And…It’s Not a Wrap

And…It’s Not a Wrap

[Take One –
Bratati Cinema Hall, Gariahat, Calcutta
Matinee Show]

The hub of cine-goers was filled to capacity. The audience, comprising of the genteel Bengalis, were glued to the 35MM screen. Not a sound emerged from them, as the lead pair of Saat Sagorer Paar (across the seven seas) wove their magic on the fans with their sizzling chemistry.

Angoorbala looked ethereal in a printed silk saree. Her black hair was tied neatly into a bun. A couple of clips, decorated with mother-of-pearls, ensured that her coiffeur didn’t play truant, as she pranced around in a rose garden. Her luscious lips, when she smiled, revealed perfectly shaped white teeth. But it was those kohl-laden eyes which mesmerized all. As she lip-synced to tumi kothai (where are you), her brown fish-shaped eyes reflected the inner turmoil raging inside her heart, as she pined for a glimpse of her lover. Her graceful movements and coquettish expressions held a virginal allure and appealed to the conservative public. 

Nripati Kumar, her co-star, hid behind a tree. Dressed in a simple dhoti and kurta, his eyes twinkled mischievously as he watched his leading lady fiddling with the end of her saree, throwing furtive glances around, biting her lips. It was time to appear before her. He ended her misery and signalled his presence in the garden by humming la…la…la…la

Angoorbala’s eyes lit up like a hundred-watt bulb, as her lover approached her, hands outstretched. Her gaze shifted coyly to the grass beneath her feet. In a swift motion, Nripati grabbed her hand and drew her towards him. He then cupped her face between his palms and brought his lips closer to hers. The camera panned to a red rose, over which a bee hovered, sucking its nectar, flapping its wings incessantly. 

An old lady seated amongst the audience turned to her husband and whispered, “Why can’t these two get married? They make such a wonderful pair.”

[Take Two –
Diamond Harbour]

The steel-grey Chevrolet Impala glided to a halt in front of an innocuous looking two-storey house on the banks of the Ganges. A slim woman in a pistachio green Jamdaani saree got out, adjusting her goggles. A middle-aged servant opened the main door and folded his hands in front of her. His wife rushed to the kitchen. Their impassive faces and the no-nonsense way in which they went about their duties indicated that the woman driving the Impala was a frequent visitor to the house. 

A flight of winding stairs took her to a spacious room in the first floor. A vase containing pink roses gave off a delightful aroma. Fresh floral bedspreads had been laid over the four-poster bed. A magazine lay strewn on one of the pillows. Smiling to herself, the woman sat on the bed, and picked up the Glitz.

The Rising Film Star, proclaimed the headlines. The journalist had gushed over the latest sensation from the Bengali film industry and had traced his meteoric rise from his humble beginnings as a schoolteacher to a matinee idol. 

Angoorbala traced her long fingers over the laminated picture of Nripati Kumar. As of now, none of the media persons had got a whiff of the tumultuous affair they had been carrying on for over six months now. 

“This is a dream come true for me,” Nripati smiled, as he emerged from the restroom.

Angoorbala turned in his direction. “You deserve every bit of the adulation that comes your way, my love. I am so proud of you.”

Nripati joined her on the bed and took her hand in his, caressing her smooth skin. Their eyes met. Angoorbala lay on her back, pulling him gently towards her. No retakes were required as his lips sought hers hungrily, and she didn’t stop him when his hand expertly unclasped the pin attached to the anchal of her saree. 

[Take Three – 
Indranagari Studios, Tollygung, Calcutta
Nripati’s Film Shoot]

On the floor of the iconic studio lay the popular Bengali daily Sambad Pratidin, flung ignominiously by Nripati Kumar in a fit of rage.

A black-and-white photo of Angoorbala, in a still from her latest film, adorned the front page, accompanied by an article. 

Angoorbala once again demonstrates why she is Bengal’s most accomplished actress. Her mind-blowing performance in Kanya fetched her the National Award for ‘Best Actor – Female’. The talented beauty from Calcutta will receive this prestigious award from the President of India. In an industry dominated by Bombay, Angoorbala’s win assumes significance as it puts Bengal firmly on the Indian cinema map.

“Yes, sir. I am ready,” the cameraman shouted, checking his apparatus one final time. 

