Vijay Kumar, who played corrupt cop Bulbul Pandey in my last release Anaarkali Of Aarah, made a perceptive comment about the predicament of film actors during one of our workshops. Listening to me crib about having to glam up for an ‘appearance’ at some event, he joked, “You thought you came to do ‘acting’, but there is less ‘act’ and more ‘ting’ in this business.
I don’t know about ‘pure’ actors but I, the actor-turned-wannabe-star or now-I-am-a-celebrity variety of actor, can vouch for the veracity of this statement. These days, I spend far more time on the ‘ting’ than the ‘act’. Perhaps that is a natural progression for people scrambling for success in a profession that rests so fundamentally on perception. You are not famous or a star until and unless you are seen to be famous or seen to be a star, by others.
This is the principle behind the game-face, or the game-life, donned by all public personalities, politicians included. And thus, there is this silent pressure to seem more famous, younger, richer, happier, and successful than we are. We must be seen to travel business or first class, wear expensive clothes and arrive at events in imported luxury cars.
Soon after the release of my film, Raanjhanaa, I decided it was time to get rid of my beat-up-second-hand Baleno for a new car. I liked the Volkswagen Polo, which fit my budget. But a discussion with colleagues on a film set raised the issue that apparently after Raanjhanaa, I was now deemed a star, or at least about-to-become-star, and therefore, I had to have a star-worthy-car!
“How about a Beemer?” said my concerned and ever helpful co-actor.
“Hmm… what’s that? A very odd name for a car company I must say,” responded automobile-illiterate me.
“You are kidding, right?”
“You don’t know what a Beemer is?”
“No! Why, what is it?”
“Beemer stands for BMW Swara!!!! What??? How do you not know these things?”
A familiar feeling of idiocy passed over me. “This is why you are not a true star Swara!” I chided myself. “Because you don’t know what a bloody Beemer is!!!!”
And I resolved that I would buy me a Beemer!
Shocked and disapproving parents were convinced, a loan was taken, the savings were spent and a shiny midnight blue Beemer was acquired. The new year, thus began broke and EMI-ridden, but at the wheel of a Beemer! I decided to drive the car to my Raanjhanaa director Aanand Rai’s office to show off. He was amused, but gracious about my new acquisition.
On the way back, smug-faced about the large new car I had bought, but could ill afford, I mistakenly jumped a traffic signal and drove straight into the arms of a waiting traffic cop.
“Congratulations madam! Nayi gaadi!!!”
My Beemer enabled stardom fell away and I became that college brat who was driving her dad’s car without his permission or a license.
“Sorry bhaiyaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!” I whined.
“Haan, woh toh theek hai, lekin abhi paut banaanaa padega.”
On cue, I opened my wallet, and gasped. The madam in the Beemer had twenty-five rupees in small change in her wallet!
Dammnit dammnit dammnit!
“Sorrryyy bhaiyaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Abhi itna hi hai…”
“Kya mazaak kar rahey hain madam! Abhi aap log ke paas paisa nahin hoga, toh kiskey paas hoga.”
Another wave of the familiar idiot feeling.
The cop began to enjoy himself.
“Madam, aap to celebrity log ho. Dekho dekho. Milengaa paisaa.”
“Yaar, bhaiyya, sach mein nahi hai.”
“Chalo main paauti banata hoon.”
“Koi nahi madam, kabhi kabhi BMW waalon ke paas bhi paisey nahi hotey. It’s ok! “
I felt like the universe had conspired to teach me a lesson, about financial habits, motivations for making big decisions. But most importantly, about the tricky and sometimes silly business of seeming like a star!
“Chalo madam, kam sey kam BMW mein aagey thaaney tak toh drop kar doh.”
He smiled, I opened the door and the blue elephant I was at the helm of, purred and sped off.
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