Sometimes, I look at my family photos. There is one with me, aged five, sitting on my grandfather’s lap. We are surrounded by my brother and five of my male cousins, aged between three and six. All of them are dressed in my clothes. Now that childhood is over, my brothers do not know the difference between pink and peach and would sooner die than be seen in anything mauve. My Cotton World tops and skirts are safe. There is much to be thankful for.
A benefit of having very strange siblings is that I can learn to relate to weird men all over the world. Of course, I haven’t met all the weird men across the globe, but I think I’ve made the acquaintance of every strange male who takes the bus from Pune to Mumbai. Men who have made me see myself in a new light.
Last week, I bought my ticket from a guy who breathlessly insisted to all concerned that the bus was jusht leaving. I didn’t believe him at all but I did wonder how closely he resembled a goat. Another girl, with orange MTV trousers, also stared into his face, no doubt trying to figure out who he reminded her of. I thought I should bleat into her ear to give her a hint, but there are chances that she wouldn’t have taken too kindly to that. I let it go.
I got in and almost got out quickly again. It was a video coach. The small, tilted T.V. had a guy in a shimmering white shirt wearing shades (to shield his eyes from the sequined glare of his apparel, I suppose) and sashaying away like Scheherzade. Since I honestly am saturated with Emraan Hashmi, I thought I should just step out for a little bit to escape loud, umpteen nasal renditions.
But the goat man outside snapped that the driver was jusht coming and consequent actions would jusht follow, so can I please keep my uppity tastes to myself and watch Emraan Hashmi in peace?
Okay, so I go in and sit down. The guy on the next seat rips open his packet of biscuits and looks at me. It’s a look I have come to recognize very well. My cousin in the movie business gives me these looks sometimes…like when it is 2 a.m. in the morning and I’m writing my diary peacefully and he has been making throaty phone calls all night.
‘Will you listen to my script?’, he’ll ask earnestly, after the last person has hung up on him.
And then he’ll begin.
His friends are no different. He has introduced me to his cronies with tortured artistic consciences from NSD. They look at me and launch into a tirade against Karan Johar and then tell me about a film that’ll make the Karan Johars of the world shut up. I mean, they have my blessings and all but why am I required to be listen to every germ of thought that crawls into their commercial-format thwarting brain.
This boy looked at me like that. Something told me that before the journey was over, I’d be answering the question, ‘Aapko kya lagta hai? Aisi picture chalegi?’ (What do you think? Will such a film work?)
Neeraj was studying film direction in FTII, Pune. This was probably why he got vitriolic when the bus guy started a Govinda-Twinkle Khanna flick called ‘Joru ka Gulaam’. Okay, so it wasn’t award-winning or anything but it was quite enjoyable in bits and parts. There is merriment in silly flamboyance sometimes. In one scene, Kadar Khan is telling some guests about his youngest daughter, Twinkle. She is tom-boyish and hard to ‘domesticate’ or something like that. On cue, Twinkle Khanna comes riding a motorcycle down a sweeping staircase, from the bedroom to the living room. Tremendous mirth there!
‘What do you do?’, Neeraj asked me, quite keen to find out why I was appreciating David Dhawan’s direction with such gusto.
I told him that I worked for a software company and gave a couple of very telling glances to the orange-cream biscuits he was chomping on. He quickly finished the last one, and rumpled up the wrapper.
‘You like movies?’, he continued.
Sigh! How do I answer such a question?
I have seen movies like ‘Loha’, ‘Lahoo’, ‘Lahoo ke do rang’, ‘Chandaal’, ‘Krodh’, ‘Love 86’, ‘Love, Love, Love’, ‘Hathyaar’, etc. etc. Movies that probably the producer, director, and his step brother-in-law watched..and that too, because it was free. I have paid and watched these films.
The clincher: I have seen a movie called ‘Mahashaktishaali’ (starring Dharmendra and Avinash Wadhwan), first day, first show. I know who Avinash Wadhwan is.
I usually rest my case after citing this example.
He makes a mental note to ask his teacher at FTII: ‘Who is Avinash Wadhwan?’
‘English movies you watch?’, he carries on. My response to this question could probably redeem me.
‘Yes’, I tell him.
‘You mustn’t like science fiction, I think?’
That is mighty perceptive of someone wearing a T-shirt with ‘Bone Man’ rubber printed on it.