Meanwhile, the spot boys ran helter-skelter, trying to keep pace with the director’s seemingly never-ending demands – like a pack of Charminar cigarettes, a cup of steaming hot cha (tea), and a plate of fish cutlets. 

Nripati leaned back in his chair, as memories came gushing in like a stream.

Lights! Camera! Action!

Nripati looked into Angoorbala’s eyes . “I will love you until my final breath leaves my body.”

Cut!

“Bravo!” the director clapped enthusiastically, and Nripati blushed crimson. He finally did it. He was one of those privileged men to have romanced Angoorbala on screen. 

Nripati looked at the newspaper again. Do I really love her? Why does her success bother me so much? Am I envious? 

[Take Four – 
Indranagari Studios, Tollygung, Calcutta
Angoorbala’s Film Shoot]

Angoorbala folded the newspaper, and placed it carefully on the table. 

Nripati will be so happy! Maybe we can go to Darjeeling and celebrate my win. 

In her euphoria, she had missed reading an article on the third page.

Nripati Kumar was in the running for the National Award under the ‘Best Actor – Male’ category, but his flamboyant contemporary from Madras, Chandrakant, walked away with the honours. However, Nripati’s performance in Kanya has earned appreciation from critics and fans alike. He remains a talent to watch out for.

As Angoorbala readied herself for the director’s call, her gaze fell on the apple box. 

Has it already been a year? She smiled to herself.

“Listen, Moti da. I respect you a lot. But are you sure about this man? Were you there during the auditions?”

Moti Sanyal nodded at her. “Trust me, Angoor. He is too good. We can’t afford to lose such a talent.”

Shrugging her shoulders, she got up from her chair. A handsome man sat on the apple box, unperturbed by the chaos around the studio. 

“Is he the man?” she had asked Moti da

“Yes.”

Lights! Camera! Action!

The debutante Nripati Kumar looked into her eyes confidently. “I will love you until my final breath leaves my body.”

Cut!

Angoorbala’s heart did a hundred somersaults that day!

She leaned against her chair, signalling a crew member to bring her a cup of coffee. 

[Take Five – 
Diamond Harbour]

“Can I ask you something?” Angoorbala whispered in Nripati’s ears, tracing random designs on his torso.

Nripati nodded. 

“You don’t seem to be happy with my win,” she mumbled.

“Of course, I am. This award rightfully belongs to you.”

Angoorbala turned to her side, and kissed him lightly on his lips.

“I think we should get married, Angoor.”

Angoorbala lay on her back. “Nripati! We have known each other for a year now. Isn’t it a bit early? Plus the audience will never accept a married woman as a heroine. It’s the end of the road for me as far as lead roles are concerned.”

“So? What’s the problem? Why don’t you quit acting? I am there for you. We can live in luxury.”

“How can you something like that, Nripati? You have been behaving strangely ever since we came here. Is it about the awards?”

“Oh wow! You’ve won a prestigious award. Congratulations! Why do you keep on repeating that? As if you are the first person ever to win this!” 

Angoorbala’s face turned ashen. She pulled up the bedsheet over her body. “Ah! You are jealous!”

Nripati lit up a cigar. “No way! I have my head firmly on my shoulders.” 

“Are you implying that I am proud?”

“I didn’t mean that. If I happen to win an award, rest assured, I am not going to crow over it. Unlike you. You seem to be suddenly under the misconception that you are the best actress India has ever seen.”

Angoorbala’s voice quivered. “I just gave an interview to an English daily. Nothing else. And speaking of my acting skills, I know there are much better actors in Bombay and Madras who are just as talented as I am, if not more. So, dear Nripati, please dismiss those thoughts away. I love you. You love me. That’s what matters.”

“Love?” Nripati spat out the word. He continued, “Love! Do you deserve my love? You don’t have any qualms sleeping your way to the top. Why this pretence as if you are as pure as the Ganges?”

His cheeks stung, as Angoorbala’s slap reverberated in the room. “What did you just say?”

“I spoke the truth.”

Tears welled up in her eyes. “You think I am a loose woman with no morals. Right? Am I right? However that didn’t deter you in any way from having your way with me.”

Nripati puffed on his cigar. “I thought I loved you. I wanted to marry you; I was ready to forget your past. But I am glad I was proved wrong. I come from a decent family. Women there are revered like a devi.”

