It was Friday. I was just out of bed. Normally I take about two minutes to drink the morning tea. Friday is an exception. I compensate for the hurry of weekly days by taking about thirty minutes. This is the time I do not mind junk TV programs. It is during this time last week; my TV host asked Amitabh Bachchan a silly question: "What you would have been doing if you had not taken up acting?"
"I would have been selling milk in roadside booth in Ahmadabad" replied Bachchan laughingly. Silly answer I thought.
May be he wanted to tell, that was his family business for generations, but having studied in Doons School, he would not have landed up selling milk- probably he would have joined as CEO of a big milk powder supply company or Regional Manager of a milk multi national, I thought.
With one more sip of tea going inside, there was a flash of thought. What I would have been, if not for the present job?
I struggled for a while. Nothing serious came to my mind. We all talk of alternative strategy every morning and evening, but when it comes to your own self, there is no clear idea. What maximum I could think of is a job in another company; not beyond that!
I was about to think seriously for the second time – got a call from Sridhar.
"Are you busy in the afternoon?", that question means he wants my company to go somewhere.
"Tell me what the matter is"
"Would you like to see me act in a drama again?"
"Act in drama? Are you crazy?" I asked
"Why not? Both of us acted in school. We acted in college as well. You were my permanent villain. Then of course, you concentrated on studies, but I still tried acting. Even in Mumbai where I went after finishing the college, I was trying my luck. My brother was searching for a job for me and I was trying to impress the gate keeper at RK Studios to let me in"
"I know, I know, and then your brother packed you off to Dubai"
"But the artist in me has still not died. I got an opportunity and I am on stage again"
"Even I do such acting at home occasionally? The hall is your stage and your wife is your audience" I taunted.
"It’s not a joke. I am serious. There is a group in industrial area III. They are staging a comedy and they have offered me a small role"
"How is that you got their contact?" I asked in wonder.
"There is a start for everything. I followed it up with my contact, talked to them and got this. Opportunities come to doorstep only for the lucky ones; you and I will have to go everywhere searching for that"
I was impressed by his last sentence. Even I do not have an alternate career path. May be in drama today, in cinemas tomorrow – who knows the destiny?
"Hey, Even I want to meet them" I told begging.
"Tell me whether you are free in the afternoon. We will go there. Today is the final rehearsal. Drama is next Friday."
"OK. OK. I will check with my wife for any commitments and give you a call soon" and kept the receiver.
"I am going to explore a chance to act in dramas" I told my wife.
She looked surprised. She even stared at me to see whether I am joking. When she finally found that I am serious, told me "You have a good physique. But that is not all. You need to express yourself. All these years I have not seen you express emotions. You could neither shout at the watchman when the car tyre was stolen nor you could shout at your son when he got grade C in all his papers"
"I did not, because I knew there is no use" I retorted.
"You could not cry in front of the landlord when he increased rent"
"You think he would have reduced if I had cried in front of him?" I shot back.
"Forget all these, you have not come out with a few catchy dialogues expressing your love to me" complained my wife.
"That is no problem. In drama, there would be ready made dialogues. One needs to only deliver them. I have done so during college days" I argued.
"I have not seen you act at all, even in real life. Give me one instance where you actually acted" she threw a challenge.
"You have seen me as a happy contented man all the way? haven’t you? Part of it was acting" I told just to keep her out from my acting capabilities!
And that had the desired effect.
"OK. OK, I am all the more interested to see you act. It’s better than sitting all through out in front of the computer and typing. Wish you all the best"
There came the approval and in the afternoon, Sridhar and I were driving to the industrial area III.
"Do you remember any dialogue in any old drama you acted? May be they will ask you to act and show your skill" My friend was really getting involved.
"Do not worry… I will tell some cinema dialogues like – are O samba.. kitne aadmi the"
"That is too common and where is the chance to prove you there? Whatever you say will be well below Amjad Khan"
"Relax. This is not an interview, to prepare and deliver. I will just tell them that I had acted during college days." I pacified him.
Anyway, there is no role left in this drama unless the director opts out of the dual role he is playing – of director and villain. Mine was the last one. Today I will just introduce you, see their environment and see whether the setting suits you. If everything is well and good, you can act with us in their next drama" concluded Sridhar.
We reached one villa at a corner of the road reaching to the industrial area. There were already a few cars in front of the villa. "See the rehearsal is on" commented Sridhar.
We went inside. A man with freak looking beard was giving some instructions here and there. I thought him to be the director. On seeing us, he came to us. My friend introduced me to him as a good actor, would like to act. I liked the prefix ?good’.
"Be seated, our director will come now" he told.
"By the size of the beard I thought he is the director" I told Sridhar.
"Be serious" was his reply!
After ten minutes came a clean shaven gentleman. He was brought straight to us by the bearded man. "He is our director" he introduced him and showing me told the director "he too is a good actor and wants to join us in our plays"
Sridhar continued to explain my service in this filed, i.e., my roles as a very decent villain!
