The Price [FONT="]-[/FONT]A Novelette By Varalotti Rengasamy Part F Raghavan thought that the whole thing was just a dream or a figment of his imagination. When he looked at Vidya his eyes were a fountain of happiness; but hers was a cesspool of grief which Raghavan chose not to understand or bother about. On that night itself Chandar organised a party for a select band of producers, distributors and financiers in their new Juhu home. The home was a four thousand square feet marvel in granite and marble and just being inside it changed Raghavan’s outlook to life and its problems. The next day Chandar and Raghavan left the house early in the morning in a borrowed luxury car and visited a dozen producers and directors on the sets. But it was not an easy job even for a seasoned kingmaker like Chandar. Bollywood had a closed-shop policy and did not gladly suffer persons outside the established Bollywood clans and dynasties. He heard that a director known to him was looking for a supporting actor – just to act as the hero’s friend in a few scenes. Chandar rushed to see him frantically requesting him to give that role to Raghavan. “Chandar, I don’t mind giving the role to your man. But there’s a problem. The film-cost has exceeded the budget and all the financiers have backed out. “If you can arrange two crores – just to meet the over-run- we can resume the work. And I’ll give the supporting role to your man – I will even add a few more scenes for him.” “Is it a deal?” “Yes, a deal.” Chandar shook hands and went out in search of financiers. But none of the film-financiers showed interest in that film. The producer and the director seemed to have a bad reputation with the financiers and they said in an unanimous voice that they “were not prepared to throw good money over bad money.” Now Chandar concluded that no one in the film-industry would fund the project. He should get hold of a rich man outside the field. He scratched his head for a while and very soon a bulb flashed in his head. Chandar was seated before his uncle Ramnath who was also Vidya’s father. Ramnath was one of the city’s largest industrialists. His hatred for Chandar came out the moment Chandar entered his cabin. “What brought you here?” “I have got a sound investment proposal for you. With an initial investment of two crores you can make five crores in less than six months.” “Are you kidding? Such huge returns are possible only in boot-legging, running a brothel or loan-sharking. I am not interested in any of them. Will you please leave me alone? I’ll call you when I am in need of investment advice.” Chandar swallowed his pride and explained Raghavan’s predicament. He emphasised the point that but for the funds Vidya and Raghavan would soon be on the streets. That touched a chord in the hardened heart of Ramnath. When Ramnath started to relent Chandar quickly filled him with the details. He also hinted about the strong story-line of the film and assured him that the film would be a success any day. It would not only open the gates of Bollywood for his son-in-law but would also more than double his investment in a matter of months. Even if the money was lost it would be only unaccounted money and so there was no big deal. After hearing him for an hour not only Ramnath, the father-in-law was convinced but also Ramnath, the businessman. Once he agreed Chandar did not waste time. He completed the formalities in a few hours and handed over the money to the Director. The Director kept up his word. In the same week Raghavan got the role as the hero’s close friend. The Director changed the script to allow a few more scenes and a few more lines of dialogue for Raghavan. He also saw to it that Raghavan’s physical beauty was fully captured by the cameras. Raghavan was not in this world when he went along with Vidya to the premiere show. The movie was a hit – and of course Raghavan had no role to play in its success. The strong and a different story line had done the trick. But all the eyes fell on the charming friend who even belittled the hero by his casual good looks and natural acting. The girls went crazy over the new face. Raghavan started appearing on the covers of filmi-magazines. And before his first movie ran for a month he was booked in six more. Whatever happened appeared as a sweet coincidence and a lucky break to the untrained eyes of Raghavan. But the insiders knew that it was Chandar’s approach, his strategic planning, his astuteness in the matters of publicity and press and the influence he had over big names in the industry, that brought out the alchemy. Raghavan never looked back. On Chandar’s advice he had changed his name to Ramkumar and soon became a much sought after hero of the industry. In a matter of five years cine-star Ramkumar had a palatial bungalow on the Malabar Hills alongside the residences of other celebrities in the industry, about six block-busters to his credit, call-sheet problems, income tax raids, in short all the paraphernalia that woud befit a top rank movie star. Ramkumar was in cloud nine; but Vidya was not so euphoric. She had a strange feeling that Raghavan was slowly slipping out of her hands.