“And of course, I am not,” Angoorbala said sarcastically. “You want to marry Angoorbala, the actress, not the woman. You want to flaunt me as your wife. And you have the audacity to accuse me of having no character.”

“Oh shut up! You are no different from those whores in Sonagachi. The only difference is, you are famous, while they struggle for even basic amenities.” 

“In that case, I don’t see any reason why we should continue this charade. Let’s call it quits. Go ahead, Nripati Kumar. I am freeing you from my immoral clutches.” With that, Angoorbala leaned over, and grabbed her discarded robe from the floor.  

[Take Six – 
Indranagari Studios, Tollygung, Calcutta
Film Shoot of Sequel to Kanya]

“You look pale, Angoor.” Moti Sanyal looked at her with concern. 

Angoorbala smiled wilfully. “I am alright, dada.”

The director patted her shoulder. “Okay. As you say.” With that, he went away, shouting at the cameraman and sending the spot boys into a frenzy. 

It had been a month since Angoorbala had ended her relationship with Nripati Kumar. But Moti Sanyal had come up with another stupendous script, which he termed as the sequel to the award-winning Kanya,  and she couldn’t stop herself from signing on the dotted line. She knew Nripati Kumar was to reprise his role. She wondered if she could have requested Moti da to come up with a replacement actor. But, how could she? Nobody knew about her scandalous affair. Any change in the cast would also make the media suspicious. That was the last thing she needed – a fodder for gossip. Her image in the public had always been spotless. And she intended to keep it that way. The cine-going public wanted the superhit jodi of Angoorbala and Nripati Kumar on screen, and she wouldn’t disappoint her fans. 

Why should I put my career in jeopardy for an egoistic man?

She signalled to the director that she was ready.

“Lights! Camera! Action!”

Dressed in a red Benarasi saree, Angoorbala sat on the wooden board, covering her face with two betel leaves. Two veteran actors, playing her uncles in the movie, lifted the board, while her on-screen aunts ululated. 

As Nripati put vermilion on the parting of her hair, a lump threatened to form in her throat. 

“See. This is called acting. How real it looks. It’s as if Angoorbala is marrying Nripati in real life,” Moti Sanyal told his assistant director proudly. 

“Next year, the National Awards will be ours, for sure,” the young man declared, grinning broadly.

[Take Seven – 
Chandan Cinema Hall, Esplanade, Calcutta
Matinee Show]

The latest hub of cine-goers was filled to capacity. The audience, comprising of the genteel Bengalis, were glued to the 35MM screen. Not a sound emerged from them, as the lead pair of Kanya 2 wove their magic on the fans with their sizzling chemistry.

Angoorbala sat on the nuptial bed, legs folded, her hands resting on her knees. Rose petals were strewn across the white bedsheets. A lilting music played in the background, as Nripati entered the bedroom, unbuttoning his kurta. Angoorbala adjusted her bridal saree. The mellifluous strains of the shehnai took over, as the groom took the bride’s hand in his, and stroked it lovingly. As he leaned forward to kiss her, the camera panned to the bed side lamp.

A young woman in the audience leaned towards her husband. “It’s high time these two get married. Don’t you think so? They are perfect – made for each other!”

*** THE END (NOT) ***

Author’s Notes:

The names of the characters, films, and the iconic studio are fictitious. The title is inspired by ‘It’s a wrap’ which is a phrase used in film making to tell actors and crew that the filming of a particular scene/film has been completed. 

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3 thoughts on “And…It’s Not a Wrap

  1. It’s a really well-written story. The story read like some cinema script. It is wonderful. I liked how the world of cinema has been realistically presented.

  2. And its a super hit.
    ‘Panch ka dus, Panch ka dus,’ is what I hear the black marketers selling your tickets out side the houseful boarded theatres whispering among the throngs.
    Took me back to Bharat Bhushan – Madhubala era. Your scene behind the filmy scene in the takes were well scripted.Loved the red rose and the hovering bee memory revival.
    Noticed a few missing words/typos which does not change the narrative or the mood you wanted to create. So……no stress on that. Well done.
    Its definitely not a wrap.

  3. Such a beautiful story.. love stories are never straight forward. The frustration, self-doubt, envy are an integral part of all love stories. You have created such vivid imagery of the film-shoots, a different era. Just beautiful 😍. Learning so much from you.

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