Posts Tagged ‘Kaberi Chatterjee’

I am unfortunately once again holding the post of Editor in a newspaper. Unfortunate. Very unfortunate. Because I am a quintessential escapist. And I love my escape plans. I hatch plans. Follow some pointers, like not buying a cell phone, etc, just so that I can plan my physical escape some day.

It’s not an honorable thing to do for a responsible journalist who’s worked 20 years in hardcore news media, done sting operations, investigative journalism, sat at the helm of a desk, judging others’ copies and designed how to produce them on the next day’s edition. I mean, it’s a deadly job! You are making a promise to millions.

But that’s exactly why I was becoming more and more determined to escape.

This char. This burn. It singes me everyday. The news I am exposed to grills me slowly till I get roasted. It’s a torture to me to hold a responsible position at a newspaper. But, unfortunately I am once again doing so.

And timely too, for the Nibhaya BBC Documentary to come up.

You know how life is when you aren’t a journalist? You smell flowers, you design kitchen gardens, watch “food food” channel and make lovely dishes at home, Ekta Kapoor is a perfect friend then and her serials make me ignorant, blissful and happy.

But sometimes I become an Editor. And then, all that luxury is over and once again I am set on medium rare for slow roast. “Burn for the world, come on!” is my unwritten instruction.

I don’t know how many of you got to see that documentary. Congrats Leslee Udeen, who perhaps had a personal shot to be cleared when she interviewed the rapist: She had been herself raped.

I remembered in college days one of my very concerned male friend had told me, “If you get raped, don’t resist, Enjoy it.”

I didn’t exactly get raped, but molested on public buses, streets… many a times. Someone even asked me “How much?” when I was waiting for a bus at a bustop coming back from the University.

I beat up a few, ran away in fear and did nothing at times. Beating came a lot later, when I realized I could physically overpower at least one puny man (one lucky outcome of my good build).

But enjoy a rape?

Let’s get to the basics here. We  are all adults. A person approaches you, you balk in fear, you run under cover, you throw things at him, he becomes wilder. And then he decides to pin you down. Imagine the scene. You have a complete stranger trying to pull down your pants. With all his strength. There is no one around. His face is in grimace. He tears off you blouse, and digs one hand right into your vagina. Now one thing here. Our vagina’s are not hollow pipes. They are a closed soft organs. Much as you men forget that you were brought into the world by your loving mothers through that kind of vagina. But that opened like petals only for a few minutes, giving excruciating pain to the mother, so that “flowers” like you can bloom and get a life. Otherwise, the vagina remains usually closed. It gets lubricated when she gets aroused by a man she loves, or she has given permission to possess her body, and then someone can enter her at her consent.

So why were you thrusting your hand in there? What were you looking for?  Maybe you should have had your penis pushed in there instead. You may have had more fun.

And maybe that would have been less painful for the girl, and not taken Nibhaya’s intestine out! She may have lived.

By the way, my dear college friend, tell me, which part of me would be able to enjoy this attack.. can you explain? I’ve never been raped, so I can’t really say I tried to follow whatever you said. I’m sorry I am not YET been raped.

But yesterday, 30 years later, during a long debate with a man, a Canadian man, (Indian born) a family man with a wife at home, told me the same thing. “When you get raped, try to enjoy it”.

Goosebumps ran down my spine: Didn’t the rapist Mukesh Singh just say the same thing on BBC?

pubali

Bollywood gives no importance to writers, and the audience is all excited about the film actors, stars, songs from the film, the cinematic experience and even the director. But a writer, who is still considered the ‘First technical crew’ in cinemas, is the backbone of a film, who barely is given any credit. Pubali Chaudhuri, the winner of National Film Award for Best Hindi Film in 2008 for her first screenplay, Rock On! and Filmfare Award for Best Screenplay in 2014 for Kai Po Che talks to Kaberi Dutta Chatterjee, doubting if anyone will be excited
about reading her story

Within two years of graduating from the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) Pubali Chaudhuri rocked the nation with her inimitable storyline and screenplay, Rock On! (2008), a year which was interspersed with popular films like Jodhaa Akbar and Singh Is King. Rock On went on to win seven Filmfare awards, four National awards and the cast was featured on the cover of the September 2008 issue of Rolling Stone (India). Its screenplay has also been added to the Academy Film Archive. Yet, Pubali is apprehensive of audience’s interest in storytellers. “Why interview me? Why would readers be interested in the storyteller?” was her first question when I approached her for an interview.

