana in Punjab where his wife and three kids were eagerly awaiting his call. They were supposed to join him once he bought the flat. But what Balbir told his wife was that he would not be able to send them any money for a few months. â€œI told her to manage the house without money for some time,â€ says Balbir, his voice choking.
Balbir was a ward boy at the Dayanand Medical College Hospital in Ludhiana for well over seven years earning around Rs 1,500 a month till advertisers discovered him. In 2001, he moved to Mumbai. Life was good then. Every advertisement or stage show or even election campaign appearance fetched him anywhere between Rs 2,000 and Rs 15,000. Work was not consistent but on an average, he made Rs 10,000 a month, half of which went to feeding his wife and kids, and other family members in Punjab. He was featured in advertisements of Hero Honda Majestic, TVS Victor, Visa Power, MRF and Boost among others. Now, the bounty has ended. â€œOrganisers who used to hound me have stopped calling and are now not taking my calls,â€ he says. Neighbours and friends have been taunting him since Indiaâ€™s unceremonious exit. â€œI do not meet anyone, I just stay at home,â€ he says.
Jeevan Varma is among the few who can fully understand the trauma of Balbir. Varma is a clone of Virendra Sehwag whose only consolation is that, â€œnobody expected anything from me as Sehwag was out of form.â€ The 29-year-old bachelor was once a hosiery merchant. Even though some lucrative deals have fallen through, he feels he is luckier than Balbir. â€œI used to work as a garment producer and would make Rs 5,000 a month. Then people started comparing me to Sehwag and I shifted to Mumbai to make a career out of it.
Sachin and Sehwag, Balbir and Varma, were till recently a package in the eyes of advertisers and show organisers. They were usually featured together. The duo also acted in Bombay to Goa (a remake of the earlier film) for which they were paid about Rs 10,000 each.
â€œDuring the World Cup, I thought I would be in many shows. I wanted to use the money for training myself in anchoring and improving my acting. I also thought of buying a flat. But, Sehwag nahi chala. I am puzzled why the entire team did not perform,â€ says Varma. Indiaâ€™s exit from the World Cup has reminded him of the uncertainties of showbiz and has made him determined enough to start his own business. â€œI have certain business plans which I am working on. I canâ€™t go on living this way,â€ he says, looking a bit dejected.
Thousands of kilometers away in Ludhiana, Ravi Verma, also known as Dhoni, says that for now he would concentrate on his job as a medical representative. The 23-year-old used to make between Rs 2,000 and 5,000 for every day he worked as a Dhoni clone. The World Cup hysteria, he had hoped, would help him buy some gadgets. But that was not meant to be. â€œStrangers are coming up to me and berating me. I let them get their steam off. If they have the right to love Dhoni, they should have the right to question him when he does not perform,â€ he says philosophically.
The Irfan Pathan look-alike from Punjab, shares the fate of the other clones. â€œSome people have threatened to beat me up, but I know they will not. I let them vent,â€ he says.
Of all the popular clones, the only person who has come unscathed is Jatin Jambudiwala who, appropriately it might seem, looks like Sourav Ganguly. The 29-year-old works with Asian Paints in Ankleshwar, Gujarat, as a system administrator. Being Ganguly in ads and stage shows was nothing more than a hobby. â€œGanguly was out of the team for over year and therefore people were not expecting much from him in the first place. Yes, I did lose a couple of advertisements and local events, but that is ok with me,â€ he says.
For the other duplicates who are facing similar crises, there may be hope in the fine art of satire. MTV recently hired some of them for a dayâ€™s work at the rate of Rs 7,000 for a spoof. Dwarfs are dressed as the Bangladeshi cricket team. Sachin, Sehwag and the rest of the Indian team play a match and lose, of course. Then they press the legs of the Bangladeshi players, shouting slogans like â€œJeetega bhai jeetega, Bangladesh Jeetega.â€TNN