It is 9.30 am at Chhindwara’s Slim and Trim Ladies and Gents Health Club. A few men move hurriedly from the treadmill to the rowing machine; some others lift weights, one eye keenly watching themselves in the mirror. Shantanu Ghosh walks in. Shrugging off his leather jacket, he takes position on the floor, raising his lithe body upwards with his arms, his feet on the armrests of the bench press machine. With the dexterity of a mantis, Ghosh, 31, proceeds to perform push-ups at a 60-degree angle. The rest of the men watch him, muscles and jaws slack with envy. As if on cue, speakers blare out Jumme ki Raat, a dance number from Kick. The Junior Salman Khan of Nagpur has made his “entry”. He grimaces in concentration, sweat dripping down his chiselled chest. On a poster above Ghosh’s head, a shirtless “Bhai” glowers in approval.
“Jai Salman,” says Ghosh into his mobile phone a few minutes later. Plans are made quickly, he is mobilising his friends-cum-fans for a photoshoot for us, the first mediawale to visit him from outside Nagpur. “Tu aa sakta hai? Bas, dus minute ke liye, photo khichenge,” he says. At the bus stop in Chhindwara, a town in Madhya Pradesh with more gyms than restaurants, men start to take notice of him, a small but muscular man sporting a worn-out leather jacket in the sweltering heat. “Kya aap Salman Khan ho?” asks one. Ghosh laughs; the lookalike is flattered and satisfied to have been mistaken for the original celebrity.
This encounter, one of many that take place during the course of a day, is a run-up to his big moment in the sun. Ghosh’s Facebook page has over a thousand “likes”; a local politician recently sent over an Audi to pick him up for a birthday party; and he even has his own fan club, a brotherhood of young men united by the Bhai code of conduct. But for the first time, Ghosh is on the cusp of probable fame. Being Bhaijaan, a documentary film about him by filmmakers Shabani Hassanwalia and Samreen Farooqui, is due for release on September 2 at PSBT’s annual Open Frame film festival.
Ghosh is excited about the role and the possibility that maybe, just maybe, the Bollywood actor will now be apprised of his existence. “Did you watch Kick? Usme Bhai ne 51 social messages diye hai. I want to do social work like him and with him. He is my inspiration and my face is god’s gift,” says Ghosh, not as nonchalantly as he would like. What could have been yet another ordinary, middle-class life spent in Chhindwara changed irrevocably the day Ghosh looked into the mirror and saw a star staring back at him.
“I have big eyes like Salmanbhai but as a youngster, I never thought that I looked like him. I wasn’t even a fan, I continued…