Q: Your career hit off right after your graduation from FTII with ‘Rock On!’, a film that rocked the country with a musical in 2008. What was the inspiration for such a wonderful storyline?

Pubali: Yes, I suppose I was lucky to have a theatrically released film that got noticed amongst a certain section of the audience within two years of my graduating from FTII. The director, Abhishek Kapoor, had approached me with the basic idea of a college band reuniting. I had a deep and personal connect with the concept as I spent my college years closely associated with Calcutta based rock bands, primarily with a band called Cactus. I saw the resurgence of independent music during the mid to late 90’s. So the ‘Rock On’s terrain was familiar turf for me.

Q: Your next, ‘Kai Po Che’, for which you won the Filmfare Award, was based on Chetan Bhagat’s book, 3 Mistakes of My Life. What was the course of action you had in mind when you adapted a popular novel for a film?

Pubali: Kai Po Che was a huge learning curve. At first read, it seemed, that Chetan had all the elements of a popular narrative in his book – cricket, friendship, Hindu- Muslim bonding, romance. However adaptation is a different beast altogether! You have to discover the basic story, which, though inspired from the book, is independent by nature.

Kai Po Che had two crucial differences from the original novel – for one, the book is told from one character, Govind’s, point of view (thus the title). We changed that to make it an omniscient telling of three friends. We also had decided on an alternate climax (in the book the three friends are trying to save Ali, the Muslim boy, from the Hindu mob and in the ensuing scuffle Omi gets killed). In the film we complicated this friendship tale by putting one of our protagonist’s on the side of the attackers. This had repercussions in the entire plotting and characterisation of the story to leading up to this film climax. Omi’s journey ( played by Amit Sadh ) was entirely the invention of the film.

Q: ‘Rock On! 2’ hit a legal battle and now is set to be released in November, 2016. Has the screenplay rights been granted solely to you, or also to Abhisekh Kapoor? Do you want to clarify anything to your fans in Canada about how you feel about sharing the screenplay credit?

Pubali: I don’t believe that screenwriters have fans, to begin with! Film writers work deep in the background of the film — we are the first ‘technicians’ to start work on a film. Much before the audience knows about a film, its star cast, director, the music or what has now become a latest fad – the box office collection numbers.

In any case, yes we (Abhisekh and I) arrived at a settlement regarding the legal dispute around the sequel of Rock On. It was decided to accord Abhishek Kapoor a shared story credit along with me, while I retain a solo screenplay credit for the film.

Q: Rock On!, Kai Po Che, Rock On! 2. All of your screenplays have been great success in the box office. So much that, you are almost making viewers sit up and take notice of screenplay and storywriters, who, in reality, are the spinal cords of any film. Why do you think storywriters in Bollywood get so little attention?

Pubali: Well to be honest, none of my films would compete with the 100 crore (and counting) box-office club. What they certainly have is a certain memorability. And that makes the entire struggle, both creative and professional, worth the while for a writer.

As a creative professional you want people to remember your work, even if they don’t know how exactly you contributed to it. I doubt that any audience member remembers box office collection numbers… what they do remember is really the story, the performances, the entire cinematic experience. Yet, the working environs for screenwriters still remain a challenge in the industry – our Intellectual Property rights as writers are not recognised, we are yet to start a system whereby we can receive royalties, and perhaps what is the most hurtful, is that too often, screenwriters do not get the recognition and the respect that they deserve from the directors and producers.

It’s a complicated issue. Apart from plain business reasons, there is also this warped understanding of the ‘auteur’ theory of film making — the director as the ‘author’ of the film. Films are considered a director’s medium. However, while every other department, like Cinematography, Editing, Sound or Production Design is devoted to translate the ‘director’s vision’, a screenwriter creates part of that directorial vision as the blueprint maker. Unless the writer and director relationship is driven by genuine trust and respect, there will always be the pitfall of exploiting and overshadowing the writer’s contribution to feed the ‘me’ complex of directors!

