In 1977, Amar Akbar Anthony was released across the country. The movie, which featured Vinod Khanna in the role of a police officer, was a super hit. A young Samrendra working with the RSS in Batala was then doing his graduation from Baring Union Christian College. He saw the film with his friends. “I was so impressed with the role. I could never imagine then that I would spend a large part of my life with him,” he says.
Dr Samrendra Sharma, now the principal of SMDR SD College in Pathankot, is Khanna’s point man in this semi-hill town of Punjab.
But the story does not end here. Dr Dinesh, Dr Samrendra Sharma’s younger brother who followed his footsteps to do a PhD in English literature and is now principal of SRPA AB College, the other big college in Pathankot, is Khanna’s intellectual guide.
The two brothers handle Khanna’s election war room.
“I write slogans for him. Taking a cue from his filmy dialogues, I write lines for his campaigning. Earlier I gave him lines that had the thrust of an angry man. I have just prepared a dialogue which say‘ ‘yeh haath nahin faansi ka fanda hai. Yeh haath nahin bhrishtachaar ka fanda hai’.
He is an actor and is expected to speak good lines. But I will have to see if this will be cleared by the election authorities,” he adds. Khanna has been MP from Gurdaspur thrice. His hat trick was broken in 2009 when he lost to Congress candidate Pratap Singh Bajwa.
How has Khanna’s journey been as a candidate?
“First, people loved his persona, then the person and now his heart. He is a spiritual man who knows sacrifice. He left Bollywood at the height of his career to join Osho’s ashram. His spirituality and goodness makes him win,” says Dr Dinesh.
Always contending with the “outsider” tag, Khanna bought a house in Pathankot some years ago. Now lives here and goes to Mumbai for work. Khanna’s campaign style has remained the same. He meets people, speaks very little, is not garrulous and makes his point softly but surely.
“Gurdaspur is my fifth child,” says Khanna to his voters. “I am biased and love it the most,” he says. He works till late in the night, meeting people.
“But he cannot start too early in the morning. He wants to complete his meditation before he starts his day,” adds Dr Dinesh.
As his campaign secretary, Dr Sharma feels things have changed a lot over the years.
“When there were not so many restraints from the Election Commission of India there used to be a different way of campaigning. There was more shor and more colour. Now everything is subdued. That time there was nothing like the social media. Now we have a team taking care of Vinodji’s posts on the social media,” says Dr Sharma.