Mirage10 mins 485 10 mins 485
Raj slumped in to the luxurious chair, tired. He looked in to the large mirror. He was still in the costume of an aristocrat. His expensive overcoat and imported scarf and of course the face! I look aristocratic because, Raj smiled at himself and spoke loudly, I am a young aristocrat.
“So, Raj the great star and matinee idol thinks he is an young aristocrat? What an irony, Raj. In less than half-an-hour, the makeup will be removed and what remains is that old man who has crossed fifty but refuses to acknowledge and want to look like a twenty-year-old. Right?"
Raj turned towards the voice and found a person sitting on the empty chair next to the sofa looking exactly like him.
“Who the hell are you? And what do you mean, I am old? The audience love seeing me like this." Spoke Raj angrily.
The makeup man opened the door cautiously as he heard voices, thinking someone else might be there with the star and came forward to remove the makeup. Raj waved his hands angrily and shouted at the makeup man.
“Where the hell is security? Why are they allowing any one to walk in to my room without my permission? Throw that man out, right now!”
The makeup man looked around the empty room and said in a confused yet respectful voice. “Sirji. There is no one except you, in this room!”
The muse guffawed. “You stupid. How can anyone see me except you?”
An irritated Raj shouted. “I know there is no one is there in the room. What I meant was don’t allow any one. I need privacy, understand?”
The makeup man, confused, looked at the frowning actor and left without saying anything, shaking his head.
Raj looked at the laughing image sitting in the chair, with a worried look
“The biggest star of Bollywood! The man who evokes sycophancy amongst the crowd wherever he goes, does not even recognize his own reflection? Raj, I am your alter ego, your muse!
Anyway, today is the last day of the shooting? Right? And are you getting ready for one more flop?” Muse guffawed. “This would be your seventh? Sorry, I think it will be eighth flop in a row, from the great matinee idol, right?”
Raj looked at the muse and spoke angrily.
“Why are you saying this movie will also flop? The movie is not even complete! And, the last few movies were not completely flop, ok?
Many of them recovered the money and made marginal profit too. Why should I be blamed if the movies are not working?”
“Oh? When your earlier movies raked in huge amount of money and accolade, you claimed it was because of you? And now, the movies are not doing well, you think it is because of the script, direction, wrong release date and oh, I forgot, heroine, location and what have you, right?”
Raj looked at the muse and was speechless for few seconds. He recovered and then spoke, barely recognizing his own voice.
“Look. Movie’s success and failures can’t be predicted by any one. This is the most unpredictable profession. As an actor I feel responsible for some of my movies which have not done well. You know something? I even returned the money I received for acting in the movie.”
Muse guffawed. “Raj, what do you mean you know something? I know everything about you; in fact, more than what you know; remember, I am your muse!
I feel pity, you see, Raj? As they say, the higher you go, the farther and faster you fall. So apt for your life too, Raj. There were days in the past when people used to block tickets a week in advance before the release of your movies! Now? Most of your recent movies haven’t lasted even one week! In fact, your last movie was removed in less than 5 days, right?”
Raj looked at the reflection in the mirror. Despite heavy makeup, he could see age catching up with him. He was not younger, but trying to look like one desperately, he thought.
“That’s right. You are not younger. But look at you! All the movies that you acted in the last few years, should have been done by actors, half of your age.” Spoke Muse in a sarcastic voice.
“Oh my god! You can read my mind too?” spoke an exasperated Raj and bit his tongue while the muse laughed out loudly.
“Ok. Tell me why did you come out today? Where were you all these days? Why are you predicting my doom?” am exasperated Raj pleaded.
“Predicting doom? You are already doomed, Raj; the only problem is you refuse to acknowledge it.” Said the muse.
“No”. Shouted Raj. “No one can dethrone me. I am the undisputed Badshah. This move I completed today will be my biggest hit. Then you see all those idiot producers who were running away from me, will queue up in front of my house.”
“Indeed. You mentioned just a few minutes back that you are working in an industry which is unpredictable et all and now you are predicting biggest hit? Common Raj, you must have heard that song from an old Hindi movie, which actually a Meerabai bhajan; Jagase chahe bhaagle koi, manse baag na paye?
You can fool the whole World but not the man who stares back at you in the mirror, Raj. Said the muse.
“I think I am just hallucinating. You are not there. Maybe I am exhausted because of the long shooting hours. There is no one in my room. I just have to get out of this god forsaken room and I am sure, there will be no one.” Said Raj and got up to leave the makeup room.
Muse guffawed so loudly, Raj panicked and sat down once againn in the chair..
“Raj. This is the problem with you actors. You guys think that what you portray on screen, mind you, written by someone, directed by someone in fact, even paid by someone, is actually you.
The adulation, the sycophancy of the crowd, the award and the money that flows is all because of the characters you portrayed on the screen.