Q: When you wake up every morning, do you get bitten by the bug of writing a new storyline, or reading a good book which can get you a good storyline?

Pubali: Are you crazy ?! I like quoting Thomas Mann on this and its one of the few things that makes me feel like a writer. Mann once said that the only thing differentiating writers from others is that writing is hard for writers! So instead of some brilliant flash of inspiration what I am battling with almost on a daily basis is the anxiety of writing — fighting procrastination, fighting self doubt and feelings of inadequacy. It’s very much a neurotic process for me… the only thing is that by now I am somewhat familiar with the contours of my neurosis. But yes, I enjoy reading and watching good films. And besides, those are some of the best excuses to get away from doing the real writing!

Q: Your success stories really do not fit into the ‘Bollywood bubble’ storylines, although of late the Hindi Film industry has been producing great original stories. What kind of a trend do you see in storylines that would hit the box-office button in Bollywood?

Pubali: I am far too much of a recluse and misfit in the film industry to comment on ‘trends’. My limited understanding tells me that studios and producers are all hell bent on larger than life movies — star cast, franchises, comic book heroes — whatever is the easiest way to the wallet of the ticket buying audience. As a writer and film maker, I am interested in something to touch my audience’s hearts and minds with.

Having said that, there have been films like Badlapur, Court, Fandry (these two being Marathi films though ) Dum Laga Ke Haisha, Piku, Masaan or a Titli that do not tread the oft-beaten path of formulaic story telling. Even then, the ones without a star cast in the above mentioned list might not meet trade pundits’ approval based on the revenue they earned. So it really all depends on our audience — where they spend their money, what they find entertaining, what kind of films really touch them, beyond the loud noise of the marketing machinery telling them what to watch.

Q: Can we get an insight into your thoughts of your next venture?

Pubali: At this stage of my career, I am really keen on getting to tell my original stories on the floor. I have just completed the first draft of a script, which is set in a college campus. Currently I am developing the screenplay of one of my original stories, which a director is interested in — but its too early in the day to call it a ‘venture’ really. As a writer, I have to follow Lord Krishna’s advice — I must keep on working (writing) without expectations of any results!

Q: Since we had seen an excellent round-up of characters in Rock On, and it closed up very well, leaving no loose strands, I am curious to know what is ‘Rock On!2’ all about? How did you think of opening up an almost closed storyline?

Pubali: That’s really for me to know and you to find out once the film is released! As such you are right in observing that we had neatly tied up all the strands in the original film. Undoubtedly it was one of my biggest challenges to re-start the story with the same characters – but those characters are like real life people for me given the amount of time I have spent with them in the solitude of my room, right from when I started writing Rock On in 2006 — to the 10 years it will complete by the time the sequel releases (Inshallah) ! And if they are living in my head, perhaps they will come alive on the screen as well?

This interview was published in The South Asian News on January 29, 2016 when Kaberi was the Editor of the newspaper.

(Kaberi D. Chatterjee is a novelist/ journalist and author of Neil Must Die and several other books)

