He looked like a short prince, or at the very least a regal-looking tourist in an orange jacket, somebody who would start to look tubby the moment he stopped watching his weight. Like somebody remote and so good looking he had to be a movie star or a person who happened to get photographed often, you probably had to touch him to realise he was as flesh and blood as you and me, but maybe you had to slice open a bit of that white skin to know his blood was not royal blue.
So anyway. He was supposed to be there at 5 p.m., but a really important person must be fashionably late or risk being called a groupie or Amitabh Bachchan. Everyone else seemed to have made it to the theatre before him, and for two hours, we stared at several stars and their wives and husbands, admiring the flowing dresses and the well-cut (but not always well-worn) suits, the several glassy, unblinking stares and fixed smiles at hundreds of flashing cameras. I was staring so raptly at Dilip Vengsarkar and marvelling at how much difference a suit makes to a man, when there was a hush in the vicinity.
He was there.
He was to sit with his film’s leading lady in the centre of our row. Stupid idea, I remember thinking, because obviously nobody’s going to want to sit right in the middle of a line of little people who still couldn’t believe they were surrounded by so much royalty. He seemed to think so too, because he took one look at us, an entire line of inanely smiling faces and said, “No no, Gracy, you sit here. In the second seat.” Turning vaguely in our direction, he said, “I’ll need to get up often.” None of us said a word, though there was some sighing, and the cameras flashed in our direction. His leading lady shrank further in her seat, from genuine bewilderment or in a show of her purported acting skills, I really don’t know. He looked at the cameras frankly, a bit impatiently, and as the lenses adjusted and the shots were taken, it was like being in the neighbourhood of twenty bolts of lightning.
When he stood up again, his eyes locked into mine for the briefest second, and it was like there was ice around my heart. Because his eyes are truly beautiful, like a river lit by a sunset. Or that cool place where dreams retire to whisper their many secrets.
He turned away and was gone.
I watched him stride about, feeling a bit of emptiness inside, like a girl who’s lost her moment when she could have jumped on to a train safely. Instead I turned my attention to the tall, white dude seated in the row before mine, and who was wearing a white cotton kurta and an expression of bemusement so endearing on people when they are genuinely puzzled. Then he strode on to the stage and got his entire team together, made speeches with several hand gestures and smiled benignly as the audience, B-towners and little folk alike, laughed fakely at whatever he said. Then he got the tall white dude on to the stage and introduced him as the baddie of the film. “Don’t be fooled by what he does on screen, he is really one of the nicest people I’ve met,” he said, patting said dude’s shoulder. Har har, said the audience, clapping.
The film started. The premiere organisers decided they had to have us in a photo with him, because there is really no point giving out free film tickets if you’re not going to have photo proof. So we filed out of the theatre, just as Mr Bachchan voice began to tell us the background story, and waited in front of a staircase. A bossy photographer began shuffling us around the foyer, looking for a suitable backdrop. “This is good,” we heard him say, and the superstar himself was guiding us to a likely-looking spot in front of a huge likeness of him on a Lagaan poster. Again, the flashbulbs.
Then he turned to us and held out his hand for our tickets or any surface we cared to have his autograph on. I was last in line, detachedly looking outside the glass doors where a multitude of office goers and hangers on where standing under umbrellas or letting the July rains soak their bodies through a skyful of dull blue. All they could have seen was a blur of yellow light and photographers racing each other, an occasional celebrity and the big white bus he and his team had arrived in. But never him.
Some of our group had difficulty telling him their own names. “Ni-Nishtha,” a girl stammered, awestruck, finally shoving a greeting card in his hand. He took it with a smile but did not open it. She looked like she would faint when he shook her hand. And finally it was my turn. I shook his hand, warm and soft and professionally firm, looked in his eyes and said, “Vrushali.”
He signed my ticket with a flowing hand. “To Vrushali, love Aamir Khan,” he said, the first time a superstar’s ever said or written my name. “Oh,” he suddenly seemed to realise. “You’ll are missing the film.” Our group giggled again and started filing back into the theatre. When they looked back to see if he was escorting them, they found he was deep in conversation with a TV reporter. The guarded smile was back on his face.
I turned and walked out into the rain.
This post is my entry to IndiBlogger’s ‘FireFreeze’ contest. Do leave a comment and describe a FireFreeze moment you may have had. I’d love to hear from you.