Sunday, March 30

Darn that dream

The space had character.

The outside room was distinguished by wooden floors, formica topped tables around the corners, shelves lined with video tapes & reels, cardboard boxes hiding behind pillars almost in apology, and piles of vouchers, bills, shooting dockets & other documents shuffling around higgledy-piggledy wherever they could. Large, framed prints hung on the walls. The room should have felt crowded and untidy, but it did not. Each of the items had made a place for itself in there, and now looked like it had always belonged.

The inside room was all him... his personality & tastes expressed in a strong, vivacious fashion. The aluminium windows, open more out of rusty compulsion than choice, looked on to a dreary building. An AC rumbled on in a determined fashion, while the water dripping from it made its way down the window grills, into the gullets of crows, sparrows and any other bird that needed a drink. A very hot summer was in the offing.

His table was wooden and solid-looking. It had a large Macintosh, some papers, a notebook and an old pouch. His leather chair promised reassuring comfort. It had to; he was 6 ft. 3 in. A tan Lazy-boy, corpulent in its padding looked like it was snoozing in a corner. The walls were a melange of well-thumbed books, fading movie posters and photographs of actors and movie covers. Behind his chair hid a hand-painted & framed picture of a bull charging at the Matador, the red of the cloth, vivid. Light streaming from the window hit a small silver salver... the kind in which chandoo (finest opium) used to be kept in days gone by.

And then there was the man himself. When authors used the words craggy and rangy to describe men, SSS was the kind of man they were referring to. With the natural confidence possessed by those with royal blood in their veins, wealth, good looks and athletic bodies, he walked into a room like he owned it. And in this case, it was literally true. He did own this part of the building; 2 rooms in an enormous old studio lot, now going to seed. Most of the sound stages had closed, the editing rooms had moved elsewhere and there was talk about an infamous realty group circling like a shark that had smelled blood. SSS had moved into the place 20 years ago. He was still there.

An industry veteran, SSS had worked with big names and agencies and, like all veterans, strongly disdained most of those he'd worked with. He was a born raconteur, with enough skill to tantalise rather than reveal. His voice was clear, his words eloquent and his diction, perfect. His conversations ranged like a wild horse through the landscape of his memories and experiences; yet, the work-related topics were never neglected. As he spoke, he'd open the pouch, take out the rolling paper, a filter, some tobacco and weed. Without a pause, he'd mix, layer, roll and light up. It was a pretty mesmerising performance. And the joint always smelled good.

It was only his eyes that were tired and careworn. Though they usually looked speculative, 20 years was a long time to be behind the camera, direct actors, consider shots & storyboards, yell "Action", "Cut" and "Pack up", and the fatigue came through every now and then. Despite the clear passion for his work and his talent, SSS was exhausted. More than that, he was bored, which was worse. He was reaching the end of his tether; over the lack of organisation at shoots, the lack of professionalism, the quibbles, quarrels, constant client edits... the list went on. There was also the brouhaha over the realty dealer and the sale of the property. Where would he move? How would he take 2 decades of good & bad to another place? How could he abandon the very walls that had supported him all these years?

SSS didn't have any answers. He got up, headed outside his office to a wrought iron bench opposite the door in a long passageway. There he sat, with an ashtray and a joint, staring into nothingness.


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