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Thursday, 15 May 2014 09:27

Les beautiful. Les miserable

Ashwini Bhatnagar Written by 
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“That’s the gold I see,” she said, pointing to the golden glitter which had spread from the shore to the distant horizon where the orb waited to take the final bow before disappearing into the fathomless depths of the sea.

“And that’s gold, too,” she said, pointing to the beach sand which had also changed its hue.

“Believe me,” she continued, “I believe in what I see. You hold this moment and you will feel the gold around you. Let it pass, and there will be only dirty sand and foul-smelling sea around you. This is my reality principle — that 15-minute-of-fame thing — when I am bathed in the ethereal glow that I now see around me. I say dream about it, live for it, and, most importantly, be there when time and tide are ready to cover you with their shimmer.”

There was a faraway look in her eyes; she appeared to be actually psyched by her notion of the reality principle. The face now had no trace of the innocence that made her stand out among the many TV actresses that one saw on the Idiot Box. It seemed harsh, despite the soft focus and the natural orange filter provided by the setting sun.  Obviously, the years spent in tinsel town had weathered her and brought out the angularities. Dusk was about to set in. She got up with a start and said, “Let’s go. I have to change before we go to Director Sahib’s house.”

The Director was lolling on a sofa in his 650-sq feet Versova apartment when we went to see him in the evening. He made no effort to get up or return our greeting. We sat down without being asked to.

“I have a few things up my sleeve right now,” he was telling a wannabe actor barely out of his teens. “You have a good face — bahut innocent dikhto ho. Body bhi theek hai, six footer to ho na?”

“Six two, sir,” the youngster replied earnestly.

“Good. This is the height I wanted. Agar panch nau (5.9 feet) hote to sochna parta.”

The young man was now on the very edge of his seat. “Thank you, sir.”

Relief was writ large on his face. All his hopes would have been dashed had he been a few inches shorter!

“Sir, I am taking tuitions to improve my diction as you had told me that my Urdu was not up to the mark. I am also learning horse riding. It is expensive, sir. But what to do the film line is such!”

“Good,” nodded the Director Sahib and got busy on his cellphone. Interrupting his call, he ordered the wannabe actor, “Don’t sit around, yaar. Get some glasses.” The young man with an angelic face looked around reverentially, spotted the door leading to the kitchen, took off his shoes near the entrance and tip-toed inside to fetch the glasses. “Suno, yaar,”Director Sahib said to Angel Face, who was setting the glasses on the table, “I have decided to first give you a role in my serial. You know the serial that I will be doing for Sony, na?”

“No sir,” Angel Face replied quickly as if ashamed of himself for having missed out on this vital bit of information.

“Well, it will be called Tota Maina ki Kahani. You will have a role. But right now I am unable to decide whether to make you the prince or the tota(parrot).”

Tota, sir?” Angel’s face contorted with shock.

“Yes, yes,” Director Sahib replied nonchalantly, “Tota. I have myself designed the costume for it. Wait till you see it. You will love it.” Angel Face almost fainted.

Director Sahib turned to us, “Good role, na? This fellow is lucky that he is getting such a good break.” The young man’s face fell to his knees, but he managed to lift it up again and smile sweetly.

People were now streaming in and the little drawing-room was literally bursting at the seams. Angel Face was being crowded out and, therefore, very sensibly decided to exit the scene. We shook hands.

“You will make a very handsome prince,” I said sincerely.

“You think so?” he asked equally sincerely.

I nodded. The smile came back and he strode purposefully out of the room. He was already practising being the prince.

The ‘evening spirit’ had started to descend on this small gathering of the bold and the beautiful carpetbaggers. The elegantly dressed middle-aged man with an aquiline nose and a balding top was in distress. He had heard his friend’s cell phone ring the previous day and had liked the tone. He had a similar set but its tone was different.

“Please help me,” he pleaded with everyone desperately. “I want Mozart’s music on my phone but I can’t get it. I spent the entire evening yesterday and the full day today trying to figure out how to tune this damn thing, but it doesn’t work. Someone, please do it for me. I am going crazy.”

The Whiz-kid assistant director with a shaggy beard, which he scratched after every five seconds like a tic-laden dog, came to his rescue.

“No big deal. There are 30 tones in your instrument. I can set any for your ringer.”

