“…CUT…” the director bellowed and took off his cap, banging it on the makeshift table on which his camera was precariously placed; his annoyance had skyrocketed. Then, turning around, he walked to a pensive Mr. Mehta.
“Mehta, what is going on… we have been in this godforsaken suite since morning, but your KB cant get one shot right. This was his forte. Bedroom scenes were his favorite… do you know how much I had to convince Alina’s team and then sign an iron-clad document to get her consent to shoot the intimate scene… this scene is the story’s turning point of the story and its already afternoon… We are taking a break, and I was hoping you could talk to him. I can’t waste any more time trying only a single shot… Goddamn it…” the director huffed and walked away.
Mr. Mehta struggled his way to the other room designated for KB while the bedroom was reserved for Alina and her all-woman team.
“KB sir… the director is upset. The scene had to…”
“…It will be done, Mehta… just fix me a glass…” KB drawled. He knew he was at fault, but he couldn’t help it. Every time he bent close to kiss Alina, Kajal’s flushed face would swim before his eyes, and those lips swollen from his onslaught would cause him an erection of such a magnitude that he had to move away from Alina to spare him the embarrassment. He rubbed his face.
He had done these scenes with so many actresses, so many times, but it was all an act… today; however, it didn’t feel like it, and he was in a mental mess… If Alina got an inkling of his puffed-up loins, she wouldn’t hesitate to crucify him in the media. He had, after all, refused her advances for months. She was a superstar… probably greater than him, and didn’t like to take a no for an answer. She was watching his every move literally and figuratively, and he didn’t want to serve her a chance on a platter. He knew she was pissed off but saw the gleam in her eyes as she thought of retribution.
“KB, sir, please gather yourself. What has happened? Is something troubling you? If the schedule gets canceled or postponed, not only would we have to share the extra costs, but you have another commitment tomorrow…”
KB rubbed his face yet again as the make-up artist came in for a touch-up. He sighed. He had in his contract put a clause that he wouldn’t be doing nude scenes… just the topless ones only. Well, he wasn’t concerned about vanity… he was worried his reality would lay bare for the world to see. Yet even with a half-opened shirt today, he was uneasy…
“Mehta…. Don’t worry, the shooting will be done with today. By the way, what’s the schedule for tomorrow?” He sighed. He had been in a fudge state for the last month… Mr. Mehta had arranged all his schedules along with his team, and he only had to sign the dotted lines. So he hadn’t been concerned and just gone through the day’s chores till Kajal had come along.
She had caused ripples in his still waters, and even when she wasn’t around, he could feel her presence, her shining salwar Kameez loosely fitting that shapely body within, the kohl-rimmed browns sparkling in passion or the tiny whiff of talc she would have used hours earlier. He was hard immediately, and he swore loud enough for the make-up guy to stop. Mr. Mehta also hesitated to answer him.
KB adjusted his seat to release the discomfort in his pants and instructed the make-up guy to continue.
Soon it was time for the shot, and his Aadarsh walked confidently towards the bed. Again, the number of people in the room had been reduced to the bare minimum given the intimacy. This time, however, instead of smirking Alina-Ketki he saw the bewitching Kajal staring back at him with passion-loaded eyes as the lids shut half-mast and she raised her neck further dipping her head into the pillow.
At that moment, he was not Aadarsh anymore but Krish, and he visualized Kajal’s slender neck plain except for the tiny Adam’s apple bobbing slightly as she swallowed anxiously… he kissed the lump even as her breathing raced and moved to her shapely jaw as he showered her with tiny kisses and finally the glossed lips already parted to welcome him…
“CUT…” the director blasted, jolting KB out of his reverie, and he scampered away from Alina. “…Bravo KB… I knew you had saved the best shot for the last… super… I can tell you this shot between Aadarsh and Ketki is bound to send temperatures sky-rocketing…”
“Ahem… KB … that was… um… something…” Alina muttered and chuckled as she moved away to her troupe.
There was the last scene left to shoot, after which it was a pack-up for the day.
The last scene involved Aadarsh pulling Ketki, standing with her back towards him, and preventing her from running away to her rumored boyfriend. But as he did, he was back to being KB again, and it was Kajal standing in her resplendent but straightforward salwar-Kameez from that day in his van and he did what he couldn’t do that day when Kajal had turned towards the wall. He pulled her towards his chest and buried his head into the crook of her neck.
But the feeble talc was replaced by some obscene perfume, and he moved back.
“…CUT…” the director screeched and stood clapping. “…KB this is perfect… a one take shot… you made up for the lousy morning. KB and Alina… bravo both of you… what chemistry…”
KB shook his head and moved to his room Mr. Mehta on his heels without bothering to acknowledge Alina or the other unit members like he usually did. He wasn’t in his element…
He sat on the plush chair as the makeup artist came over to clean his face.