cellphone
I’m glad someone (and someone HUGE, and I’m flattered) who thinks like me. (Link below)
I don’t still use a cellphone. When I go to India, where there are almost no landlines, then I just have to carry one, but I keep it silent and away from me most of the times.
But my son and me, sitting on this very lonely part of the planet, (Canada) believe in staying away from the internet (which is still not a recognized word in the dictionary… see there is a red line under it) and cellphones for most part of our time. I like to watch stale TV series, watch an old movie, or read a book, do yoga, meditate, cook, redesign my home, sometimes just stand in the balcony and watch the life lolling by, watch the sunset, as if that’s the last day I’d be living on earth.
And I’d like to remind you I am not a very social person, neither is my son. We cannot chatter on the phone for hours, but I do focus on relationship building when I see a potential.
Why am I writing on first person basis, and talking about myself? Firstly I believe I am talking on behalf of a lot of people who think like me, but may not be able to be proud of their thoughts or be able to express it like the way they want. Secondly, it’s an audacity to write solely about oneself, and I like to have audacity. And thirdly, most importantly, it’s my blog.
I agree wholeheartedly with Werner Herzog in the interview below in the cellphone issue. And I also think that human beings will resist being wholly usurped by technology, on their own. They will build their own resistance when they’ll feel enslaved.
Hence, Elon Musk’s idea of colonizing Mars is something I don’t agree with. Colonize your own home first, there is still ample opportunity without disturbing the environment.
I think the idea of using technology to making our work easier and safer is greatly appreciated. (I do own a household robot to do my floors, for instance and I’d love to own self-driving car, since I don’t like driving and would like a technology chaffuer), but I greatly shun the use of cell phones when you have other means of communicating. It’s like technology is enslaving you slowly and you don’t realize it. It’s putting chains on your hands and you cannot even go to the bathroom without carrying it. I don’t own a cellphone, because I don’t want to be available all the time for the world.
“Where are you?” is the first question anyone asks you whenever they call. “Where were you?” if you don’t answer their cellphone. It’s not a concern in their voice. It’s their egos reprimanding you for not taking their calls. Telling you that they are important and you should take their calls the moment you see their names flashing.
Moreover, relationships make or break with cellphones. How long you’ve taken to take your friends’ call decides how strong the relationship is or isn’t and so on.
And I dislike what they offer you in the name of a cellphone: information you can do without, news that only depresses you and you can do nothing about, mundane gossip around the world, constant beeps…disturbing my chain of thoughts. I mean why? What have I done to deserve this? I have my own work. Writing thoughts like these, for example. Cooking. Educating myself. Reading all those books that I have to. Watching all those grand movies I intend to. That I want to personally review in my mind, or that which will help me re-establish my opinion about life in general. I look forward to thoughts which have not been thought.
Thinking. Relationship building. Focusing on my finance and future. Planning a life for my family after my death. All this takes time. How can you have any more time for such mundane stuff after finishing all these chores?
Technology cannot be all consuming and break my thought bubble all the time. I am not committed to be available to my family members all the time. Because I have to live with myself, first and last of all.
I would definitely like to use the internet. But at my leisure. When I have free time. To recharge my knowledge cell. Read up something new, like the one I shared below. To write and share my ideas. To share thoughts. To build my entrepreneurship ideas. Since it’s man who build technology to make things easier for him, I would like to use it, not the other way around.

Samarth Malik received the letter late evening. He was perplexed. The letter read, “From Mrs S. Misra, Konnagar, Hoogly, West Bengal.’’

Mrs. S. Misra? Who could it be? He tore open the letter. It read:

“Dear Mr Malik,

My late husband, Saurabh Misra was your friend. He died 12 years back. He has left a portion of his will in your name. I had been searching for your address all these years and have found it only recently. Kindly acknowledge receipt of this letter and let me know how soon can you come and accept your gift.

With sincere regards,

Mrs. Sabari Misra.’’

Samarth stood surprised for a long time. Saurabh Misra? Saurabh? In his last 41 years of his life he couldn’t recollect having met anybody by that name. A friend? He sat down on his armchair and began recollecting his college days. Saurabh… Saurabh… Who could it be who would leave a portion of his will in his name? He couldn’t remember.

He tried to remember his Naxalite days. Those days of fire — which he wanted to wipe off from his memory. There were no particular reasons for that. Only that his efforts had proved fruitless. Why only him, the entire movement had proved futile and the best of his mates were killed by the then ruling government.

He survived. There were reasons for that he didn’t want to remember.

Saurabh Misra…? Was he someone he associated during his Naxalite days? Or was he a colleague in his office?

He had emerged after his Naxalite days as a manager of an upcoming private organization. A well-settled organization, which gave him the launching pad for his soaring career in a multinational organization, of which he is a director now. He had built a plush home in the better parts of the city and with his wife and only daughter, had a chalked out a life that he was glad he had bargained for. He prided himself for taking the right decision at the right time.