The Balding Beauty with an aquiline nose kissed the Whiz-kid’s much-scratched beard in gratitude. Minutes later, Balding Beauty’s phone was ringing to Mozart’s music. There were tears of happiness in his eyes.

“Director Sahib,” Balding Beauty said, “You must give me a role in your film.”

“But I am not making any film right now.”

“I know,” BB smiled and said, “I am just making my advance booking. Just make a film with Aishwarya Rai and let me play her father. I will be grateful, sir.” Everybody laughed.

“Et tu?” mocked the TV actress of Golden Sunset.

“Yeah. You know this film industry is like Aishwarya Rai. One of the days of your life you are passing by and at a distance you see this beautiful woman who you think is looking in your direction with inviting eyes. And boy, how you flip over that half a second of the imagined glance! For the rest of your life you are sold— sold to the idea that she was beckoning you and only you. Of course, you never get her but you can’t leave her altogether, too. So, here we are! Half the life is spent and other half is on its way to consumption and no Aishwarya Rai still! Isn’t it beautiful?” he asked and laughed sadly at himself.

The Suave Gentleman leaned forward from the shadow that he had been occupying as his exclusive space. “What Rai-Rai you are doing? It sounds like Hai-Hai.” The man who played a two-timing character in a very popular TV serial was clearly unhappy with the world.

“You,” he started haltingly, “I mean we are all sold out to glamour. We will do anything for it, even kick our near and dear ones.”

“Ok, ok,” interjected the Director Sahib, “Don’t get personal.”

“I am talking about my own experiences. I am not talking about you,” the Suave Man said tersely. “Tomorrow, Director Sahib, if she comes to you for a role, extract your pound of flesh. Listen, don’t let our friendship cramp the Shylock in you. Take your pound of flesh,” he said harshly. He raised his head; a weak smile with a hint of viciousness was unfolding itself. “Flesh! Come to think of it, she has plenty to spare. That fat thing! Take it Sahib, take it.”

The TV actress of the Golden Sunset fame hushed him. “My, how do you talk! Isn’t she your wife?” Her eyebrows were arched like a bow ready to unleash poison-tipped darts.

“My wife? Says who? She was my wife, or that’s what I thought. I…,” he stopped short as if images and shadows in his mind’s eye had suddenly started grappling with him.

“Come to think of it, she did not go anywhere. I gave her away. See, I was the one who got her this role in the serial to play my wife. I was the one who encouraged her, read out her lines to her at night and showed her how to get the right expressions. Now why do I crib, Director Sahib?” he asked theatrically, “I am the one who took my wife to another man. Now why do I crib if I have lost her in this glamorous haze?”

The Suave Man was ready to cry. Unfortunately, the TV actress showed no inclination towards lending him her shoulder to cry on.

Her sights were firmly fixed on the Director Sahib. She fluttered her eyelashes and asked him innocently and so shweetly. “Isn’t it true that you have worked out a beautiful script?”

Director Sahib smiled mysteriously.

“I know you have. And what beautiful roles are there, hai na? Sensitive and intense types, hai na?” she asked and burst into giggles for some strange reason. “My, my… you must promise me a real meaty role right now. Promise karo na. I would love to work with you,” she gushed like a 16-year-old.

Director Sahib demurred. The girl decided to take things in her own hands now. She leaned across the table, unclasped the whisky glass from his right hand, gingerly placed it on the table and proceeded to shake the man’s hand vigorously.

“Promise karo na, karo na,” she repeated amidst yet another round of unprovoked giggles. Director Sahib did not let the handshake disturb the blank look on his face.

“I want this role, Director Sahib. Don’t you see my date diary has nothing on it for the next year? What will I do?” She crashed into a sofa.

“Don’t worry,” Director Sahib said finally.

The Golden Sunset girl looked up. Hope flickered again.

“We will work out something,” he said and patted her hand in a show of affection.

“Let’s see,” he caught her chin and lifted her face towards a light source. Anticipation was writ large on Sunset’s face. “Maina ka role karogi?” he inquired gravely. Sunset crashed into the cruel fathomless sea.

Read 4951 times Last modified on Monday, 19 May 2014 12:23
Ashwini Bhatnagar

Ashwini Bhatnagar has had a long and distinguished record in print journalism. He has worked with some of the best newspapers in the country, including The Pioneer, The Times of India, Sunday Mail...
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