Framed!


Kamal finalized the schedule of going for the evening show directly from office. He could not afford to miss it. The actor-director has been known to him, on the silver screen only, for quite a long time, and she was famous for making artistic and serious movies, both in Hindi and in an Indian regional language. He watched most of her films since his college days, and always enjoyed those. Today’s is a special screening of her latest Hindi film, a kind of a premier show perhaps, few days before the theatre release. Kamal knows that serious films like this one never merit a glamorous premier or a commercial release, and therefore, such special screenings are a boon for the discerning moviegoers. He was particularly happy with the fact that the filmmaker would be present there in person. His entry pass was for two. His wife of two-years of wedlock earlier expressed her inability to go for it that particular day. So, he requested his best friend-colleague to accompany him. The friend agreed, but due to a last-minute engagement he finally expressed his regrets too.

Kamal did not quite mind going alone, because such thought-provoking films had better be enjoyed alone. He wanted to leave office early, but got a bit delayed due to an important visitor who came late. Finally, free, he rushed out to the bus stop, and was grateful to get it immediately. Even if the bus takes half an hour in this peak-traffic hour I should be on time for the show, he thought. And he did reach the sprawling auditorium complex on time.

As was natural for serious movies, the show was arranged in the mini auditorium at ground floor. Without bothering to look at the people still sipping tea and talking in the lounge Kamal went in straightaway and was again gratified to get a very good seat in the rear. The show started on time after a brief intro by the actor-director. He thoroughly enjoyed watching. More so, because there was no interval as the film was around one and half hour’s duration only. After the movie ended, he continued to sit for some time, thinking about it and relishing the precious moments of the movie. Finally, he came out fully satisfied and with a rather misty pair of eyes.

He saw several groups of people engaged in animated discussion in the lounge, sparklingly well-lit now. He pondered for a moment about taking a cup of tea from the busy counter. But, he mused, why to spend so much whereas I’ll get a better-made cup of tea in the road-side stall outside at a fraction of the price here! As he moved towards the exit, he suddenly caught sight of the actor-director surrounded by a much larger group. She looked beautiful and heavenly under the lights despite being in the fifties, and Kamal discovered a resolve evolving fast within him.

Yes, he always wanted to meet her. He had so many things to discuss and tell her, and so much appreciation to convey to her. About today’s movie in particular, he wanted to congratulate her, and wanted eagerly to tell her his opinion, already formed delicately in his cinema-appreciation mold. With the resolve firm within him, Kamal started loitering around closing in on that target group. Finally, reaching a conveniently nearer spot he took two firm steps towards her, and froze. She was staring at him with an intent and an unwavering gaze.    

Normally, such a stare from a very important lady would have pleased him immensely. But something in the stare disturbed him and effected an unpleasant churning in him. She was looking at him as if she were going to devour him up right there and then. Kamal seemed to perceive although not very sure about that: that there was some sort of an abominable carnality in the gaze. He got scared. An overwhelming premonition of danger engulfed him. Kamal took another decisive resolve.

He bolted out of the lounge, and almost ran to the bus stop. Again gratified, he got it quickly and got a window seat too. And his mind raced: was I right about the stare? has my feeling about her look reflected her feelings about me? He was not very sure. However, he mused on, gut feelings are mostly right and should always be adhered to, respected, I must have done the right thing. As the bus raced towards the local railway station where he would get a direct train home three options to the issue at hand shaped up in his mind.

First, his gut feelings are genuine. Second, she could have been interested in him from the filmy point of view, that is to say, possibly casting him in her future projects. And third, both options are right. Now, Kamal embarked on a cost-benefit analysis.

Option 1: he does the right thing…the innocent face of his wife fading in and out constantly; she is indeed carnivorous or omnivorous or whatever; or cadaverous? shit, that is the wrong word! firm conclusion, he escaped. Option 2: here he must have missed an opportunity; he does not boast of being young and handsome, people, particularly from the fairer variety, say this; firm conclusion, he lost out sorely. Option 3: she is interested in him both for the carnality angle and the casting possibility; he must have won here too…yes…wife’s innocent face…yes…lost an opportunity…no…wife…break…no…yes; firm conclusion, not firm at all; damn it all!

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