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Deserted Soul

As she rolled down the tinted glass of her Morris Minor car, she could see far from the flyover that the Metro was all decked up like a bride. Ribbons of flashing lights crisscrossed its art deco facades; there was a big crowd waiting for the stars to arrive. Waiting for her. She felt the slight chill in the December night. She rolled the glass up and rubbed the sides of her arms with her delicate fingers.

“How much time it will take more to reach Metro?” she enquired in a little fussy tone. “Ten minutes more Memsaab,” driver turned back and replied in his dry tone. “Still ten minutes are there…” she glanced at her golden Rolex watch and raised her eyebrows, “Shankar, go to the Gateway,” she ordered her driver. A superstar with four diamond jubilees in a row could afford to keep the crowd and co-stars waiting.

Shanker nodded and sped the car towards the gateway. Her sweet affair with destiny was at its peak. Today, it was the premier of her tenth movie. This star-studded Premier was held at swanky Metro theatre in Bombay and she was the biggest star-attraction of the night. After all, the movie premier is the sole occasion when a common man had the chance to catch a glimpse of his/her favorite stars.


Darling of the crowds was about to reach. As she began to walk the red carpet from entry to red lounge with a thoughtful look on her face, the cameras flashed hundred times with media and fans almost falling for her. She glanced around, then her eyes grew wide and she tugged excitedly at her long glittering saree’s pallu. She entered the theater lobby without even giving a look or waving hand towards the crowd. A huge superstar, she was not the heartthrob of the nation just for nothing. Her ‘number-one actress’ status was strengthened with four continuous blockbusters and in this woman-oriented film titled ‘Aurat’; she played a pivotal role, where she showed her talent in different shadows of a daughter, lover, estranged wife and then a secluded mother. In short, a Tale of Sacrifice. The role was specifically written for her. What an actress could ask for more in a male-dominating film industry?…………

“Memsaab, Crawford Market aa gayee,” the taxi-driver’s flat voice combined with sudden break on speed brought her back to the moment. “Ohh…” She said in her trembling aged voice. Her two yellowish eyes behind a pair of wire-rimmed junked frame looked at the side-mirror of the taxi and went back into shell once more. Her long wet hair fell on her back. She had wrapped a green-colored scarf around her neck. “How much?” she asked in mild voice gradually opening the door. “Seventy five Memsaab,” driver replied. She fished out an old-fashioned polyester purse from underneath her shawl and took out a badly crumpled hundred rupee note.

“Take it,” she handed over the note with shaking hands. The driver gave her back twenty five rupees change. For a moment, she was about to say, ‘keep the change,’ but constant curse of cash-crunch ran through her mind, which made her gripped the change in hands tightly. She sighed, almost too quietly even for her to hear. Her face twisted in a rictus of pain. She twiddled her fingers and looked around for a while. The Crawford market, situated just opposite to the Mumbai Police Headquarters, was as usual bursting with typical Bombayish excitement.

A wholesale market for fruits, vegetables and poultry, its beautiful Gothic architecture with heavy Indian influence makes it one of the most beautiful commercial places to shop and sight seeing. Nothing had changed except the time. And probably, that was the biggest change for her. For her, nothing was same. The place was busier than she remembered it, and, she thought, if she closed her eyes, she could still hear the fans’ requests for autographs, photos with lots of love.

She hugged a large package under her shawl, and shivered a little at the beginning of her walk. The market was flooded with Harry Potter’s posters. Pottermania had hooked the entire country. A big crowd of children, dressed in “Harry Potter” T-shirts were gathered in front of a book store waiting for their hero’s new book.
Amidst the giggling schoolgirls and other teenagers, she walked past seeing nothing other than emptiness and moved ahead completely unnoticed towards a chemist shop. The wind whistled through her ears demonstrating its arrogance. Her gentle steps echoed a pained expression on her face taking her back to 70 mm ‘B & W’ era.………..

She was paid more than many of the leading men of her time much to their chagrin. Her first movie, Tapasya, was a resounding success. The big banners vied for her, as her mere presence guaranteed a gala opening. Her beauty and spell bounding performances mesmerized the audiences. In the movie Pavitra, she played a young widow, while in Insaaf, she essayed the role of a courageous rape victim. She would play a chaste girl in one movie and at the same time a whore in another.

Her meteoric rise was more than just phenomena. She reigned amidst glory and fame as the glamorous siren and dancing queen of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Her unique style of acting became a signature, as did her quivering lips and emotion-laden voice. She won two national awards besides three consecutive FilmFare awards in a row for best actress. story continues...

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