Saturday, July 31, 2010

Under the Clock

It was the 12th of January… doesn’t matter what year!

Every year, the 12th of January was our mini-alumni day. That is the day the gang used to meet up and discuss the happenings of the year. It was on the last day of college that we decided for this mini-alumni event. All of left with a promise to make it to the event year on year.

Of course, we did use to stay in touch through sporadic phone calls, but the 12th was special!

Members of the gang:
  • Me (Keku), the fattest of all
  • Dalip, the dumbest of all
  • KC, the smartest of all
  • Bakshi, the craziest of all
  • Raahu, the bravest of all
  • Paandu, the stingiest of all
Yes! Our gang had a number of superlatives personified. We all stayed in different parts of India. Only KC and Bakshi came from the same—Gwalior.

Oh! I forgot to tell you the place of meeting. It had to be, of course, our favorite post-college hangout spot… the clock tower, 3 km from the engineering college in the town of Nahan in the state of Himachal Pradesh. Pretty interesting choice, eh? We loved the place.

So… coming back to the 12th this year—the last we met… and maybe the last ever we met.

Four of us had reached on time. The two Gwalior boys were missing… and late, as usual.

I remember the day well. It rained all through the day and maybe till the next morning. It was 2 p.m., an hour after the scheduled meeting time. The four of us were really happy to see each other. All three claimed I had become fatter… and they wanted me to shed some kilos before the next meet. As it continued to rain and we were waiting for the Gwalior boys, we had nothing to do but tell stories.

It was 5 p.m. and still no sign of the Gwalior boys. We could wait… and continue our chitchat. Possibly stirred by the incessant rain and the general monotony, the topics of our discussions turned to be a little paranormal.

Dalip recounted to us the tales of buses losing their control and falling into ravines after encountering ancient ghosts that haunt the bends on mountain roads.

Raahu then told us of jinns who engage themselves sportingly in fierce battles on moonless nights, leaving huge trampled circles in the corn fields. If not to the jinns, Raahu said, "to what else could these circles be attributed, for there were generally no storms or even rains on the previous night?"

As the sky turned gray and the downpour heavier, we had become confined to the old clock tower. As the clock struck 7, we saw a young man approaching toward us. Hey!!! That is KC. We were so happy to see our gang about to get complete. But why was he alone? Where was Bakshi?

The clock tower was desolate at that hour of the day. All shops were closed, except for a dimly lit tea stall that faced the clock tower. We could see steam coming out of hot tea that a merry old man was pouring into glasses. A young boy rushed to the tables to attend customers with a sense of emergency. We looked towards the tea stall as we talked and derived pleasure from the sight of steaming tea—it was very cold now—before it descended upon us that we wanted to have some tea too. Paandu gestured to the boy in the tea stall to bring five glasses of tea.

We all hugged KC and let him settle while the tea signaling was being done. The next thing had to be obvious. I asked, "where is Bakshi?"

The downpour still continued, and the last bus was making its appearance at the bus stop next to the clock tower.

Next to Dalip sat KC, who, after the question was hurled at him twice, opened his mouth for the first time. I forgot to mention earlier—KC looked very tired and sad. We had in our minds blamed it to a tiring journey.

KC said Bakshi was not…

"Not???" we asked.

"Around," he said.

"Not around," what does that mean KC?

KC cleared his throat. It looked like he was about to begin a story. I guessed it was some long story that would explain why Bakshi was missing and what KC meant when he said that Bakshi was not around.

KC was a fine storyteller! It must be mentioned here—he could describe faces with astounding precision, mimic voices and walks, and tell of mannerisms and habits of his subjects. Such were his talents that if he’d ever describe to you a man you haven’t met before, you’d recognize him the next time you bump into him. KC lit up a cigarette and immediately put up an air of thoughtfulness, while Paandu gestured to the tea stall to bring the tea jaldi. Meanwhile, we made ourselves comfortable on the low concrete fence that bordered the clock tower. KC continued…

"As you know, Bakshi liked boxing and would practice for hours at the club, sometimes with me and sometimes alone. Hours of practice had made Bakshi quite good; he moved his feet briskly and delivered powerful punches. In some friendly bouts, he had almost knocked his opponents down in a few blows. Though not very strongly built, he derived tremendous force from the speed with which he administered his blows."

KC then stopped to puff at his cigarette. It was still raining just as hard, and dark had begun to descend. All of us were now immersed in the story, keen to know what was wrong with Bakshi. After a couple of long puffs, KC continued.

