New Delhi: Away from the arc lights, greasepaint and comfort, a slew of popular faces from Indian cinema such as Hema Malini, Moon Moon Sen and Chiranjeevi barnstormed either as contestants or campaigners for the national election, adding glamour and spicing up the 10-phased poll that concluded Monday.
They made up for an eclectic bunch: Smriti Irani (Amethi), Vinod Khanna (Gurdaspur), Shatrughan Sinha (Patna Sahib), Hema Malini (Mathura), Kirron Kher (Chandigarh), Paresh Rawal (Ahmedabad East), Manoj Tiwari (North East Delhi), Bappi Lahiri (Serampore) - all Bharatiya Janata Party - Raj Babbar (Ghaziabad), Nagma (Meerut), Ravi Kishen (Jaunpur), Kunal Singh (Patna Sahib) - all Congress - Moon Moon Sen (Bankura/Trinamool Congress), Prakash Jha (West Champaran/Janata Dal-United), Jaya Prada (Rampur/Lok Dal) and Gul Panag (Chandigarh/Aam Aadmi Party).
In India's financial and entertainment capital Mumbai, more than two dozen Hindi and Marathi celebrities came out to add a dash of glamour.
For instance, Rakhi Sawant, who contested from Mumbai North-West on the ticket of her Rashtriya Aam Party, attracted more attention for her colourful designer attire than her political issues, while filmmaker-actor Mahesh Manjrekar of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena for the same seat attracted a fair crowd, setting off alarms in other parties.
Renowned Marathi actor Nandu Madhav contested the Beed seat on the Aam Aadmi Party ticket against the Bharatiya Janata Party's Gopinath Munde, while the Nationalist Congress Party nominated former actress Navneet Kaur-Rana for Amravati.
Samajwadi Party candidate from Mumbai North Central Farhan Azmi got able support from his chic and charming wife, actress Ayesha Takia.
Punjab's capital Chandigarh witnessed a charged and glamourised contest between two actresses - Kirron Kher, the quintessential 'Mummyji' of several Bollywood films, as the BJP candidate, and her AAP challenger, the much younger Gul Panag.
Both seem to be a formidable challenge - and a possible threat - to the four-time Chandigarh MP Pawan Kumar Bansal, the incumbent.
Vinod Khanna contested the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha seat in Punjab for the fourth time. His campaign saw his actor son Akshaye and other stars joining in.
A three-time MP, Khanna lost to Pratap Singh Bajwa of the Congress in the 2009 elections. However, Bajwa, now the Punjab Congress president, faces a tough challenge from him.
In Sangrur, actor-comedian Bhagwant Mann (AAP) provided a worthy challenge to the Congress and Akali Dal candidates, while actor Sunny Deol too held a road show in the constituency.
In Haryana, actress Raveena Tandon added glamour by campaigning for industrialist-cum-politician Naveen Jindal (Congress).
The glamour quotient was no less in West Bengal.
The likes of Moon Moon Sen, reigning matinee idol Dev, yesteryear heroine Sandhya Roy, and incumbents Shatabdi Roy and Tapas Pal glamourised the Trinamool's nomination list, while eminent actors George Baker, Nimu Bhowmick and Joy Bandopadhyay did so for the BJP.
Then, there was CPI-M nominated Subhashini Ali, who designed the costumes for the 1981 classic "Umrao Jaan", besides dabbling in acting in "Asoka" and critically acclaimed "Amu".
National Award winning actor Mithun Chakraborty emerged as one of the star campaigners of the Trinamool, while Nagma and Padmini Kohlapure campaigned for the Congress.
Shatrughan Sinha addressed a meeting in support of the BJP.
Down south, in Tamil Nadu, where five of the state's chief ministers - C.N. Annadurai, M. Karunanidhi, M.G. Ramachandran, Janaki Ramachandran and J. Jayalalitha - had their roots in filmdom, several other actors showed an interest in politics.
The leader of opposition and DMDK founder A. Vijayakant was a leading action hero.
This time the two major parties - AIADMK and DMK - had fielded several movie stars as their star campaigners.
The AIADMK had on its side R. Ramarajan, Vennira Aadai Nirmala, S. Anantharaaj, Senthil, Gundu Kalyanam, Vindhya, Kuyili and others, while the most popular amongst DMK's star campaigners were Kushboo and Vagai Chandrasekhar.
Speaking to IANS, AIADMK's Anantharaaj said: "I was able to meet lots of people. I addressed around 50 meetings a day. Nice experience."
Fair complexioned Anantharaaj, 49, is now sun-tanned due to 40 days of electioneering.
"My focus was to highlight the achievements of the AIADMK government and our leader," said the actor who has done about 300 movies.
From the Kannada film industry, leading actress and outgoing Congress lawmaker Ramya re-contested from the Mandya Lok Sabha constituency, about 100 km from Bangalore. She is among the 21 women who contested in the April 17 general elections from across the state, which has 28 Lok Sabha seats.
She brought in star power in the form of Kannada actors Upendra, Ganesh, Bhavana and Umashree as her campaigners.
Geetha, wife of Kannada hero Shivrajkumar and daughter of former state chief minister S. Bangarappa, contested from Shimoga on the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) ticket against BJP candidate and former state chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa.
Besides Shivrajkumar, his brothers Raghavendra and Puneet Rajkumar and Kannada superstar Sudeep campaigned for Geetha.
Legendary Telugu actor and Union Tourism Minister Chiranjeevi campaigned for Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas M. Veerappa Moily, who re-contested from Chikkballapur; and another popular Telugu actor Pawan Kalyan, younger sibling of Chiranjeevi, campaigned for BJP candidates in Bangalore and Chikkaballapur.
Popular Kannada actress and BJP lawmaker Tara also campaigned for party candidates in Bangalore, Shimoga and Udupi-Chikmaglur from where BJP's former woman minister Shobha Karadlaje contested.
Kerala wasn't far behind. The biggest surprise came when the CPI-M led left opposition decided to field ace comedian Innocent from the Chalakudy constituency in Thrissur district, his home town.
Innocent, 69, president of the Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes (AMMA), turned out to be a crowd puller. The icing on the cake was that he roped in big names like Mammootty for campaigning.
Thespian Madhu and Kaviyoor Ponamma also campaigned, along with directors Kamal Sathyan Anthikadu.