Casting Coup: A Vikram Betal Story
Casting Coup: A Vikram Betal Story
As the story goes Vikram climbed up the tree and brought down the Betal on his shoulders. That was when the Betal narrated a new one.
It was a story of the saga of friendship, intriguing in the twists and turn and its poignancy. The Betal with this introduction began narrating the story.
In the early 1980s the story began in Mylapore, Chennai, a historically rich place. Thiruvalluvar the famous poet who has been made famous even more by our inimitable Prime Minister was supposed to have born here. As if that was not enough, the historic Kapaleeswar temple was a tourist attraction. If you walk about 2-3 kms from this temple towards the beach you would reach another landmark the St Thomas church built in the 16th century by the Portuguese explorers over his tomb. The best season to visit Chennai and Mylapore in in the Tamil month Marghazi (Dec 15- Jan 15) when the music festival would take place in the numerous sabhas and in the cool mornings the bhaktas (devotees) would go around the mada veethis (temple streets) singing hymns of gods. Dr Radhakrishnan, the erudite scholar and a President of the country was also born in Mylapore. If all these were not enough, yours truly was also born in this place.
Mylapore hosted one of the city’s better-off schools and that is where our friends met. Raghavan, Ramesh, Malathi, Mythili and Meenakshi. They had joined in the same year in class 1 in the year 1990. They were nicknamed as Pandavas for they always seen together. Schools, the temple and the beaches were places where they spent time together passing happy moments of their life. Ramesh grew up to be a robust young man and full of creativity and set up his own media firm. While Raghavan was a man of numbers and became a chartered accountant. Mythili grew up to be a demure girl and was content to be a house wife
. Malathi went on to do her medicine and specialised in gynaecology and went on to start the first clinic that provided insemination option for barren couples. Meenakshi with her sharp wit grew up to be a formidable criminal lawyer.
To cut short a long story Raghavan fell in love with Mythili and married her. So did Ramesh with Meenakshi. Raghavan was tested to be short in sperm count and hence Malathi suggested to them to go in for artificial semination with a suitable donor. On an earlier occasion Malathi had persuaded Ramesh to donate his sperm and had saved some for future use. Malathi used the sperm donated by Ramesh without anybody’s knowledge and soon Mythili was delighted to find herself in a family way. Malathi at that time never knew that the decision she took was too far sighted and dramatic.
Betal took a deep breath and said now we come to the twist in the tale. Mind you we are now talking of 2020 and our friends were in the 30s in age. When Mythili was three months pregnant Raghav met with an unfortunate accident and died on the spot. Mythili was heart- broken and Malathi and Meenakshi had to console her and coax her to live for the baby she was carrying. With her state of mind Mythili developed a complex pregnancy condition which could endanger both the foetus and the mother according to Malathi
Close to the delivery date Mythili developed severe uterus pain and was admitted to Malathi’s clinic. It was during the treatment time Mythili called for Meenakshi and in the presence of Malathi asked Meenakshi to adopt her child should she succumb in child birth. Meenakshi gladly promised but asked Mythili not to lose hope. May be Mythili knew intuitively that she would not survive the pregnancy and she died.
A beautiful baby girl was born. Ramesh and Meenakshi named her Mythili as a token of remembrance of their friend.
Betal once again sighed deeply and now we come to more twist in the tale. Five years has passed and kutty (small) Mythili is in her first standard now, in the famous school where her mother had studied too. Malathi was then diagnosed to have uterus cancer, when her diagnosis of vaginal bleeding had led to the condition. It was already at stage 3 and chances of survival remote. Malathi was in a dilemma about revealing about Mythili’s real father. She felt that Ramesh and Meenakshi must know. Both they were doting parents. She called Meenakshi in her death bed and told her the truth. Meenakshi wept in tears of joy and affectionately kissed Malathi on her forehead. She said this was one of the best news she had got in recent times. A week later Malathi succumbed to cancer and a heartbroken Meenakshi informed Ramesh about her demise.
That night Meenakshi wrote about this revelation in her journal she kept. Ramesh was doing a three- months stint abroad doing a specialised course on social media sponsored by Facebook. Meenakshi felt that she must wait for Ramesh to come back to share the great news on his 35th birthday. Meenakshi was engaged in a fiercely fought criminal case involving a don on behalf of the state. It was tense times as the Don was openly issuing threats. The don was well connected and Meenakshi felt unsafe in spite of police protection.
As Meenakshi was habituated to for an early morning walk around the madaveethis, she was shot down and fatally wounded during one such walk. Ramesh took the next flight home and came to Chennai and found Meenakshi in a coma. Doctors treating her had given up hope as the bullet had entered her lungs accompanied by too much blood loss. Ramesh got delighted when Meenakshi opened her eyes next day morning. Both Mythili and Ramesh had stayed back in the hospital room. Meenakshi seem to convey something through her eyes. Both Ramesh and Mythili were holding her hands and Ramesh bent down close to Meenashki’s lips. He heard her saying ‘journal’ and she died.
A tired Ramesh after the customary burial was lying on his bed when he remembered the last word Meenakshi had spoken. He opened the cupboard shelf and read the truth about Mythili’s birth. He went over to Mythili’s room hugged her and wept inconsolably.
Betal sighed deeply at that poignant moment. Vikram gently wiped away the tears that had collected in his eyes. Betal as if to change the mood asked Vikram “if you are a Bollywood director whom would you cast for the roles of the Pandava friends?’ Vikram was thinking himself what would be the question that Betal would pose at the end of the narration as was customary. He was taken aback with the question by Betal.
Vikram thought for a few minutes and said what a story with a twist and asked aloud from where do you come up with such stories. For me, it was Deepika for the role of Meenakshi, for she wears her emotion well. It would be Priyanka for Malathi, she was an intelligent actor and would be apt for Malathi’s role, what a decision Malathi had taken unwittingly though. Vidyabalan was ably suited for Mythili’s role as a simple housewife. For Ramesh the first name that comes was Ranbir whose emotional display, Vikram very much liked. Raghav’s role was more like a cameo, Vikram would ask Aamir to don the role. Aamir would also help in pulling the crowd for this film.
Betal remarked to Vikram “what a casting coup you have pulled off?” and flew over to the tree and perched there.