"Shotgun" vs "Leno": stars battle it out in India poll

Tue May 12, 2009 4:54am EDT
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By Lyndee Prickitt

PATNA (Reuters Life!) - Playing out for real in Bollywood-crazed India: Star Wars, the election edition.

One of India's most lawless states has become a battleground between two celebrities-turned-politicians vying for a parliamentary seat, and both men have no qualms about using their star power to win over voters.

Their fierce, and colorful, campaigning in Bihar state has been dubbed "star wars" by the media covering one of the lengthiest elections in the world.

"The respectability and acceptability you see among masses is not because I'm a movie star," said 62-year-old actor Shatrughan Sinha, whose name morphed into "Shotgun" after the gun-wielding characters he played on the big screen.

Sinha, a member of the opposition Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, said he pulls a crowd because of what he accomplished over 12 years as a politician in India's upper house, whose members are nominated to the post.

His competition is Shekhar Suman, who is often referred to as India's answer to U.S. talk show host and comedian Jay Leno and who entered the election at the last minute.

"That's what an actor is all about: adapting to new worlds, new characters, new roles, right?" Suman said.

Several members of India's prolific, and influential, film and TV industry have helped inject glamour into the month-long general election whose results will be out on May 16.

(Editing by Tony Tharakan and Miral Fahmy)