The Heat

by Sushant Thapa

Being a celebrity had not been easy for Kartik. The action movie director had called him over dinner at his place. Kartik’s recent wedding with an actress had blown enough air for the public. The private affair took a turn—it was no longer private. Perhaps the cost of stardom was to lose inner peace. One of Kartik’s fans had committed suicide because Kartik had turned him away from an interview at his home. Kartik had been a reserved kind of celebrity. He abstained from meeting people for interviews while he was at home. He was so busy with his character roles, that he hardly saw beyond the hovering clouds of acting. Kartik memorized his dialogue before his driver drove him to the film set. The movie was named “The Heat.” It was an action movie, but there was a club dance scene. Some drunken sensibility was to be carefully unfolded. The only fear that Kartik had was one. What if he forgot to act? What would he do? After his dad left the company which he co-founded nobody contacted him from the company.

His driver used to say, “Sahib, all movies have one thing in common—they are all kissa’s (famous stories) like talk of the town, or guff. Kartik laughed and told the driver to focus on the wheels. Kartik said, “You better tell those kissa’s to Buhari, I am sure she’d find it entertaining. Also, bring her and your little daughter to the movie set sometimes.” Before being a driver, the man used to work as a make-up artist in Mumbai. He had seen the silver shining glassy images of Bollywood. It was all like a glassy world, shiny and filled with pizzazz. The glassy world hid its fragility.

“Not mixing profession and passion Sahib. What if she leaves me and runs away with the hero?” —the driver said jokingly as he parked his car. They sat under the gazebo in the garden; this was where the fight scene was about to be shot. This was a spacious setting; already the crowd had gathered to see one glance of the hero.

The director came from a theatrical background. He had started his acting career at a very young age. The dramatization was a skill, which came from the English bard himself—the director believed. The director believed in the dramatic power of written words. He wanted to capture that energy and depict it on screen. With an ever-ready producer who was a poet—the direction was going smooth. The conglomerate of professions and thinkers were carving the masonry of the movie. The management part was good, but the director had some trouble with the dialogues in the script.

“I need a responsible writer, ” the director said to Kartik.

“Unedited scripts with longer dialogues ruin the feeling in actors,” the director expressed his concern.

“It takes a whole lot of energy and ploughing of the mind, to make a movie,” said the director.

Kartik said, “It is not a business, but a show of creativity.”

“I do not want to lose the dramatic art factor and visual cinematics,” the director added.

The director had hired Ranjit to write the story, but Ranjit wanted to act. He would secretly ask the make-up artist to put make-up on his face. He would recite the dialogues from the script that he wrote. He did this behind the curtain of the make-up room. He’d hide the script in his belly; inside his shirt. Ranjit focused too much on this acting behind the curtain. He threw tantrums on the set. He was less concerned with writing a fine line. He grew impatient every minute. He’d yell at the make-up artist for not cleaning the mirror in the make-up room properly. He’d recite his dialogues in disguise in front of that mirror.

The director wanted to add a historical war scene in the casting as a tribute to the late King Prithvi Narayan Shah. From flying cars in movies to thrilling effects, the director wanted to shift his camera. Ranjit was asked to collect and research historical facts, but he was too busy in his own disguise. The love of acting was consuming him. The director knew about it. He had also called Ranjit for dinner at his home and Kartik was also there with his newlywed actress wife. The director’s wife was a fashion designer and she also designed wedding outfits. Kartik’s wife Komal and Mala, the director’s wife, were busy looking at new designs.

The dinner was turning out to be a light evening soirée. The men had pertinent issues to discuss. For Ranjit, it was a matter of the job. He knew he could be fired from the job anytime. He wanted to talk to the director and replace the hero. This was a tough thing to talk about. The temptation and heat ate Ranjit from inside. He knew the director was a tough man, with his own rules and behavior of strict adherence. Ranjit was searching for a loose time to initiate a friendly talk with the director. He obviously did not want to talk in the tight presence of Kartik.

Ranjit did not know why Kartik was there. Kartik was already signed in for the movie and had airs of stardom around him. Ranjit wanted to climb up the stairs of stardom. On the other hand, Kartik wanted to climb down the same stairs; after what happened with that fan whom he had ignored for the interview. The director still wanted Kartik to be in the industry till the end.

“Did you see the crowd of the public that day while shooting the action scene?” the director said to Kartik.

Ranjit was jealous when he heard the director say so. Before Kartik could reply to the director Ranjit interfered. He abruptly said, “The public disturbed the peace, it affected the boldness of the dialogue—the script demanded something else.”

