Girjesh Gaud: The Living Statue of Mumbai who is also a TikTok celebrity
Girjesh Gaud can hold both, a pose and the attention of an SRK-seeking crowd at Bandstand, for more than 15 minutes
The mercury dipped on Thursday even when the impending Cyclone Vayu suddenly decided to move away from Mumbai shores. Nonetheless, gurgling streams sprouted intermittently at Bandra Bandstand, recording light drizzles. And just when a crowd flocked to the sea around 5 pm, to enjoy this breathtaking view, a young man stood below a tree, with his back to the rising waves.
Within 20 minutes, the 21-year-old spray paints a layer of gold over a homemade coat, pant and hat. Next, he pulls out an eye-shadow kit and turns his skin gold as well. Finally, he wears an oversized pair of golden gloves. At this point he looks up, confident that he has gained attention of the pluviophiles around. And he has. Girjesh Gaud now begins his performance, which mostly involves him standing motionless. Shainaaz, 34, has come all the way from Navi Mumbai only to get Gaud on her TikTok video. She hurries towards him, calling for 'The Living Statue of Mumbai'.
Twenty-one-year-old Girjesh Gaud owns only one set of coat and pants, which he washes once a month at home. Every day, he sprays on a coast of gold to cover the patches that have turned black over time. His rent for his Jogeshwari tenement is Rs 6,000. He spends most of the Rs 20,000 that he earns in a month on food and his daily commute, unable to save much. Pics/Bipin Kokate & Sneha Kharabe
About three hours before getting to Bandstand, Gaud meets us at his dingy one-room-kitchen Jogeshwari home, and talks about his journey from being a Rajnikanth fan to now the subject of a documentary that has already got 10 lakh views on YouTube since its release on May 31. "I always wanted to be an actor; Rajinikanth has been my inspiration. So when I finished Class 9 from Sarvodaya High School in Bengaluru, I told my elder brother I didn't want to study further. But he told me to finish Class 10 at least to be able to get a job if an acting career never takes flight. So I did," Gaud, who is born in UP's Gorakhpur but raised in Bengaluru's Tumkur, recalls.
"I also did an eight-month-long acting course and gave some auditions; all expenses borne by my brother's paint contractor job. But nothing concrete came my way, so I went back to Gorakhpur only to tell my mother and four older sisters that I wanted to go to Mumbai instead." Everyone objected, but he lied that he wanted to pursue a course in animation and had secured a job as a security guard. When everyone finally agreed, he arrived in Mumbai city in October
2017. "I lived one whole day and night at Borivali railway station as I didn't know where to start from. When my mother found out, she got a relative to make some room for me in their Sewri home for some time. When the problem of having a roof was solved, I began travelling to Goregaon Film City," he shares, adding everytime he was asked to pay Rs 600 as entry charges.
But then he found a man who showed him the way in through a back gate. "He also gave me numbers of coordinators, who paid me to be a live studio audience member. For about 14 hours a day, I earned Rs 350. My heart ached every time I was made to cheer for actors who did not even deserve it. So, three months later, I quit." Gaud then worked as a camera attendant for a few months, but never stopped giving auditions for roles in films and serials. "One day I was browsing through YouTube and saw a video of a living statue in a foreign country. Then I looked up if there were such artistes here in India, and there weren't any," he adds.
Gaud then embarked upon a journey to becoming the first living statue of Mumbai. "Friends mocked me; they said I would look like a beggar, but I didn't pay heed." His first performance on October 8, 2018 was at the Gateway of India. "I painted my face and costume under a tree and stood still for 45 minutes with a collection box. People were stunned. I earned Rs 800 that day." But within an hour, the cops reprimanded him and suspected him of being intoxicated. "They said I was stupid to do something like this and warned me to find a better livelihood. I promised I would and left."
Gaud lied. He moved his performances to Azad Maidan, Arnala Beach, Juhu Beach and finally to Bandstand in December last year. This was when media graduate Harsh Matondkar first saw him. "I was with my friends when I saw a huge crowd near Mannat. First I thought it was SRK, given the number of people that had gathered. To my surprise, I saw Gaud instead. It was a stunning sight. He didn't move an inch for 15 minutes, until a cop came to chase him away. I walked up to him and told him I wanted to make a documentary on him," says the 20-year-old budding filmmaker. After a lot of convincing, Gaud agreed. "Since October, many people have come to me offering to make movies on me, but never returned calls. Of course I didn't trust Matondkar when he put forth the proposal. But he never stopped chasing.".
Girjesh Gaud and Harsh Matondkar
The Living Statue of Mumbai is an eight-minute film based on Gaud's ongoing quest to becoming a star. "People, who know me, old and young, love me today. They feature me in their TikTok videos. My own TikTok account has about seven lakh fans. But I am not stopping here, I still hope to becoming an actor." When we ask what his family thinks of this, he says, "They were in tears when they watched the documentary. I haven't met them since I came to Mumbai two years ago. The day I can afford a two-way flight ticket to UP, I will surprise them. Until then, I am not leaving Mumbai."
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