Bombay movie icons become writers - in a new collection of short stories
Cinema isall about stories. The hundred-year-old history of Indian cinema -
and the marginally older world cinema — has been born of and bred on stories -
fantasy narratives that are either echoes ofreal life on reel or the
escape toEutopia tales painted in
But not every actor or director or the odd crew man is a fascinating
story-teller because stories for movies are scripted by writers with a flair
for creativity. When insiders of moviedom are told to don the mantle of short
story writers. they become autobiographical, acerbic, sad or satirical. The
stories, consequently, remain close to the ground.
"Faction" - a collection of 22 short stories by film
personalities edited by KhalidMohamed (published byOMBooksInternational) shines with
sporadic flashes of brilliance, drama, sentimentality andfinesse of the craft— at times introspective
that run like soul-searching soliloquise. The reader,however,is held under the spellof the sneak previewintothewriter's persona — behind thescreen and the director's
camerainakindofmagicaloperasequence that reveals lives beyond the ambit of everyday—aboutthe starsinourmultiplexmindscape.
"Faction" lures becauseitisacompilationofstoriesbycharacterswhopeoplethenarratives thatwesoakourselvesin —awayfromthe grind of life.
"The collection has been motivated with the purpose of
excavating stories from the eclectic cross-sections of film actors and
directors —stalwarts, freshers and the in-betweens.' editor Khalid Mohamed
said. Most of them, as it happened, "sought to relate to stories attached
to their own lives, their own immediate and distant experiences," Khalid
The movie town nourished itself on its memories — often steeped in
the nostalgia of childhood or a "dream" that was yet to
be lived. Actor Akshay Kumar falls backonhis "secret penchant"forromance andhischildlike desire tofindtheperfectlove story in the mostunexpectedof "realisticspaces" in his shortstory."Love on the 7.45 am LocalTrain". Kumar
unravels a surprising facet of his personality in the story- as an accomplished
narrator with a flair for an abstract English language - thatisthe poetic orderoftheday. He recollects from his
childhood memoriesasastudentofDonBoscoSchool-commuting in a localtrainfromAndheritoVictoriaTerminus — alovestorybetweenayoungwoman,TulipKumariandaco-commuter.He watched
love blossom in the crushofhumanityinsidethetrain.
Thecouple in Akshay Kumar's tale representsthedilemmaof middleclassromancethatendsinthedeadsandsof dreariness. The narrator, a
high school student in his late teens, weeps atthe end of love that hewatchedbeingborn "as a 12-year-old".
"A nylonwhite umbrella with red rose buds layon the green rexine seat of the
local train. The Don Bosco student picked it up...He took it away with him,
shoving it in his khaki satchel. He would keep the umbrella. The man (who left
iy behind) would never unfurl it for the woman with a flourish." writer
Akshay Kumar says in his story. Then like a July could, the boy wept. The love
Akshay Kumar's search for romance in the crush of Mumbai finds a
counter foil in director Basu Chatterji's tale of "The Window". There
is love in the times of terror. Chatterji's window comes across as an
observation post to a world lurking just outside the industrial nerve of Parel
- with the looming threat of "terrorist violence and sudden
Chatterji draws from a cinematic device that reminds the reader of
Alfred HItchcock's "Rear Window". The narrative is
fast-paced and full of visual drama - almost like the movies Basu Chatterji
makes - close to the Ground Zero where terror plays out as death ritual every
decade. The narrative builds around a Muslim family from Lucknow, which
migrates to Mumbai for bright lights. The family sends its son to work as a
"supervisor" in Dubai - and ekes out a better life with the
monthly "remittance" from the Gulf. The girls try to break out
of the conventional conservatism with "education"
and small-time jobs. Their life becomes idyllic, even
"romantic" till one of the girls falls in love with a salesman.
The cover of siblings' "bhai" in Dubai is blown in an
arrest by assistant commissioner of police Sagar Singh Rathod, who
"uses the family" in the guise of
its prospective son-in-law Zafar Ali to "prise information about
the 26/11 accused". The story in the vintage Bollywood tradition
ends with a twist. It is tight, full of contemporary conversations and familiar
insights into the lives of the lower middle class migrant Muslim
families in the fringe Mumbai neighbourhoods. The contrasts make the
story wistful - the innocence of the family, the canny crime branch of Mumbai
police and the heinous "livelihoods" of brothers in
"unmarked" jobs in the Gulf.
"To shareothers'livesis rewarding because it enlightens me - that I am not alone
in my spells of emotionalturbulence,"
The readers identify themselves
in the layers and the shades of the characters in the stories — most of which
address complex psychological issues like "filial politics",
"colourpolitics", "socialbias", "alternativesexuality","inspirations", "loneliness",
Actor Nana Patekar pays tribute
to his father inan autobiographical account,
"And Father CreatedAn Actor"- that
redeemshisfatherasa"tormentorandcolourracist" in the actor's childhood to elevate himtoan "inspiration".
The story seems like aleaf out of Nana Patekar's volatile persona - throwing light on
his intense and brooding personality on thescreen.
Gajanand Laxman Patekar, a
native of Murud, a coastal town in Maharashtra, dotes on Nana's fair-skinned
younger brotherDilip. The dark-skinned actor
is "left to fend for himself"- slightedand neglected. A troubled
Nana Patekar sinks into bouts of depression and low self-esteem still his
father sees him on stage ashighway robberturned sage Valmiki's henchman in a Marathi adaptationoftheseer'slife-whoconceivedandcompiledoneof India's two greatest
epics "Ramayana" as atonement for his life of theft.
"My father returned to
Murud to see me in the play... Atthe end of the show, I was
shocked. he had tears in his eyes. For the first time, I felt the warmth of his
embrace. His son had redeemed himself. hehad acted on stage... I felt
like Gajanand Laxman's son," Nana Patekar writes inhis account. Even now Nana acts "only for his father's applause", the actor admits at the end of his story.
Stories such as these motivate-
leaving readers with a lingering awe in the after hours- like yet another
movie in the fine print. The collection, despite few literary failings, rises
much above the average gamut of anthologies because of the "vast reserve
of untold stories". Aboutthe stars we love to watch in
our movie-plex fantasy spaces.