Saurabh… a colleague? But a portion of will in his name? Strange! Or is he a distant cousin? No. He read the letter again. The lady mentioned that he was a friend.

Samarth decided to investigate the next day. His curiosity took the better of him and he was determined to find out what was this all about. He had been an active Naxalite once and had the grit of a leader. His name was still in the police books and if it were not for the police, his existence would have long been wiped off.

He had been saved at the nick of time. The police had opened fire when they had asked 17 of them to “Run! Run for your lives!!’’ on an open field. They had been promised freedom and were freed from the gloomy cells after a month of gruesome torture. His wrist was broken and his toenails were pulled off. His mates were in no better conditions. All of a sudden one day the Chief came and smiled at them, offering them freedom, at dawn. Thirty of them bundled in one cell; they looked at each other in disbelief.

The dawn came and 17 of them were pushed inside a van, and were driven off. The van reached an open field and they were asked to step down. And then the officer shouted, “Run! Now run for your lives while I count 10!’’

They ran! Samarth ran till his breath began to burst out from his lungs. He didn’t hear when the officer said “Ten!’’ and the three armed guards started firing. He saw his mates falling on the ground, one by one. And then something, a burning hot sensation entered his calf muscle and he fell. He staggered to get up, only falling back with the impact. Then suddenly an idea struck in his mind. He decided to stay motionless on the ground. He closed his eyes and bore the pain. The firing continued for another few seconds until there were no more running figures around. He waited breathlessly for the van to start its engine and drive off. A minute passed by and then two. He opened his eyes slightly to see the van and saw a pair of boots instead in front of his face. He instinctively looked up and saw the officer standing over him with a smiling face…

Konnagar was only a 20 minutes train ride from Calcutta. He reached the small, but busy town at 10:30 in the morning. He took a rickshaw and after several mistaken turns and bends, finally found the residence of Saurabh Misra.My husban'ds last gift

It was a small, one-storied yellow house. A short gate let to a wrought-iron enclosed balcony. He lifted the latch of the wrought-iron gate and clunked on it twice. And then again.

“Who is it?’’ A woman’s eyes peeped from above one of the springs of neat curtains that hung on the windows.

“I am… er… Samarth Mullick.’’

The woman’s eyes looked stoned for a second and then lit up with a smile.

“Oh yes, just a minute.’’

He heard the latch of the door being pulled down. And then he saw the woman come out.

She could barely be in her early 30s and her devastating beauty glowed from her white attire, while she was devoid of any external aid. A touch of helplessness in her eyes struck a node in Samarth’s heart and he wanted to suddenly be the benefactor of an unknown friend’s so lovely a widowed wife.

She smiled. And cupid worked ferociously in Samarth’s heart.

“Please come in. I have been waiting for you for days.’’ Her last words wrenched out from her heart and helpless eyes. Samarth thought about his dried-up wife.

“I am sorry,’’ he said. “I received your letter only yesterday.’’

“Oh! I posted it quite some time back,’’ she led him into the room.

The drawing room was neatly arranged. With frilled lacy covers on cabinets, supercilious sofas, cane stools and standing lamps, the room swanked in contrast to the woman’s vulnerable appearance. The fact that light had blinked out of the widow’s life ceased to walk in through the door into her interiors. She seemed a happy person inside; her garb of sanctity quietly camouflaging her bubbly youth. She was, as if, waiting for hope to re-enter her foyer.

Samarth sat down on one of the sofas.

“I am Sabari. That’s my husband.’’ She pointed with her eyes at a photograph just behind him.

He jerked his head around. And then he recognized him!

“Oh!’’ He was stunned. Too stunned to speak.

“Care for some juice?’’ She asked.

“Yes… okay…’’ he stuttered. “I wouldn’t mind.’’

“Just a minute,’’ she walked off inside.

Samarth looked at the photograph again. He was not mistaken. It was him! But then his name was… yes! Souvik… Souvik Sarkar.

The woman returned with a glass tumbler filled with an enticing chilled green juice. The tumbler was placed on a tray and covered with a lacy cover. He felt special.

