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Reel Gandhi in real

He has acted Gandhi in more than four Hindi films and serials. A painter, photographer and philanthropist, Surender Rajan is the face of Gandhi in reel life in India. RANA SIDDIQUI finds out a few more facts about this 63-year-old modern-day Gandhi.



Gandhi once more... this time Surender Rajan.

IN ONE morning of 1997, people in Mumbai saw Mahatma Gandhi moving at Marine Drive. They were amazed to see him. They believed that he had taken a rebirth. But looking at him from close quarters revealed that it wasn't Gandhi reborn but another Gandhi - of reel life. This Gandhi was 63-year-old Surender Rajan: the man from Reeva, Madhya Pradesh. If you leave Ben Kingsley in Richard Attenborough's "Gandhi", in India there is no Gandhi other than Surender Rajan in our Hindi serials or films.

In Raj Kumar Santoshi's "Shaheed Bhagat Singh" he was seen as Gandhi, also in "Veer Savarkar". And now he is again playing Gandhi in "Netaji", the story of the life of Subhash Chandra Bose, Sahara's mega film. These days he is seen as a handicapped man who gets up hearing National Anthem, an advertisement on NDTV, made by Gajraj Rao.

Rajan was otherwise bearded, he go it shaved for Arundhati Roy's film "Electric Moon". It is not difficult to identify real Gandhi from him. Gandhi's body language that became his trademark as frequent pause, ever-moving jaw, hindered dialogues and low voice, comes naturally to him. Hence, he does not have to make an effort to play Gandhi in any film or serial. Now he has several offers of "epic serials".

Who is this reel life Gandhi?

Basically a Graduate in Fine Arts from Lucknow, who would paint figurative drawn from everyday life, Rajan came to Delhi in 1970 to earn his living as an artist. He held many exhibitions here but soon got fed up with "creeping politicisation in arts". He left painting and took to camera "by chance". It was 1976, when Dharamvir Bharti was going to stage "Andha Yug" at the National School of Drama. He wanted to get the pictures of rehearsals. Then NSD had no appointed photographer. Rajan was asked to take some pictures from an old camera. Hence, he became the first official photographer of NSD! He made photography his profession, also received UNESCO Award for photography long back.

He is a poet too. Believe it or not he too sensitive to be other than a poet. Despite his illustrious background of zamindari in Lucknow and stints in films and serials that gave him enough flow of money, he remains one who travels by public transport, teaches acting, theatre and camera to anyone who approaches him and well, keeps a bag containing screwdriver, nails and tapes, etc.

Why?

"Anytime any neighbour's fan might go off, or power... " he reasons.

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