"You know Bakshi had a very uncommon temperament. He would always get interested in bizarre things—anything that would give him a sense of novelty or adventure. He’d pretty easily get bored of routine. That, to me, seems the explanation why his passion for boxing gradually left him and why he turned to ganja (drugs). I remember him telling me how wonderful he felt after a round of ganja. He would advise me to try it, but I resisted. I knew this thing was not good and tried to get him interested in something else, but nothing worked.

He lost health, vivacity, and even confidence. Within a matter of months, he looked enervated—a lost soul plus an absolutely purposeless fellow. It saddened me. He began to miss his boxing sessions and would spend time at lonely places. On one of his lonely strolls down the Pir forest, he even discovered a little creek at the foot of the mountain—which was also the location of the royal cemetery. Bakshi had somehow developed a real liking for the cemetery. He once told me that ganja and the cemetery were all we wanted."

We sensed something bad had happened to Bakshi. Dalip’s face clearly suggested he was upset that things went that bad and he was never informed. KC resumed.

"A few days before Diwali, I had accompanied him to the cemetery on his insistence. I read the epitaph on one of the tombstones—it suggested that the grave belonged to the commonwealth war, when English soldiers were stationed at Gwalior cantonment. I have to confess that I immediately took a liking for the place; there was something inviting there—in the indolent October sun, bright marigolds that grew in plenty and the sensuously warm tombstones. Peace everywhere. No doubt Bakshi liked the place and would spend hours reclining at the tombstones or taking strolls in the narrow trails that winded down the creek. Often he’d bring a marigold or two along on his way back. As of me, I didn’t visit the place again. And as Bakshi began to spend more time at the cemetery and in the forest around, I didn’t meet him for days... until Diwali, when I saw him walking up the market street in the middle of the night. He passed by like a stranger. I noticed that he was carrying a pale marigold in his hand. I called out his name, but he kept walking. I then walked up to him, turned him about by his shoulder, and asked if he was alright.

For the next two minutes or so, Bakshi kept uttering something in English. He was talking about his "troops" being given some wrong information about the location of the "enemy". Moreover, Bakshi claimed that the enemy had shot everyone in his unit… and he should die too. He then stopped as abruptly as he had started and walked away into the dark.

What Bakshi had said was undoubtedly weird. But what struck me more was the fact that he had hardly uttered one correct sentence in English all his life. You remember how he used to stutter when it came to English?"

We nodded.

"And there he stood telling me the story of some troops killed by the enemy… with a diction that was so unmistakably English… as if…"

"Then?" said Dalip.

"On the same night, his lonely strolls came to an end when he reportedly fell off the cliff near the cemetery… and died."


I can’t even describe our reaction to what KC had just mentioned. I admit I was not very shocked because the way the story was unfolding, I had started to expect it. Dalip and Paandu cried. KC wiped something off his face and continued.

"The doctors at the civil hospital said it was the effect of excessive ganja. The drug, they said, made Bakshi act in rather peculiar ways and it might have been the delirium that took Bakshi on that night to the edge of the cliff. People believed this explanation; it was, after all, the most educated one. But… I know! It was not ganja."

And that was all that KC could tell us. He then puffed at whatever was left of his cigarette and started walking toward the back of the tower. Our public open-air urinal stayed there.

We were really sad. Something terrible had transpired. I began to ponder over what he had told us.

The noise of the rain suddenly returned and seemed to grow louder by the moment. It had grown quite dark by then, and the rain was coming down just as hard, which made a jet of water on the road moving swiftly down the slope.

The stillness broke with a honk, and the headlights of an auto rickshaw pierced the dark. Someone stepped out of the rickshaw and started walking toward us. The visibility was poor initially.

But as the person came closer, it turned out to be… Bakshi.

We all froze at once. He looked at us, a little unsure as to why his friends weren’t so welcoming. He did not look that happy.

We had no clue what was happening. But then I figured KC had made a fool of us. It was a really difficult point of time.

Bakshi looked at us, and said "KC is no more. I got late because I was at the cremation ground… had to take the next available train."

I looked in the direction that KC was supposed to come back from. No sign. Paandu, Raahu, and Dalip just sat. I have no idea what was going on in their minds.

Bakshi continued. "KC had been depressed since last few months. He claimed one of his friends from the the Gwalior cantonment had died at his hands in the war."

We listened helplessly.

"And then one day, KC fell off the cliff next to the forest."

The next moment we saw KC joining us. This had to be the most helpless I ever felt. I did not know what was going to happen next. Were they both lying?

