Joined: 19 January 2013
"And once more, I thank each one of you in your contribution to making me who I am today and able enough to convince you that this award should be bestowed on me." I looked at the clapping audience in front of me. I looked at a few faces, faces I recognized and some I didn't. I saw a genuine smile in a few, scorn in others and just a grin on some. But then as I walked off the stage I reminded myself, I knew that already. This is showbiz man. Nothings really real.
I sat down with Priya, who had accompanied me for the evening. I liked her a lot and she told me she felt the same for me as well. It felt nice when she said that but after a life like mine I didn't know how much to believe that. Was I a good bait to hang out with to meet the right set of people or was I genuinely good to be with on my own? After all I'm close to 50 and she's not even 30, but what the hell. I don't know if I'll ever know the answer to that but for now, this was as good a moment as ever to squeeze her hand.
I watched as the awards evening drew to a close. I walked out to a bunch of journalists who wanted their customary quote of the evening. God knows what its gonna mean tomorrow when they publish it but then as long as it prints it works. Our industry is a very open to any kind of publicty. It doesn't matter if the quote is good or bad, as long it makes the print; you're the man in demand.
Tonight they wanted a picture of Priya and me. I usually refused as I did not want to make our relationship public but for some reason I didn't want to say no this time. I called out to Priya, who used to walking out on her own and getting into her car driving a round about route to my place, was once more doing her routine. She smiled at me and came towards me with quizzical eyes. I looked at her and realized how hot she was looking tonight. For a second, before I could put the thought to bed, it struck me that a pic with a girl with a body as hot as hers could never be bad for my sex life or professional career. She came closer and I whispered to her, "They want a picture of us together. Are you okay with that?" She smiled and squeezed my hand, "Of course Sumit. I'm so glad you're ready for that." We turned to look at the photographer and I felt her ease her body comfortably into mine as she moved her arm around my back. I put my arm around her. I Looked at the photographer and could see my media manager standing behind him, not quite sure what she should do. That made my smile broader Ė for once I was listening to my heart and not what my head or rather what I was advised.
We walked out of the foyer of the hotel as my car waited, saying good night to acquaintances and colleagues and waving to the press. As I approached the car I realized that after the photograph was clicked, my hand had not left her wait and neither had hers left mine. She looked at me and asked, " shall I get my own car?" "No", I responded, "send it home." She smiled at me and pulled out her phone to call her driver as she slipped into the car. I watched as she did. As always, I could not avoid noticing the sexy curves which her shapely dresses pronounced so strongly. That was of course what had attracted me to her to begin wih, till I started to get to know her. The question slipped through my mind again, "Did I love her?". That to me was a question I was trying to keep as far from my mind as possible, for no reason more than the fact that I was afraid of the answer. A no would beg me to question what I was doing with her and what I wanted to do with my life, a yes would mean I would be scared again. Scared of a relationship which I yearned for but had scarred me so many times that staying away from it seemed almost as horrible as being near it.
"Are you planning to get into the car, Sumit?" I realized I had lost myself in my train of thoughts and grinned. "Yeah, babe. Sorry, was just enjoying the moment" I got into the car and settled back with an arm around Priya as the driver slowly eased the car out of the driveway.
"What's with you tonight Sumit?" she playfully asked me. "First a photograph and then riding home with you. All okay with you?" I grinned at her, " Are you complaining?" "No", she replied, "not a bit" as she moved her head onto my chest. We stayed that way talking about the evening all the way home. Despite it being past midnight and my house wasn't more than a couple of kilometers away, it still took us more than 15 minutes to be home. That's one thing about Mumbai, distance and time were two concepts alien to each other the moment you threw in a catalyst called traffic. But that's a part of Mumbai which is integral to the city and as with everything in life, the good and bad can't always be separated. It's a package deal, take it or leave it. And I for one, loved this city. After all it had welcomed me as one of its own, given me a life I could never have believed possible and made me famous beyond my wildest imagination.
The car slowly eased itself into the gates of my residence. Situated at the heart of Mumbai, overlooking the sea, it was a house I had put together for myself inch by inch. I had bought it about ten years ago from a NRI who inherited it from his parents and had no inclination to return to the country. I had most of the original structure pulled down and rebuilt by an architect in the exact manner I envisioned it. Over time I had brought into the house pieces of furniture which I personally handpicked and ensured that in my mind this house would always be my oasis. My peaceful haven in the midst of a chaotic world.
We stepped into the house and went up to the first floor. It was a ritual after a party or an event, we would go to my "sanctum sanctorum", a room with a mini bar and place to lounge for only myself and my closest friends. I poured us both some drinks, she loved a glass of red wine and Bourbon was my choice of poison for the evening.
