Absurd as it sounds, Baba Ramdev and Salman Khan share a lot in common — they are mega cultural phenomena. They generate adoration, reverence and something close to worship. Their fans see them as living gods. But beyond that commonality, let me put it bluntly — Salman Khan and Baba Ramdev have hot bods. Very hot. They are poster boys for Ultimate Fitness. In fact, it’s all about the bod. Both men know as much. Both have made their reputations flaunting their impressive physical assets. And both go happily shirtless, displaying great panache along with their sculpted silhouettes.

Think about it… Baba Ramdev shot to fame much after Salman (‘The Bod’) Khan. The ‘Rockstar of Yoga,’ as Ramdev has been famously called, used the television platform to promote himself and become a household name. As a yoga teacher, he made more Indians aware of physical fitness than any expert has succeeded in doing so far. Salman Khan made it in the movies on a mega scale after he decided to bare his torso and flex his biceps. Salman has been rightfully credited with generating impressive revenues for desi akhadas and gyms, to which countless men rushed wishing to emulate the actor and acquire a droolworthy physique. For the Khan, his daily workout is non-negotiable. It’s his religion. Ditto for Ramdev.

Now that Salman is officially the most successful Khan in Bollywood, producers who want to work with him are expected to provide the star with a full-fledged gym on the sets. Baba Ramdev doesn’t need a gym – he is the gym! Despite their different approaches to acquiring the body beautiful, both these guys know it is their dedication to their respective passions and physiques that has millions of ardent devotees panting. Salman shares his fitness mantras generously with friends, foes and fans. Baba Ramdev shares his with strangers — anybody who cares to switch on his channel or join his classes. Salman gives away his trade secrets for free. Baba Ramdev charges a bomb (Rs.10, 000 per session, insist his detractors).

So far, Salman has not starved for a cause. Nor has he joined politics (he’s leaving that option to the other Khans!). Even though Salman is the top earner in his line of business, he doesn’t own a private jet yet (his fans send him theirs!). Nor do Delhi politicos come running to the airport to meet him. But several sheikhs in the Middle East do just that each time he lands up to promote a film. Salman travels with an entourage that includes Shera, his faithful bodyguard. Baba Ramdev’s entourage is much bigger and he has several bodyguards. In fact, he is said to employ a private army to call his own.

Salman has a sense of humour. Baba Ramdev must have his to try and escape from a sticky situation dressed in drag! Salman frequently laughs at himself. Baba Ramdev has critics laughing at him. Significantly, both men are single. But only one of them is ready to mingle (guess who?). In terms of mass hysteria, it’s hard to say which one generates more passion. If Ramdev’s followers conduct mass prayers for their guru, Salman’s besotted fans can effortlessly fill a couple of stadiums — no occasion required. Talking of ‘fan love’ — Salman’s fans happen to be so hardcore; they are ready to slaughter anybody who dares to criticize their beloved Sallu Bhai or Bhai Jaan. Baba Ramdev’s bhakts are equally fanatical. It’s called chela pyaar. Both men are acutely aware of their formidable star power… they have it, flaunt it, and exploit it. Salman peddles his Being Human line of products for charity. Ramdev sells assorted ‘cures’ for everything from cancer to baldness through his outlets.

Charisma is hard — very hard — to deconstruct. In the case of these two men, one can see what turns on movie audiences each time Salman shakes his butt and goes, ‘dhinkachika chik.” Ramdev effortlessly turns into a pretzel when required and breathes heavily as followers gasp and swoon. Devotees find all of this unbeatably addictive. Crowd mentality is hard to predict, but it’s safe to say if anybody can mobilize impressive mobs and throngs without really trying, it’s these two guys. If anybody can get thousands to leave home, forget khana peena temporarily and join a movement – you-know-who can pull it off.

So, what is it about such people that drives other people nuts? Nuts enough to abandon good sense, logic, rational behaviour… sanity, for god’s sake? No idea, Sirji! Both are crowd pullers par excellence. They understand the medium and perform effortlessly 24×7 — that’s show business. Both manipulate sentiments. Both make big bucks. The big difference is that one of them wants to lead India out of the dark ages and banish black money. The other makes a living in an industry where the colour of money is unimportant. Both insist there is no political agenda behind their public posturing. Maybe we should give them the benefit of doubt. It would be amusing to see them share the same platform some day… visualize the scene: two shirtless superstars, one breathless, the other breathing through one nostril, both flexing muscles (one, politically, the other literally) and the crowds going crazy!

Wow! Yeh mera India — are you ‘Ready’ for it?

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