Here’s one that makes for some curious urban legend. It’s said that political bigwigs like Saddam Hussain or even American Presidents had body doubles who served as political decoys. Well, Osama Bin Laden might have passed away at the mercy of the American Marines but his body double’s still lurking around. Ssshh, this might just be Indian cinema’s most protected secret. Our very own Osama Bin Laden. Erm… or so we believed when we watched director Abhishek Sharma’s Tere Bin Laden in which Pradhuman Singh played the jovial avatar of the once World’s Most Wanted.
Mention Osama and Pradhuman rolls his eyes in disbelief, “I don’t think the Osama identity will ever part with my public image.” But he did look the part. “At first I wasn’t even convinced I would look anything like Osama. But Abhishek Sharma was convinced that I would. So after a few make-up tweaks and fancy dress trials, we were ready with my Osama image. When I looked at myself in the mirror, I wasn’t buying it but Abhishek was happy and so Tere Bin Laden happened.”
Being Osama on screen was no mean feat. Pradhuman was the archetypal office kind of guy when Abhishek hunted him down for the role. He was reeling in a nine to five blue collar job in a Delhi software firm and the waist line was fairly blooming. “I weighed more than 74 kgs at the time Abhishek offered me the role. My girth was flattering but I knew Osama couldn’t be even remotely podgy. So I lost around a dozen kilos and by the time we started shooting for Tere Bin Laden I’d slimmed down to about 60.” Pradhuman believes getting fit was a much-needed bonus. “I can’t complain. The preparation for the role made me feel healthier.”
The audience were convinced that Pradhuman was the spitting image of Osama but what of the bureaucracy? It wouldn’t have been a surprise if Pradhuman had found himself at the end of the FBI or Al Qaeda scopes. “No, no, no…” He says, “No such thing happened. Even before I signed on for the film I was worried about what it would do to my personal image. Thankfully, people took it on a light note. Touchwood, I’m glad Al Qaeda or the US Prez’s men have found no interest in me yet.” But Pradhuman admits he does occasionally get paranoid about stray choppers flying above his Delhi bungalow. “When Osama died I felt concerned about my safety. I was worried about every helicopter I heard hovering over my house. ‘What if they bomb my house?’ I kept asking myself.”
Funny thing is the media blitzkrieg that followed Osama’s much-publicised demise made its way to Pradhuman too. “This popular TV news channel wanted me to dress up like Osama and give them an exclusive interview. I wouldn’t have any of it. The media loves to blow things up and I was already dreading being pitched as the new international terrorist.”
The conversation veers into the wild, literally. We’re talking about Pradhuman’s days in college and he reveals he had long hair like his latest rockstar look in the upcoming film Zara Hatke Zara Bachke.
“I was a big fan of Nirvana and Kurt Cobain was my idol. Having long hair like Kurt was absolutely necessary.” The story doesn’t end at the mane. Pradhuman’s the adventurer extraordinaire. “Inspired by Kurt and Nirvana’s rebellious ways, two friends and I decided we would run away from home. We were a rock band called Cobainism. So we thought we’d hit the road, play music for a living and be free. There was also this delusion of being part of the 27 Club. We wanted to die young like Cobain, Jimmy Hendrix and Jim Morrison. Fortunately, better sense prevailed and that never happened. On our run away trip we landed up at some small town in Uttar Pradesh with no money. And then epiphany happened, we called up home and asked our parents to come and get us.”
Tere Bin… has come and gone and Pradhuman has made his mark as an actor. But he isn’t planning on going back to pushing pencils at the office. He’s got bigger plans. “I guess I was always fascinated by acting and I’m going to continue doing that. There’s a certain way I feel about movies and filmmaking. I want to make a career over here.”
He’s just as opinionated about acting too. He believes good roles are few and far in between and a smart actor paces his career in the wait. “I’m not going to sign films just for the sake of being employed. Currently, Hindi films are high on comedy but most of it is senseless and crass. I wouldn’t sign a film unless I’m sure it will have strong content. I’m not lead material but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be picky. It’s only good roles in good movies for now.”Abhishek Sharma Interviews Pradhuman Singh Tere Bin Laden