“Please take this,’’ she said, “It’s made of fresh mangoes from my garden.’’

“Oh, thanks!’’ He raised the glass to drink the liquid in one gulp.

“Slowly,’’ she crooned and ended with a smile. “Drink it slowly. Or else you won’t enjoy the taste.’’

“Okay,’’ Samarth smiled. Was anybody else around in this house…?

He took one sip and kept the tumbler on the center table. Then he leant back and crossed his legs. “I don’t understand…’’ He tried to begin.

Suddenly Sabari’s expression changed to being somber. “My husband died in police firing. He was in the Naxalite movement.’’

Samarth nodded sadly, carefully heaving out a sigh of relief in small gasps. She went on.

“We were married for only three months. I was carrying his baby…’’

“Oh!’’ He bent forward and took a sip.

She looked out of the window sadly. “We were in love… we had just met in college. He didn’t want to marry me because he was into this movement.’’ Her eyes brimmed with tears.

Samarth shifted his legs nervously and took the tumbler in his hands. He was now trying to finish the liquid.

“…But I forced him. He had no parents and lived with his widowed aunty in this house.’’ She stopped and wiped her eyes with her sari.

“His aunty died a year back… I am all alone…’’ It was an inviting whisper and all Samarth could do was to shift in the sofa nervously. He felt restless.

“You…’’ he cleared his throat. “Your parents?’’

She smiled and looked at him. “They have disowned me ever since I married Saurabh. I will never go back to them.’’

“And…’’ he hesitated. “Your baby?’’

“Was born dead.’’ She looked up… and her eyes were made of stone.

He felt scared. He sipped on the liquid fast. His head was reeling. He was beginning to feel uncomfortable. He now wanted to get out of this house fast.

She went on. “You know how my husband died? He was fired, from behind his back. The police tipped one of his mates — this guy from his college. You know he was in the same movement.’’

“Oh…’’ He began feeling nauseated. He gulped down the liquid and finished it.

“Yes. The police tipped this friend of his with a grand job if he could kill him.’’

Samarth’s head started swaying!

She looked out of the window and tears started rolling down her eyes. “They were walking down this lane and my husband was discussing the next day’s plan with him. And then he fired him from behind, point blank.’’ She began weeping openly.

Samarth held the sofa handle and tried to get up. “I must go.’’ His head was swaying and his entire self was burning.

“Don’t go,’’ she pleaded in the same naïve voice. And then came forward and held his head. She began combing his hair with her fingers. “Relax, Samarth, relax… I need you…’’ She held his head on her flat stomach.

Samarth rested his head on her stomach and felt his orgasm reach the peak. He wanted to pull her down on the sofa and make ferocious love to her. He tried to lift his hands but couldn’t.

He looked up at her and she appeared blurred. “I don’t feel well.’’

She knelt down and began caressing his face, “Obviously you don’t. I know you are my husband’s killer. I have been waiting for you all my life. I have kept myself and this house beautiful ever since I learned that you were alive and so well…’’

His head staggered to fall. “I want to go home…’’ he could somehow blurt out. His whole self was burning.

“How can you go home, sweetheart?’’ She held up his wobbly head, holding his face. “I have mixed a deadly poison in your sherbet. You’ll be dead in a few minutes.’’

She held his limp head in her hands and then threw it with vengeance onto the sofa. His whole self fell, twitching slightly near his limbs — a white frothy liquid flowing out from his lips.

She stood up, “My husband’s last gift to you, sweetheart! Enjoy!’’

(This story is inspired from a short story I read when I was very young, can’t remember the source.)

(A short story from my third book and a compilation of original short stories, Whiff of Tempest)

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW OF FARHAN AKHTAR BY KABERI D. CHATTERJEE
FROM CANADA FOR THE SOUTH ASIAN NEWS, CANADA

He directs, writes scripts, produces, acts, sings, dances and writes poetry. With that powerhouse of talent, he is increasingly getting compared to the other genius multi-talented persona of Indian cinema, Kishore Kumar. “It’s just one life,” he says. “It’s totally fine to not have to do just one thing for your entire life, if you can do different things which you are passionate about. You can follow those dreams and hopefully, even do well at them.” With Wazir soaring to the box-office ceiling and his cult film, Rock On! 2 coming up, he is increasingly being recognized as the most cerebral actor Bollywood has ever produced. Kaberi Dutta Chatterjee had a long-distance mid-night chat with the actor-director-musician-singer-poet-producer-scriptwriter, Farhan Akhtar.