‘How did you know?’, I asked impressed.
‘No, like…you know..’
Well, I don’t but I smile happily. Good. None of that Star-Wars proselytization will be happening anytime soon.
‘But you didn’t even like Star Wars?’, he asks, ruining whatever fragile edifice of good opinion I had of him.
I vehemently say no and turn my face the other way.
‘Hmm, I should’ve guessed.’
‘How? What should you have guessed?’
‘That you wouldn’t like Star Wars. I mean, you don’t like science fiction but I thought…Star Wars..’ I can’t believe it. He was sulking now.
I suppose I had been unduly belligerent. I told him that I liked ‘Minority Report’ and I thoroughly enjoyed ‘The Abyss’ and also ‘Space Jam’. I had let the third movie slip by too quickly. He looked at me like I was stupid. He was right.
‘Your choices…they’re so typical,’, he mumbled. ‘Like you know..you’re a girl.’
Well, given my anatomy, it would be rather inconvenient for me to be anything else but what has that got to do with not liking science fiction?
‘Your tastes are typical..like a girl,’ he repeated, pronouncing ‘girl’ with as much distaste as ‘garlic’.
‘Yeah, so?’ I was too tired to argue.
‘Do you watch action movies?’, he asked me, trying to make a point. If this meant I had to hear anything about Vin Diesel, I was getting off the bus.
‘No, not really, but I saw Speed 12 times’, I replied.
‘Because of Keanu Reeves, I bet.’
That is true, but I didn’t admit it. I told him I loved the action. Although all I remember now is Keanu’s sunny, shy smile when Bullock tells him that her license was confiscated for speeding. I mean, who remembers bomb detonations after that?
‘Have you watched any Arnold Schwarzenegger movies?’ He couldn’t sound more snide if he tried.
‘As a matter of fact, I have seen several.’ That’s it. Cool, calm, and lethal.
Come to think of it, I haven’t watched too many. I haven’t exactly seen Terminator 1, although I’m sure I’d have liked it because of the novelty. But Terminator Three was one big, technical cavernous pit. Understandably, I was dozing through the film so I couldn’t actually mention that.
I thought hard and furious while Neeraj dug into some suspect pocket in his frayed cargo-pants and pulled out another packet of biscuits. And no, I wasn’t offered any this time round either.
‘So tell me,’ he chomped, spraying crumbs all over me. ‘What Schwarzenegger movies have you seen?’
‘Kindergarten cop’, I said.
He rolled his eyes. ‘Oh! That Arnold movie!’ I think all that glucose just got congealed into some kind of sarcasm in his bloodstream.
‘I have also seen, umm …‘Junior.’ There!
‘That doesn’t count!’
‘He did that film because he wanted to change his image.’
‘It doesn’t count.’
Yes, orange cream biscuits and ‘Boneman’ written on a T-shirt. How much maturity could I expect.
Some more thinking. How could I forget!
‘True Lies!’, I piped.
‘Hmm’, he grunted. ‘But that’s not really a Schwarzzeneger movie.’
I didn’t waste my time being aghast. He told me that it had Jamie Lee Curtis as well. Apparently, if Arnie is paired with a capable actress, then it amounts to the movie not being ‘his’ film. All Schwarzenneger fan clubs are much benefited by not having Neeraj in their group.
By the time the last cream filling had been licked, he had made up his mind that I hadn’t watched a single ‘true Arnold’ movie in my life. After crumpling the second biscuit packet, dozed off.
I couldn’t sleep. I HAD to have seen other Schwarzzenger movies. How could I have not?
So, I thought and thought and thunked.
The bus entered Panvel. In a couple of stops I had to get down and this guy would go on into the world thinking I had only seen ‘gurly’ movies. I had to think of some other Arnold flick.
As the bus pulled into Vashi, Neeraj woke up and noticed that I was deep in thought.
‘Still can’t think of any, huh?’
The bus stopped. I waited for the people in front of me to get down. Just as Neeraj was waving goodbye in that irritating extravagance, I told him ‘Jingle all the way’ and got off neatly. I couldn’t bear to look at that infuriating smirk.
Okay, so he won.
I reached home and found my mother dozing in front of the T.V. There was some movie going on with a beautiful church and Arnold flailing his arms about. ‘End of Days’. I turned it off.
Oh well. Gurly - that’s me.