“Ranjit, why don’t you work better on the historical facts for the casting,” the director said.

“The heat of the present time demands history to be clear,” the director further added.

Ranjit replied, “I think they are older things, what connotations do they have now?”

The director said, “That is what you are unable to see, Ranjit. Open your eyes.”

Ranjit got irritated, he was realizing something which he should not have. He grew anxious, each moment. How was he to tell the director that he wants to replace the hero, just because he liked acting? The weight of this thought was too heavy on him. He wanted to get it off his chest. Should he talk with Kartik directly and sort it out? Kartik was sitting in front of him during dinner. The director had a newspaper under his plate on the dining table, it had the news on the first page. The newspaper carried the news about the suicide of the movie fan which directly and indirectly involved Kartik. Kartik was taken to custody for the inquiry, the previous day. Kartik told the police that there was no personal envy between him and the fan, and he had not seen the fan before. Kartik clearly mentioned that he never anticipated the mishap. He kept it before the police that he had casually told the fan to ward off citing family reasons.

“The suicide seems like a publicity stunt now,” Ranjit said to Kartik in the dining hall.

“I do not understand, who is benefited by this stunt?” Kartik questioned.

“This is totally unexpected, why take a liking for some actor so seriously,” Ranjit said.

“This event has disturbed me a lot, I feel like giving up on acting,” Kartik told Ranjit.

“What do you plan to do sir?” Ranjit asked Kartik.

“I used to be often worried about that. I have no clue till now,” Kartik confessed.

“I have to seek my old acquaintances, people with whom my dad spent his official time,” Kartik further added.

“There are some letters which my dad always pestered me to read, he said they were from friendly acquaintances; which I believe were official,” Kartik elaborated the expression to Ranjit.

“What can be the secrets in those letters?” Ranjit got curious.

The director bid farewell to both the men. Ranjit was still supposed to work on the dialogues and historical facts and Kartik was to carry his acting career with equal ease as before. The director had asked Kartik to not be despondent with the media and all the news on hype.

That evening after reaching his home from the director, Kartik called Ranjit to his residence. Together they were set to find the secrets in those letters. Kartik found the letters in his dad’s study room. The room was kept in the most exact manner when his dad used it during the latter days of his life. His dad used to spend his sick days reading and writing in that study room. Kartik never knew at that time why his dad was always busy in the study room.

Now, while he entered the room and switched on the light, he vividly remembered his dad sitting on the chair near the window in that room. His dad used to stretch his arthritic legs on a stool and sit on the chair. Mostly he used to write. Also, official papers would be strewn on his table. Kartik recalled some of the official characters in that room. Lawyers in dark suits and white-collar people always sauntered in and out from that room.

Suddenly the telephone rang in the room before Kartik could read any letter. Kartik was surprised. Nobody had called his dad’s room for quite a long time after his dad’s departure. The man who called asked Kartik to sit down on a chair, and relax. The man was about to reveal something amazingly shocking.

Kartik was told that: “You are the sole heir of the company which your dad had co-founded before his death.”

Kartik replied, “I barely know about the company. Who am I speaking to?”

“I am the partner of your dad, in the company. I am leaving for America, and I do not have anyone whom I can ask for the heir. I want you to take the responsibility of a million-rupee company.” The man replied.

“Come and meet me in the office, and we will do the formalities,” The man said.

Kartik noted down the address.

Kartik looked at Ranjit. Ranjit had told Kartik about his interest in acting before they entered that room. Kartik felt happy that he got a chance to take up his dad’s company. He felt glad that he would be near to his dad, even after his death.

Kartik thanked the man on the line, and hung up the phone. He turned to have a talk with Ranjit who wanted to become an actor. Kartik decided to call the director after a while and climb down the flights of stardom. Ranjit knew that he himself was perfect for the role, and now he did not have to hide and act in front of a make-up room mirror. The director believed their consolation in the end.

About the Author:

Sushant Thapa (b.1993) is a Nepalese poet, flash fiction, and short story writer. He is the author of “The Poetic Burden and Other Poems” and “Abstraction and Other Poems” published from New Delhi and England respectively. About a dozen Fictions of Sushant have been published. “The Glass Slate” is his first children’s short story published in Kitaab Magazine, Singapore. Borderless Journal, Singapore has published a few flash fiction. Sushant has also translated an Uzbek short story from English to Nepali and published it from Shabda Sopan, Kathmandu, Nepal. 

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