 

Farhan-Akhtar

Farhan Akhtar needs no introduction. The IMDB website states in his profile that he worked as a cameraman in Yash Chopra’s Lamhe in 1991 and then in 1997 as assistant director for a strange film, Himalaya Putra.
With such a humble beginning, you’d hardly think this is the son of the famous lyricist Javed Akhtar and scriptwriter, Honey Irani. Javedji’s work as dialogue writer in Sholay and Deewar have set the benchmark for dialogues in the Hindi film industry.

After this inconspicuous start, Farhan arrived in Bollywood in style with his baby project, Dil Chahta Hai, which he wrote and directed and which is still thought to be one of the cult movies of Indian cinema.
There was no looking back for him after that as he soar to new heights with acting, singing and producing skills in Rock On! and directing iconic films like Lakshya, Don, (with Shah Rukh Khan) and Don 2. He acted in several noteworthy films, like Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Luck By Chance and Karthik Calling Karthik, the latest being Wazir, where he plays an army protagonist in tandem with the legendary, Amitabh Bachchan. His upcoming film, Rock On!2, written by the same writer of Rock On, Pubali Chaudhuri, and directed by Abhishek Kapoor, has the country waiting in baited breath for another rock musical to hit the mass.

I was just lucky to catch the very busy persona as he had just completed the shooting of Rock On!2. Speaking to the actor-director-producer-singer at midnight (morning in Mumbai) was the most thrilling experience for me. He came across as a thorough gentleman, polite, patient with the questions and my excitement in talking to him, as not just a journalist, but also as a huge fan and admirer.

You direct, you sing, you write poetry, you dance, you write screenplays and you act with such intensity that you make each character etched in viewer’s minds and in the history of Indian cinema. Playing which role is most fulfilling to you? Which action makes you the happiest?

Farhan: You know, it’s quite an impossible question to answer. It’s all about (more…)

(Durga Puja and Mahalaya play a great part in building up the emotions in Neil Must Die. For all those who feel Durga Puja close to their hearts may want to read this extract)

durga

Book 5

CHAPTER 4

The Homecoming, MahaSaptami, October 16 1996

The litanies of the Mahalaya were tearing through the speakers throughout Rajdhani Express, pouring generously on the passengers, filling them up to the brim. They were all coming home. As Goddess Durga had already come into the lives and hearts of Bengal, so were they. Returning into the hearts of their own families. From various corners of the globe the Bengalis were returning home.

It was Saptami, the first day of the Durga pujas, and Neil was returning home. For the first time in two years. For the first time after Tuli’s death.

The Mahalaya was piercing through his lungs. His heart. His whole existence. Why did they have to sell the album in cassettes? It was as though the entire world had conspired against him to let him know something. That he couldn’t escape. To let him know that he was coming home, and that was the truth.

He felt uneasy. And was tempted to walk up to the train attendant and ask him to switch off the music. But he couldn’t trust himself. He didn’t know whether he would hit the man if the attendant refused. He shivered a little. He didn’t know whether that was from the excess air-conditioning or anything else. His mind was going numb.

He closed his eyes. He wished he could close his ears. He decided to bear the painful music. He decided to think about Cathy.

Her eyes were brimming with tears when he kissed her, bidding her goodbye at the airport. She held his hand and said, “I love you.” He wished he could say the same. He simply nodded.

She said, “Just give me a ring. And I’ll arrange for everything. I’m waiting for your call…” she trailed off. Her voice had cracked.

Neil felt sad for her. Sad that she was feeling so sad. He held her and hugged her close. He knew all he had to say was, “I’m coming,” at that moment. But he felt tongue-tied. He simply held her. He wanted to see her happy. Cathy looked up and searched his eyes, as if trying to fathom his confusion. He smiled to hide them. But she knew. She smiled back and held his hand tight, “Don’t rush things,” she said. “I’ll be a friend always.”

