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On Raju Srivastava rushing to Mumbai after Amitabh Bachchan’s near-fatal Coolie injury: ‘Would pray for his life every day…’

If there was a leitmotif in Raju Srivastava’s life, it was probably Amitabh Bachchan. The superstar was the one who drew him to Mumbai for the first time, launched him into his comics career and whose photograph still takes pride of place in his home.

Bachchan was the “god” of the popular comedian, who died in a hospital in Delhi Wednesday at age 58, his brother said.

Raju Srivastavawho grew up watching every single Amitabh Bachchan movie in a cinema hall in his hometown Kanpur, was noticed first for his resemblance to the star and then for his impersonation of him.

In 1982, Srivastava, then only 18, rushed to Mumbai when Bachchan suffered a near-fatal injury during the shooting of the film Coolie. The idea was to catch a glimpse of the man. Of course, that didn’t happen and Srivastava joined the crowds keeping vigil outside the Breach Candy Hospital where Bachchan was admitted.

“Raju bhai ate ‘vada pav’ every day and stood outside the hospital praying for Bachchan ji’s life. He had come to see Amitabh Bachchan ji as he considered him god,” Srivastava’s brother Dipoo told PTI.

Amitabh Bachchan recovered and returned to the sets. And Raju Srivastava took the life-changing decision to stay and pursue a career in the entertainment industry. “He slept on the Dadar station bridge, in parks and lived in jhopadpattis (slums). He would browse newspaper advertisements to find out about comedy shows in the city,” said his brother.

Recalling their formative years, Dipoo said that Srivastava would not miss a single Bachchan film and would often go to school to watch his idol on screen.

“He was beaten many times for this by our mother. During Independence Day celebrations at school, he would imitate him. He would also dance in ‘baraats’ (marriage processions) whenever Amitabh Bachchan songs were played in Kanpur,” added Dipoo , also a comic in Mumbai.

Perhaps it was fate that he would get a job impersonating his favorite actor at a comedy show. In one such show in Mumbai, Gulshan Kumar of T-Series was in the audience. “After seeing bhai’s comedy, Gulshan Kumar offered him an audio cassette show called ‘Hasna Mana Hai’. He did about 25 to 30 such shows for labels like T-Series and Venus,” said Dipoo.

The association with the star continued over the years.

According to Dipoo, a photograph of Amitabh Bachchan is a permanent fixture in Raju Srivastava’s house even today. “Raju bhai would seek blessings from him before going to a show,” said his brother.

Srivastava, who dabbled in films and later entered politics, suffered a heart attack while training at a hotel in Delhi on 10 August. He was rushed to hospital and had been on a ventilator ever since.

The comedian joined the BJP in 2014 after a stint with the Samajwadi Party.

Srivastava had also acted in films like Maine Pyar Kiya and Baazigar, the remake of Bombay to Goa, Aamdani Atthani Kharcha Rupaiya and Main Prem Ki Deewani Hoon.

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