“Mehta.. you didn’t tell me tomorrow’s schedule.” He drawled with his eyes shut.
“It’s an off-day from the shoot because of Alina’s solos tomorrow. So we had scheduled an ad shoot…”
What? When…? He had to do something about his hangovers. He was all fucked up…
“What ad-shoot is it Mehta…?” he asked, settling back into the soft chair.
“…KB sir… it’s the Sensations condom advertisement…”
That got his attention. “What the fuck Mehta…I had told you I wouldn’t do it…”
“KB sir… did you forget our meeting last month when your news about driving under the influence got viral…? Our legal team and Shipra ma’am had decided that you had to counter the image using the condom ad… a perfect Casanova. And you had agreed, sir. Sensations is a huge brand not to be messed with, and a lot is riding on the ad shoot tomorrow. Just compensating them with money won’t help… your reputation will be ruined since that press fiasco is still fresh in the public mind… that fight with Hetal’s ex…”
KB’s objection to going completely bare despite having a fabulous body was the revelation of the self-inflicted scars…His back had them too, but they were now faint and concealers did a graet job. His make-up guy was paid well and signed an NDA to keep all he saw under wraps. But the condom ad meant he had to. So how would he conceal the fresh injuries on his thighs and not to mention the usual freeze before the camera like today morning…?
“Uh… KB, sir, don’t worry. I have seen to it that you won’t have to go all bare. It’s just being topless and moving the denim slightly below the … pelvis … I mean…”
“Fine, fine … I got it… but how many such schedules have they planned?”
“KB sir, this is the first of the three. There are two more… after three months each.”
“Well then, I want to review the contract tomorrow itself; after we finish the first ad shoot…contact the legal team and ask them to come tomorrow…and place a call to Shipra…”
“Sir…? Shipra ma’am…? But why…?”
“…Are you so naïve Mr. Mehta? You know how Shipra had constructed every byte to the media for two years now. She has had too much of a leeway. But this is getting too far…”
“… But sir… your entry into Bollywood…”
“…it will happen when it has to happen… I can’t do this nonsense anymore…”
As Mr. Mehta placed the call to Shipra, KB rubbed his face yet again. He didn’t know what had come over him. Nothing had affected him after the debacle a decade ago. But all of a sudden he was worried about his image…. For whom? Except for malicious gossip no one was interested in him…
“Sir… Shipra ma’am on the line…”
“Hello Shipra, I want you to come over to the Sensations location tomorrow at 11 AM. My legal team will be there as well. So…”
“…Sorry KB, but I am in the hospital with my son… so I can’t make it, but what is this all about now?”
“Shipra I cannot tolerate this blatant projection of an image of this sort. I want to review the contract with Sensations… I want to draw the line at…”
“…KB”… she interrupted. “…Listen to me carefully. I don’t know what has come over you these days. But don’t forget Sensations is huge. The top film actors vie for the coveted position of being their top model, and I had to pull numerous strings to get you on board. You had signed the contract… and the pay is the best in the industry, not to mention it will pave your way to a Bollywood debut as a hero.”
“Shipra… please… I can’t do it… anymore… you should know that to do these ads, one needs to get into the groove into that element. My USP has always been, to blend in, and somehow… this time, I can’t just… please… I have to review the contract…”
Shipra paused for a while. “…Fine KB. There won’t be many modifications possible, but if you give your best shot tomorrow, then maybe I can arm-twist my way to get things in motion… I will send Kajal along with the documents for your review, and she shall explain the rest to you… I hope that’s fine now…”
He agreed. It was more than acceptable… if Kajal came, then probably he would prevail through the shoot.
“KB sir…” Mr. Mehta spoke. “…there’s something else…”
“…What now, Mehta…?”
“…Uh… madam… your naniji has called you home tomorrow for an early dinner…”
“…you know I don’t like to visit Mr. Mehta. So why didn’t you give some excuse…?” His heart began to thud. His grandparents wanting to see him was never good news.
“…KB sir, she specifically wants to talk to you… something about your birthday coming up in a few months… and she has said your nanaji won’t be home…”
KB rubbed his face wondering if his features that brought in the moolah would be intact at the rate at which he had been at it all day.
So why did naniji want to meet him? All of a sudden, for the first time in five years…? He barely spoke with her and had stopped talking to his nanaji altogether years ago when he had defied their diktat and had chosen this profession. And what was this crap about his birthday. No one wished him in the last decade… it was a cursed day for everyone. Not that he ever celebrated the day except for once during the period when that woman had visited.
Nanaji had also never bothered keeping in touch, so what did naniji want now?