And then she turned and left. She turned back before entering the security check and waved at him, smiling. Neil too waved back. And smiled. He felt two emotions. A lump in his throat and a sense of relief. He never knew why.

He got up from the seat and walked out for a smoke. He wanted to think of Cathy and not of the place he was going to. He should have been on a plane to Stockholm and not on a train to Calcutta. He pushed the swing door of the compartment, stepped outside and lit a smoke. He had to go home someday or the other. He had to return and face his past. Good. He could think better. He opened the door of the train. Dusk sped by. Dim lights afar flashed erratically indicating that electricity had reached those villages. Before that, of course, lay acres of barren land, aman paddy having just been harvested.

He looked at the sky. He felt a sense of claustrophobia. Previously the sky was always his source of freedom. Now it seemed, ever since Tuli was up there, he had no escape.

Neil took a puff. He asked himself for the umpteenth time. Why was he always escaping? Why couldn’t he anchor somewhere? Who was he? What was his identity? He was already 24 and had not started life yet. Oh yes. He’s a criminal. How could he forget that? Now with that track-record it will be difficult to get a job either. He wasn’t qualified enough. The only option he had was to go back and join Hassan. Join Juhi. Perhaps even marry her. That was the only way out. Or get a job through her. Then of course, he’d have to marry her. He felt uneasy. Sick. Claustrophobic. Felt as if someone was throttling him. He simply had to try for a visa. He had to go to Stockholm. That was his only option.

He threw the cigarette on the speeding tracks and went inside.  He looked at the happy faces. The happy families who were all going back home on holidays. They’d meet their relatives and all would be so happy. He sat down. When did he last feel happy? He didn’t remember. What was happiness? Was he searching for happiness, or searching for an escape from it?

He didn’t have an answer. His eyes stung with self-pity. He decided to sleep. He decided never to wake up…

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I was very amused hearing Kalki Kolchen speak on 13th Indian Today Conclave on International Women’s Day on March 8.

Then when I heard her say:

“You remember Draupadi?

Draupadi married off to all five Pandavas.

She garlanded only Arjun

But they told her you got to marry all of us.

Five husbands! That can’t be fun.

God know I have enough trouble with one.”

Hmmmm!!

My one eyebrow shot up! That’s interesting! Not a bad idea. Five husbands? That too by default? Well, to begin with, I wouldn’t mind that.

Oops! Please don’t get me wrong. My only husband is fine. Just that when you are eating a staple diet all your life, you scream and shout and try to make it palatable enough to eat it everyday, each day for a hundred years… Then someone tells you, you know what? You could have had five different staple diets.  Five men to understand you. One man to do your shopping, one man to understand your tears, one man to do the plumbing breakdown, one man to cook you a soup when you are unwell, and one man to unconditionally love you.

Does that sound too bad now? Now that I’ve broken down the jobs that ONE single man does among five men, I am sure even men are amused by this post. They wouldn’t mind sharing their wife with four more ‘husbands’. Phew! I know men, how tiring it is to be with ONE woman. This is a gift to you!

Furthermore, we women put too much expectations on one man in one single marriage. Be it in the form of a daddy or a hubby, be it in love, in cuddling (but not taking us to bed), in changing diapers, feeding baby, cuddling baby, but not so much that you forget us. Understand! Understand! Understand! Men draw a blank at this the very first time itself. Then support us when we fight with your best girl: Your mom (The old witch!)

I know it’s hard, men. Which is why I suggest you start looking for other hubbies for your wife.

Yes, yes, I know there are other fringe benefits of having a few more men around. You can watch the soccer match with just ONE woman screaming in the background. (What else did you think? Naughty boys!!) You can share the house-work and bringing up of the babies. These days, you anyway, have to bring up the babies, or you are branded the villain. A few more husbands wouldn’t hurt.

And about five bedrooms? Come on! That can be ‘adjusted’. 😉

So? Do I start looking out your wife’s first groom? Or do you?Image