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Thursday, July 09, 2020

Patriotism trumps anxiety of earning livelihood for Pune’s TikTok Bachchan

Shashikant Pedwal’s journey from entertaining crowds on stage in Dhule, near Nashik, to making appearances at grand weddings and corporate events in Chicago, New Jersey, Doha and Dubai, among others, happened almost entirely because of TikTok.

Written by Dipanita Nath | Pune | Published: June 30, 2020 11:28:49 pm
TikTok star, Chinese app ban, Tiktok ban, Pune news, Indian express news Pedwal is a professor at the Government Industrial Training Institute in Aundh and joined the platform in 2016. (Representational)

Shashikant Pedwal was watching the news on Monday evening when the ticker showed that the Government of India had decided to ban a number of Chinese apps, including TikTok, the platform that had turned Pune-based Pedwal into an international sensation as an Amitabh Bachchan lookalike.

A few minutes later, the ban was confirmed as “breaking news”. Over the phone from his home in Shivajinagar the next morning, Pedwal, one of the city’s most famous TikTok stars, says, “Given how many soldiers gave their lives at the LAC, it is understandable that the government has banned Chinese apps. I stand by any decision that the Indian government takes.”

Pedwal’s journey from entertaining crowds on stage in Dhule, near Nashik, to making appearances at grand weddings and corporate events in Chicago, New Jersey, Doha and Dubai, among others, happened almost entirely because of TikTok. Pedwal is a professor at the Government Industrial Training Institute in Aundh and joined the platform in 2016.

In his TikTok videos, he is the mirror image of Big B. Sporting the Shahenshah’s trademark kurtas and jackets, with the signature grey beard and salt-and-pepper hair, Pedwal would lip sync to hit songs like Jumma Chumma from Hum and revisit evergreen dialogues from films such as Deewar and Sholay. During the lockdown, he conducted live sessions in which he recited, in Bachchan’s famous baritone, verses from poems such as Madhushala to motivate people. Each post gets more than 8 million views and almost 30,000 comments. He had 1.50 lakh followers.

The online fame translated into invitations for events from across India as well as the world, and Pedwal suddenly found himself in and out of airplanes. He also visits cancer hospitals in the guise of Bachchan to cheer up patients – a social service for which he does not charge.

What’s the future for TikTok’s Bachchan? Pedwal has been confined to his house as his college is closed during the lockdown. “Otherwise, I would be very busy during this time of the year with events and performances. I get almost 10 events every month and almost 15 during the peak season. I have my terms and conditions – I don’t travel anywhere by train and accept only those events where I can fly in and out,” he says.

Pedwal says that expenses at home are rising. His rent is around Rs 22,000 per month and he also has to pay EMI on an apartment he has bought. For the first time, he will not be putting up any videos of Amitabh Bachchan dancing or talking to TikTok audiences. “I don’t know if there is a platform as famous as TikTok, but am confident there is life after TikTok for performers such as myself. An Indian platform will rise and fill the vacuum and I will move there. The show will go on,” he says.

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