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Sai Baba is all set to give darshan on OTT platform

| Updated: August 24, 2021 12:53

Ajit Bhairavkar, the director of the web series Sabka Sai, explains why he thinks actor Raj Arjun is the perfect choice to play Baba.

We have had many films and TV shows on Sai, including Shirdi Ke Sai Baba (1977), Sai Baba—Tere Hazaron Haath (TV, 2005), Malik Ek (2008). What can we expect from your mini-series Sabka Sai, which starts streaming on MX Player from August 26?   

My mother comes from Padharpur, famous for its 18-day Vari pilgrimage which was inspired by the first film, Gajjar—The Journey of a Soul. My father is from Shirdi, I’d go to my Dadaji’s place during vacations and heard lots of stories about Sai from people there. I’ll be talking about his gurus, his own journey from shishya to guru, then sadguru, and finally God. But we will show Baba as more human than God, whose philosophy was way ahead of its time. We will highlight his part in the freedom struggle, how he encouraged communal amity, his views on gender equality and women empowerment, including widow remarriage.

You shot in the midst of an ongoing pandemic…

Yes, we started in December 2019. The first schedule ended on February 2 and exactly a year later, we rolled with the second schedule. We waited till the Covid situation had improved because we needed crowds of junior artistes and they were not allowed in a bio bubble.

It was tough, the night before we were to start shooting some important sequences at our main location near Bhor, we were suddenly denied permission. They refused to allow people from Mumbai and Pune to shoot there. I was roaming around from midnight and at 3 am finally, locked a new location in a nearby village. We started shooting the next morning at 9 am.

Even during the shoot, there was a lot of tension after four-five people tested positive despite all precautions. But by the grace of God, we wrapped up the series in 73 days, across two schedules, with around 50 days during a pandemic.

How did Bobby Bedi who produced Bandit Queen come on board?

I was taken on as the 14th Assistant Director on Mangal Pandey—The Rising which he produced. Halfway through, I became the chief AD, and by the end of the film, I was the associate director, in charge of post-production. After that film, I joined Bobby Bedi’s company as creative director and associate director on films like Chintuji.

Many actors have played Sai. How did you decide on Raj Arjun?

We started with a list of 10, shortlisted three actors whose face cut, eyes and nose matched with Sai. Then, we did an audition with them in costume and makeup and Raj was the unanimous choice. Even make-up director Vikram Dada acknowledged that his face was a perfect match, and even his body language and voice are like Sai.

Once we started the readings and rehearsals, Raj started meditating more and the similarity with Sai became more underlined. I had gooseflesh watching Raj as Sai perform aarti during a song. Some crew members even started crying.


All of them have some connection with Sai and became emotional watching Raj. My writer was told by a doctor that her leg would have to be amputated. Her mother’s a Sai bhakt and she believes it was because of Sai’s blessings that saved her leg.

 Near the temple in Shirdi is Abdul Baba’s jhopdi. Sai Baba spent time at the small cottage which houses some interesting memorabilia today and is popular with visitors. After the trailer released, I got a call from Baba’s grandson, Salim bhai, praising Raj. A phone call from Shirdi’s shrine is like a blessing. Even my father who had loved Sudhir Dalvi in Shirde Ke Sai Baba, was impressed with Raj in Sabka Sai.

Any miracles happened during the shoot?

That we could complete the series was a miracle in itself. Once, when we were shooting at Baba’s Samadhi, I wished for a big fan. We had brought the fan along, but while ferrying it, the wire had got cut and we were too far away to get a replacement. Suddenly, a gust of wind came along and ruffled Raj’s hair in the way I wanted. Aise miracles hote rehte the.

What next?

A comedy revolving around a doll’s wedding.

A doll’s wedding?

Yes, with the doll as a social metaphor. 

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