‘Amar Akbar Anthony’ was my first movie as a child. One summer afternoon, my uncle, a movie buff, convinced my parents and took my brother and me to the movie.
Uncle triumphantly showed the tickets as we waited eagerly at the entrance of the theatre, staring at the life size posters and savouring warm peanuts. My uncle asked,
“Who is your hero?”
Uncle had already picked Amitabh Bachhan (‘Anthony’) for himself as he used to have a similar hairstyle. In those days, hairstyles used to be the defining feature. My brother being taller and sturdier than me picked Vinod Khanna (‘Amar’). I had to settle with Rishi Kapoor (‘Akbar’).
Finding me a little disappointed to get what was left over, my uncle said,
“Rishi is the most natural actor among the three. Most importantly, he seems like your good friend in many ways.”
A silver screen actor from tinsel town being my friend lifted my mood to cloud nine. I went on to see a couple of more movies by the actor. I could find every reason why he should be my special friend. We were both similarly short with chubby features. His sense of dressing with sweaters matched my appetite for winter clothes on pleasant summer evenings.
With a hero-friend in my custody, the world around me looked very dull. My regular friends pale into insignificance before the glamor and glitz of my hero-friend. I realized that the film stars were not like the common people struggling with daily chores, because these mundane activities were for lesser mortals.
In a few days I had a large collection of pictures of my hero-friend, may be larger than that of the actor himself. I used to mesmerize my classmates by showing his cute childhood pictures and boastfully referring to him as “My new friend.”
I often visualized the actor with closed eyes. He came to my rescue in scary dreams: when I forgot a pencil during drawing exam, he would appear from nowhere with pencils of all shades; or when a herd of wild elephants chased me, he would pull me inside a bush at the right moment.
One day, there was a rope slide event at my school. Generally, for lack of my athletic ability, I would avoid participating in such events. But with my invincible hero-friend by my side, I was confident that I would sail through. I started well, but in the middle there was a terrible pain in my hand. I lost my grip. With closed eyes and a smile on my face I fell down. I was sure that I would be landing on the lap of my hero-friend.
When I opened my eyes to embrace my saviour, he was nowhere to be seen. There were a few of my classmates who had stretched their hands just on time to save me. The only casualties were my vanity and illusion.
For once and all, I could make the distinction between reel-life and real-life.
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