KASARGOD: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is yet to get into the electioneering groove in Karnataka. He may be keeping his best for the last. But if Kannada movie 'Statement 8/11' hits theatres soon, his lookalike M P Ramachandran may steal the limelight from the BJP's star campaigner. The party will, of course, not complain as the movie extols demonetisation as the 'perfect punishment' for the corrupt.
He is the same person who broke the internet last July because of his uncanny similarity with Modi. With a duffel bag strapped over his shoulder, Ramachandran (64) was waiting for a train to Bangalore when a college student took his snap and posted it on Facebook with the caption: Modi in Payyannur railway station.
When he reached Bangalore the next day on July 12, photographers and reporters were waiting for him at the station. Stardom was thrust on him, and he was forced to make rounds to TV studios.
For a person who took an early retirement to enjoy a secluded life, it was too much. He got a shave and escaped back to Mathil, his ancestral village in Cherupuzha pachayat of Kannur district.
After seeing his photographs splashed in newspapers in Bangalore, producer K H Venu and director Appi Prasad came to his village in September with an offer. "They wanted me to act as the Prime Minister in their movie on demonetisation," he said.
He says they already had a script but on seeing his photos, they tweaked it to introduce Modi in the movie.
The budget movie was slated for release on Friday (April 27) -- right in the middle of electioneering -- but was put off because of "some technical issues", he said.
It starts with Modi's announcement to ban Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 currency notes, and "shows how the decision changed society". "I think the movie is neither negative nor positive. But yes, it was made by a group of youngsters who are sympathetic to Modi," he said.
Ramachandran worked as a stenographer in a steel company in Mumbai for 30 years. He then worked in a construction company in Saudi Arabia for 10 years. When he turned 51, he took retirement to "lead a secluded life". "I worked just long enough to ensure my two sons got jobs," he said. They are IT professionals in Mumbai and Bangalore. His wife lives with his second son in Bangalore.
Post retirement, he started travelling to holy places. "I have been to Rishikesh, Haridwar, Dwarka, Vrindavan, Kashi," he said. When he is not travelling, he is immersed in books.
But when Modi's political star started rising, Ramachandran too started getting attention, he said. "Once a group of pilgrims wanted to take photographs with me in Rishikesh. Then Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat," he said. In Srinagar, armymen too requested to take a selfie with him.
Back home, neighbours started calling him 'Modi Sir'. "Children started calling me Modi uncle. Initially, I felt strange and then I started liking it," he said. Then the Facebook post happened.
'Yes to movies'
Though he did not have a movie background, he enjoyed acting in the movie. "The shooting happened in Bangalore and Coorg for two days. But I know I got the offer because of my looks," he said. "I am not expecting another offer to act, but if comes by, I will say yes," he said.
No to campaigning
But he ruled out campaigning for any political party. "I did the movie because of my respect for the Prime Minister. But I am not into any political party," he said. When asked if any party had approached him to be its campaigner in Karnataka, he said: "That I will leave it to Modi."