Once the lights come on, people go home humming the tune and recollecting the dialogue and the heroic et all, of the characters and not you.” Said muse.
A dejected Raj looked at his alter ego sitting there virtually making him feel naked. Slowly tears started flowing from his eyes.
After a while, he wiped the tears, looked at his alter ego and spoke in a shaking voice.
“Ok. I believe you are right. I have been living in a disillusioned world for quite some time. But I was not like this before. I always wondered when so many people throng in front of my house every morning to get a glimpse of me, why the same people are not buying ticket and coming to see me in theater? Perhaps this is the last movie I may act for quite some to come. If this one also flops, I don’t know what to do. Maybe I should quit acting.”
“When was the last time you saw him?” quipped the muse.
“Who? Whom are you referring?” confused Raj retorted.
“You see Raj? This is the reason for your downfall! You don’t even remember the man who is responsible for your success. You were virtually in the street, Raj. And now, you are asking me whom I am referring to?” Said the muse angrily.
Raj looked at the mirror reflection sitting on the chair and lowered his head in shame.
“You are right. I am what I am today, because of Palekar Sir. But you are wrong. I have not forgotten him. Because of my busy schedule, I have not been able to go and see him or talk to him.” Retorted Raj.
“Busy schedule?” Guffawed the muse."Again, you are cheating yourself when you say this, Raj.
No one can be so busy that he can’t even to make one phone call? Are you saying that the whole World has twenty-four hours, but our great star Raj has less? Common Raj. Accept that your priorities are different. Don’t you dare say that you don’t have time!
Who took you home and fed you when you fell in front of the studio waiting to see the producers, as they say, in your salad days? I think in your case, salad is a misnomer! You didn’t have money to buy, leave alone salad, even a banana!
But for Palekar, you would have gone back to your village in UP empty handed! What answer you would have given to parents whom you left in the lurch and got lured by the glamour of the film world?
And who gave you money to buy new dresses for your first audition? Poor fellow, he waited for 3 hours outside, praying silently for your selection.
Animals reciprocate better than humans.
Common Raj, even god won’t forgive people who do not remember and respect the good deeds done by others, without any expectation!
How could you send your driver to see the man who saved you, who helped you to become star, when he was in hospital? Oh, I am sorry, I forgot, the great star Raj was busy! Ha ha ha ha ha….” guffawed the muse.
Raj, his head hung in shame once again wept.
After nearly 10 minutes, Raj stopped and looked; hoping his muse would have left the room.
“I am sorry Raj. I am still here. You see Raj, I will always be there wherever you go. Do you know why your films have failed?
When you started your career, Raj, the common man used to play the characters that came his way; completely immersed in them.
After achieving success and adulation, do you know what you do now?
You have become the character that you portray on screen, in real life!
When people come to see you, line up in front of your house or in public programmes, they want to see Raj the man; not Raj the character in one of his movies. Believe it or not, this is one of the main reasons for your failure.”
Raj looked at his mirror reflection sitting on the chair and for the first time since the dialogue started, spoke with earnestness.
“Ok. You seem to know much more than me. So, please tell me how to make my movies successful again? Do you have a formula?”
“Formula for success? You must be joking. Yes, there are couple of things you can do to become the same old Raj that we all know, love and respect.” Said the muse.
Raj, his eye brows raised, looked questioningly.
“Go spend some time with Palekar Sir, not as Raj the great star, but as a human being. He is alone and suffering in that small house in Lonavala. Go back to basics. Remember the good old days Raj? Palekar Sir is the one who taught you everything. He was not a star, just a supportive artist. But he made you a star!
You are caught up in this make-believe world! Break the shackles, become free once again and restart your life, all over, once again; just like movies, Raj 2.”
There was a knock on the door and Raj’s secretary Chandru came and looked around. “Sir, we heard some sound coming from inside. Were you in conversation with someone?”
Raj smiled for the first time in the last hour or so and spoke. “Yes, I was in conversation with a very important person Chandru. By the way, please cancel all my appointments and keep my calendar free for the next 6 months.”
“Six months? Are you going abroad or something Sir?” Said a confused Chandru.
“And, send somebody home to get my bike, the one I bought from my first earnings.” Said Raj as if he did not hear Chandru.
Confusion and concern writ large on his face, Chandru asked. “But, Sir that old bike? Sir the new imported car just got delivered only today. I will ask the driver to bring it here.”
“No Chandru. My favorite old bike will do. I want to ride it.” Said Raj while looking at the chair where his mirror image was sitting.
There was no body.
Chandru followed Raj’s gaze and saw the empty chair and looked back at star and asked in a confused tone. “Sir, you haven’t told me where you are going?”
Raj smiled broadly and said, “Chandru. I am going let’s say, on a journey A journey of self-discovery and of course, to bring him back!”
Raj left the room whistling softly, leaving a completely bewildered Chandru behind.