She had sprawled out on the couch and propped her head up on her arm. She sat up and took the glass from me as I then sat on the lazy boy alongside the couch. I rested my head back and watched as she took a sip of her wine and smiled at me. She put her glass down and reached for the award, it was supposed to be an artistic depiction of a woman made in a shiny black metal. I watched as she ran her slender fingers over it before she turned to me, "so how many awards does this make for you now?" I smiled, she knew I was immensely proud of my professional achievements and faking modesty by denying knowing the exact count was a waste for sure. "31", I replied. She looked over my head at my trophy cabinet and with an impish grin asked me, "How many awards did you plan for when you built the cabinet?". I laughed this time, she was playing with my vanity and I could see that but then that's what I liked so much about her. She wasn't someone who left things unsaid. "At least 50, Babe. Still some to go before I get around to building a new cabinet."
I watched as she got up and moved towards the cabinet, she opened it and put this one in the front. She closed it and switched on some music. Soft instrumental music was what she liked to play when we were talking. I love the way the music not entangled with words seemed to have an ability to help rather than over power a conversation. She climbed back onto the couch, this time from the opposite direction so she could face me. I knew she was in the mood to talk and I loved whenever we had the time to do this. "I noticed Rohan's face today when you got the award. I think he was expecting it." I smiled, " Yes, I heard some talk about him planning a "surprise" party for himself if he won it" I responded. We both laughed. "But seriously Priya, I wasn't sure if I would get this one. My next film has just started production and he has a release in two weeks. I was thinking his PR team may just pull some strings. As much as people try to hop over the subject, a lot of our award ceremony's are completely rigged." "Let's not loose the moment Sumit. You won it fair and square and whatever anyone tried, the black lady is in your cabinet. Let's just celebrate that. We can discuss the politics of awards ceremony's some other time or even better in some other lifetime. For now lets live the moment."
"Your right Priya, winning the best male lead actor at the age of 48 is something I am really proud of." "Don't let age get in your head again Sumit. Your younger in many ways then other guys I've dated who were half your age", she replied with a sly wink.
I grinned at her, "I like where I think this is going Baby." Why don't you stop thinking and starting some doing then Sumit? , she smiled back at me, "after all you're the one who keeps talking about not wasting an opportunity to create a minute into a moment".
I woke up early the next morning. That's become second nature to me now. For some reason, I can't sleep more than 6 hours even if I want too. I felt Priya's body curled up behind me. She looked sernely peaceful. I didn't have the heart to wake her up. It was just 6 am anyway. I walked down and Raghu, my man Friday who took care of the house, poured me a cup of freshly ground coffee. That's my wake up drink, nothing like a cup of strong coffee to get you going. I took a sip and looked out of the window, it was a bright morning. I wished I could go out for a run but reminded myself of what happened the last time I did that. Autograph please was all I heard and while I enjoyed the attention, my run was put out of question. Not a great idea I thought to myself. Instead I took my coffee and went back upstairs and sat in the balcony of my bedroom looking out at the sea. The morning sun was always so beautiful, it sparkled over the water making the sea look silvery. I could watch it for hours when I had the time. There was nothing more peaceful that I could think of. I put my cup down on the table in front of me and put my legs up. I loved the fact that I had no schedule for the day which allowed me to just relax and do nothing. That was a nice feeling.
I sat back and thought about the previous evening, it had really been nice. It wasn't easy to still get lead roles in big budget movies for an actor nearing 50, even if I didn't look it. The 20 and 30 somethings were always more in demand; directors seemed to want to cover their bases across all fields. Even if the guy couldn't act for nuts apparently his female fan following and great body could help the film garner a bit more interest and obviously a bit more bookings at the box office. It had something to do with the scripts coming through as well, formula movies seemed to be need of the hour. Original and thought provoking storylines seemed few and far between. Some of my friends in the writing end of the business complained that they were tired of being told which movie to adapt and convert into an "original" script by adding a couple of twists to the settings. They hated doing that, but then if they didn't do it somebody else would. The money was big and it mattered. I also knew that I wouldn't want to do a lot of those kind of movies, and a lot of the people who mattered in the industry knew that. Happily though, the buzz was also that the best scripts came to me. I felt a bit of that was true and that was something I appreciated.
My concern with a drop in work wasn't the money. I had made and saved enough to take care of myself but I just loved the work. I loved being on a set, I loved challenging myself to add a new dimension to the scene and still having it synch into the director's vision of the film. That's something I was starting to miss as I was doing less and less movies now, from about six releases a year I was now struggling to average two over the past two years. The satisfying side to the story had been that I was extremely happy with my performances in all those movies which had also done extremely well at the box office.
Some of the more credible voices which I respected in the industry had recommended that I start thinking about playing more supporting or mature roles than I was right now. I respected their view but knew that the moment I made that switch, my days of playing the lead were close to over. I would open the door to loads of opportunities but wouldn't be the guy the script revolved around anymore. That was a door I wasn't prepared to open at this point of time.
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