The moment Bakshi saw KC, he jumped in his direction. KC screamed, "Officer, I’ll kill ya… ya enemy" and charged toward Bakshi.

The two crashed into each other right next to us… and whoosh…

...they disappeared!

Monday, July 12, 2010

How Many Stars... Mr. Mohan?

Vikrant Mehra: O my swee'heart... You're a born magician... You've performed a magic trick on me—I just don't seem to think of anything other than you.

Sweetheart Kumar (name undisclosed): (chuckles) Will you allow me to go out and perform these tricks on others? Like... I mean... Show my talent to the world?

Vikrant: You naughty baby! Don't even think of others... The world consists of just the two of us now onward.

...and they kissed each other...
...and another one... followed by a third... while a hidden camera captured the scene and made a 10-minute movie.

After the sweetheart left, Vikrant went to the camera controls, viewed the tape, and said, "perfect." Next, he took the tape out, put it in an envelope, sealed it, and wrote on it.

The envelope was addressed to Mohan Kumar who worked as the Senior Correspondent for a high-ranking newspaper. Mohan's job included movie reviews. He was often referred to as "Mr. Reviewer."

Oh! Another question—Who's that Vikrant... and that sweetheart?

Vikrant was an actor who'd done three movies in all... last being Papa Jaag Jayega (PJJ). And by the way, his sweetheart was Mr. Reviewer's daughter. No need to mention her name. Kyon badnaam karna faaltu mei?

Clearly... in the above scene, Vikrant was doing what he did best... acting! He was fooling her.

Coincidentally, two couriers were delivered to Mr. Reviewer's house that day.

Someone was clicking photographs without the subjects having any knowledge of it.

"Ah, this one will do," said the cameraman Paras. "This one" described a guy chatting with his colleague... pure chatting... no hanky panky, mind you!

Paras then put the photograph in an envelope and sent it to Mr. Reviewer's wife. The envelope read "Your Husband's Latest Affair."

A note about Paras—he used to be a cameraman in Bollywood movies, last being PJJ.

"Helppppp... Helppppp... Helpppp...," shouted someone.

This someone was being kidnapped. The kidnappers had been hired by a certain Mr. Kranti Singh.

Kranti Singh who? Kranti was a prominent villain of the Bollywood industry. His last role was in a movie called PJJ.

...and the guy shouting for help was the teenage son of... you know... a movie reviewer known as Mohan Kumar.

On hearing the 'confirmation' from one of the kidnappers, Kranti picked up the phone and dialed a number...

Mohan... bahut review ka shauk hai tujhe? Tera beta mere kabze mei hai... hahahahahahahaha... hahahahahaha... hahahahahahaha... (hangs up).

[Mohan, you are very fond of reviewing, right? I have kidnapped your son... (laughter followed by phone hanged up)]

News of actors, cricketers, and all do-biggers joining Twitter was making headlines. But, something that had been totally overlooked was the new blog created by a movie writer, Telgi.

Telgi was a Bollywood movie writer... his last movie was PJJ. After the disappointment of that movie, Telgi realized how the success of movies also depends on critics and other frill reviewers. Telgi had been gutted at the fact that one such reviewer had made the whole of his last effort look so dumb.

Anyways, this blog that Telgi had created was for giving review comments to movie reviewers. Yes, you read it right. Telgi, in his blog, would review the work of movie reviewers. The name of his blog was something similar to tu-toh-gaya-mohan@blogspot...

In this blog, Telgi had decided to make one particular reviewer's life hell. No prizes for guessing the reviewer's name.

Meanwhile, a pretty lady was seen entering a local police station.

"I want to complaint about this guy... he has been calling me late nights... sending SMSs... and may even be stalking me..."

"Do you have any idea who it could be?"

"Yes... seems like this guy who works as a reviewer for this newspaper. His name is Mohan Kumar."

"Okay ma'm. Let us find out what's happening. Give us your mobile number..."

Meera Gagroo, the Bollywood actress, last seen in PJJ, had just made an exit from the police station.

Ok. What's happening here, guys?

Kyon peeche pade hue hain sab Mister Reviewer ke... ??

This goes a month back in time. The movie PJJ was supposed to release. Its cast and crew were super excited about the whole thing. Most of them were quite fresh into the industry, and therefore, they had high hopes from the movie. They had put in a lot of effort over a period of 8 months, and naturally, all of them were nervous.

