Ashok Basthi or ‘Junior Rajkumar’ as his fans fondly refer to him is an impersonator of the late Kannada film star Rajkumar. He hails from Haveri district and has been making a living as a doppelgänger for over 25 years now, he informed me that he was recently felicitated for having completed 20,000 performances at a ceremony in his hometown.
Mr. Basthi performs at weddings, cultural and other religious functions. He told me that he is a regular at all the events conducted by the Rajkumar family ! At these events, the onus is on him not only to look the part but also mimic the superstar’s gestures, wardrobe and even voice - sometimes he is called upon to sing a line or two. His commitments take him all over Karnataka and he prefers to travel by road with his trusted team that consists of his personal assistant, make-up artist, musicians, other impersonators who play a supporting role and his son (whom he is molding to impersonate Rajkumar’s son Puneeth Rajkumar)
Growing up admiring his idol, Mr. Basthi had no idea that there was a career or money to be made as an impersonator - he sort of stumbled into it. A very special moment was when Mr. Rajkumar personally invited Mr. Basthi to his home and gave him his blessing to carry on the good work he had been doing. Being a path-breaker in his profession meant that Mr. Basthi did not have any support or mentor-ship to guide him. Because he does not want the next generation of junior artists to feel that void, he tries to be a role-model and guide in the industry and support them as best as he can.