What if you look like the Indian captain Virat Kohli? If luck shines, you can be the star attraction at political rallies, be the promotional face of new business ventures and even be the chief guest at local cricket tournaments.
Saurabh Gade, as a junior engineer with JCB, a multinational company that manufactures earth movers, is a Kohli lookalike. His life changed earlier this year when a local MLA spotted him and roped him for a rally. Very recently, a local manufacturer that does job-work for a clothing brand that Kohli promotes wanted to showcase one of their products. They chose Gade for a photo shoot.
It all started last May, when a candidate aspiring to be Ramalinga Gram Panchayat's sarpanch in Maharashtra's Shirur district promised his voters that Kohli would be campaigning for him. Hoardings went up, the word spread about the May 25 rally that would have the Indian captain. Selfie and autograph hunters poured in. Of course, the real Kohli, didn't turn up but Gade was there, with his impeccable Virat-like beard and spectacles.
He gives the back story. “My friend in college used to say that I look like Kohli. One of my friends had taken a photo which was seen by one of the MLAs in Shirur. He called me and asked me to go to the sarpanch rally as he knew the candidate.” After the rally, more hoarding came up, these had the candidate with the real Kohli. "I sent the MLA’s team pictures but the quality wasn’t up to the mark. So the MLA photoshoped Kohli's picture,” Gade told The Indian Express.
The 26-year-old didn’t realise that his brief appearance at a political rally would usher in fame. So much so that back in his village Yelawadi Dehu, situated 25 kilometres from Pune, he is called 'Dehu’s Virat'. A son of army man and a teacher mother, and whose elder brother is pursuing medicine in Russia, Gade is enjoying his new-found fame.
Fans write to him, asking for autographs and photographs. Advertisement offers land up and he is always in demand as a guest at family functions and of course, in cricket tournaments. In Pune, a bakery signed him up and now use his face to sell cakes. With assembly elections round the corner, various political parties have been again calling him to the campaign.
As luck would have it, Gade hasn't yet met Kohli. Last year, he came close when India played West Indies in Pune. He was waiting for his hero not too far from the place the team bus was parked. MS Dhoni spotted him and told him that Virat was about to board the bus.
“By the time I reached, the bus had moved. I am still eagerly waiting for the day I meet Virat.”
Though he couldn’t meet Kohli that day, he had his share of fame. On the match day, cricket fans kept taking selfies with him in the stands. Such was the commotion that the police had to intervene and come to his rescue. "There were lots of people gathered around me and police came and said it could be law and order issue. They told me to go sit in the enclosure in the stands specifically reserved for physically disabled so that I can be a bit free. Two constables and an inspector too were there for my security. Later a top police officer called me over and asked for my picture!” Gade says.
On Tuesday, Gade walked in to the cricket stadium in Pune in hope but was once again left disappointed as Kohli had opted out of the optional training session. Gade says he will try again in the coming days. The doppelganger awaits his big moment.