The Narrator










    So at last I found that I had committed myself to Badri's crazy idea without ever having said I would.  My agreeing was inexorable, directed by fate, I thought. Even before I was in the project fully, I was already taking a lot of initiative on my own.  Like applying for leave to get a whole week off.  Now, in addition, I saw myself packing a duffel bag. "I'm going to move in with the guy!" I realized with some alarm.  What was propelling me along?  Who was making me do all these things?  I had no answers.  Silently, I packed my toilet things, a couple of changes of clothes, some paper, and some pens.  Was there anything that I was forgetting?

    Ah, yes. I walked over to the Reddy's and told Mrs. Reddy that I was going to be with my sick friend for a few days, and that they should not worry about me.  I'd drop by to pick up my mail.  If anyone came for me, they could take a message.  Mrs Reddy was overwhelmingly solicitous and supportive; I began to feel that my secret plans had the tacit support of the world.

    Monday evening, Badri and I had our first story session in his room.  We decided to split up our time so that we'd work for four or five hours at a stretch.  Then eat and spend rest of the time gossiping and relaxing.  Badri was naturally very pleased that I'd volunteered to move into the hotel with him.  "Yar must welcam, Sar, Aie do appreciat yar kandness."  He hugged me with spontaneous affection.

    Silently we drove towards the Lambada.  At the end of my lane, I looked back wistfully, not without some regret.  I did want to come back, back to my  apartment, to Neha, to our son to be born, to the University, to my own secure life, though now it seemed as if I was going to lose it all.  Badri seemed to sense

my mood.  "Dan't varry, Sar.  Sab theek ho jayega."

    "What I have in mind is a heroine-oriented story.  I think more and more hits in the future will be heroine-oriented.  The story is neither a thriller consisting of nothing but action and dhishum-dhishum, nor a teenage romance.  These are the two types of films which have fared well at the box office in the last four or five years.  But, I suppose, our story will be a combination of both genres.  It will have its thrills and some romance." Badri paused.  Lit a cigarette. This time, he didn't bother to go through the formality of asking for my permission, nor did I notice his lack of courtesy.  I was too excited.  Our project was taking off.  The whole thing was acutally starting!

    "I don't want a film which is an out and out pot-boiler, with ridiculous situations, cardborad characters, meaningless songs, idiotic dances, and a stupid climax.  Nor do I want to do a story for one of those `art' films--such films don't need a story, really.  They're so boring.  The camera closes up on a woman washing her child's bottom.  Long take.  Another one on the barber shaving the landlord's underarms.  Long take.  In the end, an urchin picks up a stone.  Fade out.  Lot's of very deep

symbolism there.  Well, count me out of such highly intellectual stuff.  These films remain in the cans or are screened once at Cannes.  That's it.  If ever they're shown in a theatre, they put the audience to sleep.  Who wants to make such a film?

    "I'd like to make a movie in the Bimal Roy-Hrishikesh Mukherjee-Gulzar-Basu Chatterjee-Sai Paranjpye tradition.  Good, clean entertainment, not without artistic value.  A film which is fun, but not really a comedy.  And I also want to combine this tradition with the violence and darkness of the gangster movie genre popularized by directers such as Mahesh Bhatt, N. Chandra, and Vinod Chopra in recent years and which goes back to masters like Guru Dutt, Raj Khosla, and B. R. Chopra."

    "But what about the story?  What's the film going to be about?" I interrupted, trying to get Badri on the right track.

     "Yes.  The story.  As I said, it centres on a woman of about twenty-eight.  A woman older than that will not work as a heorine in a Hindi film; she'll have to become a teenage hero's mother instead.  So we must have a woman no older than twenty-eight.

    "She's the only daughter of a rich man.  That's inevitable, isn't it?  But I'm not satisfied with merely that.  I want her to be a career woman, somebody who's very successful, with a business of her own.  Having a rich father is only to make the background pretty.

    "So here we have this woman who's also a successful enterpreneur.  This is the positive role model that I was trying to tell you about.  It may help us sell the movie to the women in the audience.

    "So she's rich, successful, and has a career with unlimited possibilities.  What is she lacking?"

    "Ah, now we come to the source of the conflict," I said.

    "Yes.  She's not married."

    "Oh no!  That's too cliched."

    "You mean her not being married is cliched?"

    "No, but that looking for a partner as the key source of the drama is cliched," I responded.

    "Hold on.  She's not married because she doesn't, or rather hasn't wanted to so far.  But her father is worrying about her remaining single.  And she too, after one broken engagement, has been feeling out of sorts.  She too wants to settle down.  If nothing else, it'll be good for business.

    "So what does she do?  She confides in a friend, of course. The friend suggests that she put an ad. in ­The Times of India­.

A large, boxed ad. which will immediately distinguish her from others in the marriage market.

    "That's neat, a variation on the old idea of ­svayamvara­, where a bride selected her own husband," I thought aloud, "the device will also help bring in a string of interesting characters and situations."

    "Precisely.  You've got your Basu Chatterjee-Sai Paranjpye type of comedy all lined up.

    "There are, of course, a number of applicants.  But our heroine wants to be very careful.  So she hires a private investigator to check out the antecedents of each of her suitors--just so that some bounty hunter doesn't succeed in scalping her, you understand."

    "I like the story.  The P.I. is a great touch," I said.

    "Thank you.  So we have four or five guys shortlisted for the final interview.  You must remember that the heroine is a businesswoman; she conducts this whole matrimonial thing as if it were a bunch of job interviews.  Dossiers are opened on each prospective groom and so on.

    "We'll have to work out who they are and what's wrong with each of them."

    "You mean, none of them is good enough?" I asked.

    "That's it."

    "Well, what happens then?"

    "What I've narrated so far should take us to the interval, shouldn't it?"

    "I suppose so."

    "Well, let's just say that the heroine is very dejected after the failure of her plans.  She decides to take a break.  To go off somewhere on a holiday."

    "You know what, Badri?  I think you need a sub-plot badly."

    "Yes, you're right.  Here's where we need to bring in this other aspect that I want--I mean the bad guys, the underworld, and so on."

    "Definitely.  You can't sell a movie unless you have a villain, a really mean guy whom you love to hate."

    "Precisely.  Now let's see.  What if the heroine is also into a big business deal and ... well.  Or what if someone comes to her asking for protection money for her boutiques.  What if she refuses.  What if one of her boutiques is trashed just as a warning?"

    "This may work.  But we have to think about it some more."

    "That's right," said Badri.

    "What's after the interval?"

    "Oh , I'm not yet sure.  But there's going to be a love story, remember?  She's going to fall in love with someone, I suppose.

But here's where I want some kind of twist."

    "How about bringing in another character?"

    "Yes, something like that will be necessary."

    "Why don't we wait till we've gone through a part of the story?" I suggested.

    "Yes, let's wait to see how our story evolves."

    "There's one more question I have."

    "Go ahead, ask."

    "What kind of actors do you want for your film?  I mean isn't it true that scripts are written keeping specific actors in mind."

    Badri smiled.  "Hey, don't you think we're overreaching overselves?  I mean, here we haven't even started and you want to know what kind of stars we want."

    "But, tell me the truth.  Haven't you thought about this already?"

    "Yes, as a matter of fact, I have.  I want Dimple to be the heroine, Naseeruddin Shah, the detective, Anupam Kher and Kabir Bedi for villains."


  Copyright © 2005 - Makarand Paranjape