’I am the original’: Modi lookalike hits campaign trail

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In this file photo taken on April 10, 2014, Indian businessman Vikas Mahante, a lookalike of India's Narendra Modi who won the prime minister position in the 2014 election, speaks on the phone as he prepares for an election campaign event in Mumbai. (AFP)
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In this photograph taken on April 17, 2019, Abhinandan Pathak, a lookalike of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, speaks with youths as he campaigns in a national election bid as an independent candidate in Lucknow in India's Uttar Pradesh state. (AFP)
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In this photograph taken on April 17, 2019, Abhinandan Pathak, a lookalike of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, gestures as he campaigns in a national election bid as an independent candidate in Lucknow in India's Uttar Pradesh state. (AFP)
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In this file photo taken on April 10, 2014, Indian businessman Vikas Mahante, a lookalike of India's Narendra Modi who won the prime minister position in the 2014 election, arrive for an election campaign event in Mumbai. (AFP)
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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives to address a rally ahead of Phase VI of India's general election in Allahabad on May 9, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 13 May 2019
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’I am the original’: Modi lookalike hits campaign trail

  • The 57-year-old businessman, who even played Modi in a little-known 2017 biopic, has been the star attraction at rallies

LUCKNOW, India: His white beard neatly trimmed and a sleeveless jacket thrown over his traditional Indian shirt, Abhinandan Pathak turns heads thanks to an uncanny resemblance to the country’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
But Pathak — almost the same height and build as the PM, and who even walks in a similar way — is no ordinary doppelganger.
Bitter at Modi’s “failed promises,” Pathak is running as an independent against Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India’s marathon election — and is getting a lot of support.
The largest election on Earth wraps up on Sunday May 19, after seven weeks of intense campaigning and the votes of 900 million Indians.
“The anger (toward Modi) is real. I can feel it wherever I go,” Pathak, 58, told AFP from his one-room shanty home in the northern city of Lucknow, in India’s most populous state Uttar Pradesh.
When Modi was first elected in 2014, Pathak was a supporter. Because of his resemblance to the premier, people “adored me, they asked for selfies and hugged me.”
“I was showered with love. People thought that if they can’t meet the real Modi, they might as well meet me,” he said.
“But now they get angry when they see me. They ask me ‘where are the good days’,” he said, after Modi’s 2014 election slogan “achhe din ayenge” (“good days will come“).
Pathak’s brightest moment came in May 2014, when he says Modi hugged him during a victory parade in the city of Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh.
But it was all downhill after that. He was ignored by the party and his many letters to Modi went unanswered, Pathak said.

Lookalike candidates are nothing new in the colorful world of Indian politics. Their presence invariably invokes curiosity, with crowds thronging to catch a glimpse of the duplicates.
In Mumbai, another Modi lookalike — Vikas Mahante — has been out and about on the campaign trail in a district of the city, and on a BJP ticket.
The 57-year-old businessman, who even played Modi in a little-known 2017 biopic, has been the star attraction at rallies.
But it can get hairy. Once people threw stones at him and he had to be rushed to safety. Now the lookalike has his own bodyguard.
“Once I was chased by a gang of men around midnight while I was returning from a rally,” he told the Hindustan Times daily in 2017.
“(I) stepped on the accelerator, jumped all signals and didn’t stop anywhere.”

In 2014, Prashant Sethi lapped up being a dead ringer for Rahul Gandhi, the scion of the country’s Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty and Modi’s main challenger in both the 2014 and 2019 elections.
Sethi, who sells fried chicken in Surat in the western state of Gujarat, was reportedly offered a film role too.
But now the Modi supporter has had enough. He has transformed his look: putting on weight, growing a beard and changing his hairstyle — all to look different from Gandhi.
“Me and my family have been supporters of the BJP since the beginning. But because of my look I was always teased,” Sethi told AFP.
“People had started calling me pappu,” he said, referring to a common nickname — used by Gandhi’s detractors — for slightly stupid individuals.
“So I had to change my look,” he said.
But back in Lucknow feisty father-of-six Pathak has no wish to change.
“Why should I? I have been in politics since the 90s and I have always sported the beard and kurta,” he said, referring to a traditional Indian long-sleeved shirt, and showing a picture from his younger days.
“I am the original one, Modi is my lookalike.”


Outlandish ‘Cats’ film trailer gives the Internet paws

Updated 20 July 2019
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Outlandish ‘Cats’ film trailer gives the Internet paws

  • Many on Twitter voiced uneasiness over the peculiar sexiness of the humanized cats
  • Cats for a time held the record for the longest-running musical on both Broadway and the West End

NEW YORK: A tribe of cats with names like Rum Tum Tugger, who sing, dance and hold an annual ball to choose who will ascend to feline heaven for reincarnation?
Yes, that’s the plot of “Cats” — and somehow the new trailer for the upcoming live action film adaptation of the famed musical looks even trippier than it sounds.
This week’s release of the teaser for the film — which stars Taylor Swift, Idris Elba, Ian McKellen, James Corden, Jason Derulo, Judi Dench and the Royal Ballet’s Francesca Hayward — had the Internet losing its mind, leaving some viewers mystified, others haunted over the unnerving mashup of the actors’ real faces and feline bodies, all cloaked with “digital fur technology.”
As Jennifer Hudson, who plays Grizabella, belts out the musical’s classic song “Memory,” the band of kitties who call themselves the Jellicles twirl through a remarkably large home decked out in opulent shades of burgundy and olive, with bizarrely enormous chandeliers and furniture on which the cats romp.
Many on Twitter voiced uneasiness over the peculiar sexiness of the humanized cats, particularly the breast-like furry mounds on some of their chests, with some wearing jewels and extra fur coats.

“My brain has melted. My eyes are bleeding. There is no god,” said one Twitter user, @KristyPuchko.
“the CATS trailer is proof of a conspiracy theory i’ve long believed — that rich people have different, much better drugs,” tweeted another, @BrandyLJensen.
Swift plays Bombalurina — the flirty cat, who is sometimes, well, catty — while Dench plays Old Deuteronomy, the boss cat who chooses which feline gets a ticket to the “Heavenside Layer” to be reborn.
The sung-through musical “Cats” — composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber and based on T.S. Eliot’s poetry collection “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” — premiered at London’s West End in 1981, becoming a decorated global phenomenon and grossing $2 billion worldwide by 1994.
For a time, it held the record for the longest-running musical on both Broadway and the West End, and has been translated into 15 languages.
The Universal Pictures feature film directed by Tom Hooper, who did 2012’s “Les Miserables,” is set to premiere December 20, 2019.
But some say their lives already are forever changed only after seeing the fantasy musical’s trailer.
Others acted unmoved.
“I don’t know why you’re all freaking out over miniature yet huge cats with human celebrity faces and sexy breasts performing a demented dream ballet for kids,” tweeted @louisvirtel.