The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Baniyan Kumar does a Salman Khan

Mumbai, Nov. 12: He looks older, fatter and not quite so glamorous, but the sequence of events remain the same.

A man is sleeping on the pavement. In the middle of the night, a Bollywood star runs his car over him. Bedlam follows, after which the star is thrown into a lock-up.

The Salman Khan hit-and-run case has spawned its first artistic representation: the serial, Public Hai, Sab Janta Hai, to be aired on SABe TV from November 18, two times a week.

With no small-screen stars, the serial is an attempt to cash in on the latest controversy generated in Bollywood.

So “Baniyan Kumar”, the star in the serial, languishing behind bars, fights a losing battle against mosquitos, like the real one did in police custody. There are crucial differences, though.

Before the pavement-dweller is run over, the dead man’s wife, played by Sushmita Mukherjee, fervently hopes for a rich man to come and run her husband over, so that she gets a hefty compensation. After she gets the promised few lakhs, she goes for an image makeover. The pavement-dweller, who is crushed under Baniyan’s wheels dies crying for his autograph.

“We wanted to make a spoof on current events,” says writer-producer Ashwini Dheer, also the brain behind Raamkhilavaan CM and Family, a satirical look at Laloo Prasad Yadav and his family. But Laloo Prasad, angered by the serial, moved court, which issued a stay order on the telecast of the serial.

But as Raamkhilavaan battles it out in court, Dheer and team — the cast in Public is also repeated from the previous serial — decided to go ahead with another venture as a “form of expression of our creative suppression”.

After the Salman episode, there will be one on Veerappan, also featuring a Jayalalithaa look-alike. Another episode will be on the Ek Chhotisi Love Story controversy. “How is it that Veerappan remains at large' And what was the controversy about Ek Chhotisi Love Story all about' And before Amitabh Bachchan’s 60th birthday, for a week the papers didn’t cover any other issue. We want to bring these points to the fore,” says Dheer.

But after the Laloo Prasad experience, isn’t it courting trouble once more' Or is it that more trouble means more headlines and more TRPs' “I feel these issues need to be talked about. Let’s see what happens once the serial is aired,” says Dheer.

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