Arun Vijay. Popularly known as AV. Twenty-four years. His face seemed to be everywhere. On the covers of magazines. On billboards. At road intersections. It was the kind of face you never tire of wherever you see it, no matter how many times you see it. After two years of relentless makeup, a strange form of fairness had frozen on her face. His olive black eyes had a clear tinge of sadness. A melancholy that deceives. The kind of eyes that made thousands of women lose sleep at night in desire and agony. When his lips smiled, his hesitant eyes took a moment to meet them. There was also a small sign of strabismus. Inside those pink lips, a tooth looked a little out of place. Some said it was an important feature of her beauty. Fans loved discussing these oddities. And there were so many. So much.
Arun was still waking up. Standing five-foot-ten tall, he could look down at his female co-stars from where he could see the parting in their hair. Or look in their bras.
He was now wearing a T-shirt with a lungi. Three hours of sleep deficit hung like a cloud over his droopy eyes. It was 1am when he went to bed last night. Arun got up from the bed and looked in the mirror.
“When you look in the mirror, don’t look at yourself. Look at others. He vaguely remembers a quote from Russian theater guru Konstantin Stanislavski. An actor preparesArun thought to himself. But when? He also had to read Jean-Luc Godard. But when? He needed to visit the National Film Archive in Pune to watch Battleship Potemkin. But when? And make this experimental film. But when? Visit Uttamarkovil. But when?
Bhaskar silently slipped into the room and looked at the bottle of pills on the bedside. “So you started this again?” He asked.
“It’s Valium, man. Will do no harm. Arun, oblivious to Bhaskar’s presence, took off his T-shirt and lungi, and walked naked to the towel rack and wrapped himself in one. He brushed his teeth noisily in the sink and splashed water on his face. The cold water gave him some life. He hummed happily to himself.
“What does the day look like, Bhaskar?”
“At 8:30 a.m., you are at AVM Studio B. This is the road map for a full day. You fly to Bangalore in the evening and film all night. Balu is waiting for you there. In the morning, SP will send you two reels for a dubbing session in Chamundeshwari. You go home by car in the afternoon.
“Eeeeeeeee! When will I get some sleep?
“You have five hours in the car back from Bangalore, Arun.” Bhaskar offered him another towel, fearing that he would take off the one around his waist to wipe his face. “Oh, I forgot to tell you. Gnanasekaran is waiting for you on the studio floor. To do an interview.
“Gnanasekaran? Hit it! Hit it!
“The interview is with female students.”
“I guess that’s fine then,” Arun said.
“Apparently their mothers follow them.”
“Oh my God, this is awful. Leave me alone,” Arun said, then stopped. “But you never know. Sometimes moms are more attractive. Once in Ooty, one of them took my hand, put it on his chest and said, “Look how my heart beats for you.”
“There is also someone called Lakshmanan waiting for you. He insists on meeting you. I’ve been waiting for a while.
“Let him wait, my dear machine!” he said to the secretary. “And tell me when I’m really going to rest.”
Arun glared hard at Bhaskar. “I’m done. I’m dead.” he said. “I’m going to hang a portrait on the wall before I’m thirty!”
“Bhaskar, why aren’t you married yet?”
“It’s none of your business.”
“Tell me the truth – you’ve never slept with a woman before, have you?”
“Do not be stupid !”
Arun combed his hair then ruffled it with his fingers. He put on a black and blue shirt and pants and zipped up in no time. An elderly lady came in with idlis and filter coffee on a tray.
“Mami, how are you? »
She smiled in response.
“Send me boiled cabbage and cauliflower with salt and a bowl of sour milk for lunch,” he ordered. “And just a spoonful of rice. Only that, he said, gesturing with his fingers.
“Okay, dad,” she nodded. She was in her fifties, a widow fallen on hard times.
“And what about my wonderful parents?” Did they all wake up? Arun asked.
“Did they all eat their free meals?”
As the lady stood frozen in embarrassment, Bhaskar scolded Arun. “You don’t know what to talk about and with whom?” And then he said, “Maami, please continue.”
“Bastards! Arun hadn’t finished yet. It was obvious he was fuming at someone who wasn’t in the room. “What movie are we going to shoot today? he asked Bhaskar.
“Annayin Thyaagam,” he said. Hmm. A film about a mother’s sacrifice.
“My God! With that cow Premalatha! Bhaskar, she eats garlic and splashes Charly on herself. Why does she eat so much? I can feel it when I cross the Kodambakkam bridge. Oh, those Andhra girls…”
They both went down. The phones were still ringing. Carefree, Arun headed for the car waiting for him under the gate.
“I’m glad you’re back home, thambi,” Lakshmanan said, still hoping for a word. Arun walked as if the man didn’t exist and got in the car. Bhaskar jumped into the front seat.
“Please thambi,” the persistent producer rushed after him. “I only need these dates in February. I can adjust call sheets. You just need to sign and attend the puja on this amavasai.
“Get the hell out of here!” Arun snapped hard. The car sped away.
Lakshmanan stood stunned for a moment as he watched the car drive away, then mumbled to himself, “You’re crawling!” Do you call yourself a human being? I’ll finish you off one day – just watch.
Excerpted with permission from dream factorySujatha, translated from Tamil by Madhavan Narayanan, HarperCollins India.