The movie was to release on Friday, and unfortunately, its release date clashed with a big-budget movie. It was a known fact that the public had become smarter and started going for movies only after having read the movie reviews floating in the market. A known name in this business of reviewing was Mohan Kumar (Mr. Reviewer).

So... while PJJ was being released... a sad story for its crew was unfolding simultaneously. As it was later known to the crew, the guys behind the big movie that was releasing the same day had paid a huge sum to Mohan Kumar and asked him to thrash PJJ—this would by default benefit the big movie.

The next morning, an excited crew read this in the movie-review section of a newspaper (on the left).
Now... of course, please don't for a moment think that such reviews were allowed. Mohan got a big warning from his boss. The boss wanted Mohan to be specific and write about actual stories than generically talking about filth contained in movies. Mohan was okay with the big warning... the money he had received was big too.

Going back to the crew now...

Dejected... was of course the word. Even though the review did not talk anything specific about the movie, it had changed the revenues considerably... and in the negative direction. A lot of people, after having read the review, did not give PJJ any chance. Some of the people who watched it were confused as to why such a review was given... after all, the movie was okay for watching once at least.

And hence... it resulted in a pissed-off crew of PJJ. Making movies was their job... and now they wanted to seek a movie-style revenge... on Mohan! Therefore, they did what they did.

However, do you think the story could end here? Of course not!

Life always has its ways of getting back at people. Mohan was struggling big time... being hit from all directions. Let's summarize his state:
  • His daughter was kissing flop actors and making videos out of it.
  • His son had been kidnapped.
  • His wife was complaining of him having an affair with some random colleague. She left for her mother's place... blaming Mohan for the kidnapped son.
  • He was being questioned by the police for stalking this actress.
  • His work was being ripped apart in some random blog by a movie writer.
  • His boss was pissed off at him for making use of the newspaper's review section in the way Mohan did. Thankfully, the boss did not know the motive. Else...
Not good!

A month later, Mohan's things had considerably improved. His daughter vowed she'd never get close to anyone. The son had god-knows-from-where returned two days after the kidnapping. Wife was still not around, but he was okay with it. Police had acquitted him in the case of stalking the actress. His stories were still being scrutinized by Telgi's blog... and his boss was normal now.

Mohan knew very well what had happened. The timing of all the incidents and some of the people involved could not have been coincidental. He knew that PJJ's people had everything to do with everything that had happened. Not surprisingly, he even knew why they did what they did.

A month later, Mohan was visited by some of the crew members of PJJ. They wanted to apologize for everything. The producer even invited Mohan for the exclusive premier of their next movie, Chal Phoot Le. The producer told Mohan that most of the cast of Chal Phoot Le was the same as PJJ... and all were happy to invite Mohan over for the premier.

At first, Mohan did not believe what was happening. Anyways, he did not care much.

He had never for a minute thought the episode was over. He was waiting for opportunities to get back... and opportunity is exactly what he got! the form of that invitation.

Having sat through the premier, Mohan was flabbergasted. A movie shot in a room with just one person sitting and narrating the incidents of his life... what kind of a movie was that?

Here's a scene from the movie... the actor sat like this for 3 hours... in almost the same angle... with almost the same expressions... and kept uttering something or the other. Replay this video in your mind for 3 hours, and you could almost get a pirated copy of the movie.


"One stupid-looking actor... in the whole movie... blabbering nonstop all through. You call that a movie? You must be kidding me."

Mohan thought this movie was made with a budget of Rupees 100/-.

Anyways, he got what he wanted.

The next morning his reviews would be on paper even before the first show was played in theatres.


As expected, Mohan did a royal thrashing of the movie.

His comments were so harsh that a number of people felt pity for the director. Mohan knew he needed to be specific else his boss would go mad again. He did so.

On the left is the article that Mohan did for Chal Phoot Le.


A day later, a cyclone had hit Mohan's life.

He lost his job and reputation....

…immediately after his newspaper lost its high rank and credibility
…immediately before being sued by the team of Chal Phoot Le

Chal Phoot Le, apparently, had turned out to be a normal family movie... with usual scenes... usual songs... usual comedy. Its story was based on unwelcomed guests... bell-ringing salesmen... etc.

Mohan's review was not even 1% close to the actual. He'd been duped. He realized that the director-producer duo of Papa Jaag Jayega was planning bigger things while the other crew members were playing around with him.

The premier... the crowd... even the movie... all was a hoax! They never showed the real movie that day.

However, Mohan's bevakoofi was showcased for real!

--------------------------------------------THE END----------------------------------------

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