He seemed to be listening, but I could make out he was lost thinking of something else.
Sridhar must have spoken for about five minutes about me and him and then stopped waiting for the director to speak.
"We appreciate your interest but you are late. We have already allocated all important roles. With all difficulty, we could accommodate Sridhar with a small role" the director spoke in a manner showing all the great respect for both of us.
"See this drama of ours; we want to be ?number one’ in this region. We need more actors for our future plays. Be in touch, we need actors like you" told the director and went to talk to other actors.
We both felt elevated and we sat in a corner.
We were sitting there may be for half an hour. The rehearsal was going on based on the availability of actors, so I could not make out the story.
I was bored but Sridhar was curiously looking in trying to figure out the drama.
"What is your role?" I asked Sridhar.
"A small role told the director. Because I was the last to join" he was still ruing his bad luck to be the last to join.
"Without knowing when your role comes up, how long we will wait? Ask the director to finish your scene so that we can go home" I requested Sridhar.
"Be patient. Honor the basics. We need to wait till our role comes up. Remember this is the final rehearsal" Sridhar shot back.
Another half an hour elapsed. I could make out it is a love triangle comedy. The heroine was not present yet and the rehearsal was still going on without her. At least the heroine was to be here, I would have had something to kill my boredom I thought.
By this time, even Sridhar was also tired of waiting.
"There is nothing wrong in asking the director what is your role and the scene number in which you get to go to the stage" I spoke to myself so loudly that Sridhar can also hear. It worked.
"I will do that" told Sridhar and went to the director.
I could see them discussing for a few minutes. Sridhar came back and told "Let us go". I was surprised.
"What happened? Any problem? Did he get angry with you or you are angry?"
"Nothing of that sort. The director told I need not wait for rehearsal. He is sure of my capacity to act and it is a small role. He has asked me to come on the day of drama"
I was not convinced
"Where is your dialogue? You need to know them by heart" I reminded him.
"Yes. I told this to the director. But he said it is only one line dialogue and two scene appearances. He will explain it on the day of the drama. He asked me to come at 4.30 on the day of drama. When the director told he has full confidence in me, not to worry, I could not ask any more questions" Sridhar was apologetic.
I was amused. It’s role of a single line dialogue and two scene appearance that does not require rehearsal!
"Must be a very small role in deed" I told my doubts to Sridhar.
"Even I think so" told Sridhar in a mild voice.
"Whatever it is. Let us take this as an introduction. This will help us to know the people" I pacified.
Then came the big day. Sridhar called from the theatre. "I am already here. The show is at 6 PM. You bring my wife and kids along with your family. Do not buy tickets. My wife has tickets for both of you; each of us had to sell five tickets minimum"
We reached the theatre. It was almost full. Sridhar came to receive us and guide us to our seats.
"What is your role?" I asked him.
"It’s that of a postman. I am upset. I would have avoided this if the director had told this to me in advance but now I am doing this for the sake of commitment" cried Sridhar.
"A true actor should not turn away from doing any role" I patted him on his back.
It was a pure commercial comedy, far from our expectations. The role of Sridhar was to give money orders to the villain cum director twice ? first time in five notes of hundred each ( and does not get his commission) and the second time in four hundred notes, then a fifty, then four tens and two fives ? expecting a commission. Still the villain does not give his commission. Then the single line dialogue – "If you do not give my commission, I will tell your father that five hundred rupees pension is coming regularly and your son is grabbing it"
Then the villain would pacify the postman and gives one five rupee note back as commission. There ends the role.
On seeing this, even Sridhar’s wife got annoyed. "He was dancing all the way for this role? I can not believe this" she told.
We had planned that Sridhar’s wife would return along with Sridhar after the drama as we were to go to the supermarket from there. But Sridhar’s wife insisted "I am coming back with you. Let him enjoy their company till the end and come back at his convenience"
There were no calls from Sridhar for quite sometime and I thought he is too shy to call.
It’s about a month since I had spoken to Sridhar. I was planning to call him on the week end. Suddenly I got a call from him
"Are you free this Friday?" he asked.
That means he wants my company to go somewhere.
"Tell me what the matter is"
"We need to go to that director. He has called me to come today"
"I am not interested to act anymore with him. He was not fair with you" I told.
"Even I am not interested to act with him anymore" told Sridhar.
I was surprised. He is not interested to act. Then why he is going there? Why he wants me to accompany him?
"You are not interested to act. Then why you are going there?" I asked him curiously.
"Adorning that postman role, I had given five hundred Dirham of my money to him. Five Dirham he returned on the stage itself as my commission. He is yet to return the balance 495. He is avoiding me since then. He has promised me to repay that today. I understand he owes a lot of money to other actors too. If he is not giving it today, I do not know what I will do to him. I want you to be by my side as my bodyguard".
As I prepared to go with him, I remembered, thanks to the director, I had found an alternate career path..!!
About the Author:
Author: Gopinath Rao- UAE