The Price A Novelette By Varalotti Rengasamy Part D Reshma gently patted on his cheeks and spoke in a choked voice: “Raghavan, you have done wonders to my ego just by asking. Thanks a lot,dear. But no thanks. This is our last meeting. Don’t try to meet me again. Don’t even come to the acting school. “I know dear that you will be thinking that I have not done anything to help your career in movies. I could have easily got you into Bollywood through my underworld connections. But they’ll make your life hell once you succeed. “I don’t want that to happen to you. That’s why I didn’t use my connections in your favour. I have been trying hard to get you in through the normal route. But that’s very difficult. I am still trying to do something for you. “You remember Chandar. Yes, the kingmaker whose name I mentioned earlier. He is of course a crook. But at least he does not have anything to do with the underworld. I’ll see to it that he comes and meets you when the time is ripe. But hereafter don’t call me. “It’s a great risk for you. The time I spent with you was probably the sweetest in my life. Please pray for me, dear.” She planted a kiss on his cheeks and virtually ran away from him and from his life. An emotionally exhausted Raghavan reached home pretty early that evening. Raghavan abandoned the acting classes. But the desire to get into the movies had become very intense. He was in a state of greater torment now for he was a hero in his dreams and thoughts and an accounts-clerk in his real life. He could not bear this dual state any further and confided in Vidya, his burning desire to enter the tinsel world. Vidya spoke not like an ordinary wife but like a loving mother: “Raghavan, I am not interested in what you do for a living. I am only concerned with how you do it. So far you were doing your work – though it was an ordinary one – in the best possible way. “You look better than the best heroes of today. It’s quite natural for you to have such an ambition. But I hear that it’s very difficult to enter the cine-field. “I am worried about one thing, though. None of the leading actors and actresses lead a happy life. We are outside the field and we do not know the travails of those who are in it. Just think about that. “And remember one thing: there is nothing called free lunch in life. Every thing has a price. If you want to get that much of fame and money you will have to pay a matching price. If you are prepared for that I am sure you will have a promising career as an actor.” At the time when these words were uttered even Vidya could not imagine the price Raghavan would be paying to to get into the movies. Raghavan’s obsessed mind played the game of selective listening: it took in only the positive side of her view and ignored her warnings. Raghavan prepared an album containing his photographs shot from different angles. He saw all the recent hit movies several times over and memorized the important dialogues. Armed with this preparation he started to attack. Though he knew that without proper introductions and recommendations he could not get into the movies, he just wanted to give a try in the normal manner. His bloated ego fooled him into an overestimation of his looks and acting skills: ‘For a handsome and talented person like me connections do not, in the least, matter.’ He went and knocked the doors of all the popular studios in the city. He thought, one day, the producer or director would come out, hug him and take him into the magic world of films. But all he got to meet was the watchmen who muttered obsceneties in hindi before brutally pushing him away. Raghavan vowed to dismiss all the watchmen en masse once he got in. After two months the painful bottom line was that Raghavan could not even physically enter a studio, let alone enter the enchanting world of films. Raghavan was expecting a call from Reshma. But she never called. He had half-mind to call her; but when he remembered the appearance of the Dada who threatened her on that day, he dropped the idea. Raghavan and Vidya were eating out in a modest restaurant near their home. “Hai Vidya, how are you? Is this your husband? Why didn’t you invite me for your marriage? It’s okay, dear. I envy you, guy, you almost snatched Vidya from my hands. But it’s okay.” Raghavan simply detested the man with an unshaven face. His dress was crumpled and he had a bag about his shoulders which was as dirty as his shirt. The man simply sat in the chair near Vidya. Raghavan did not relish this intrusion and wanted to dispose him off as early as possible “Hai Mister, I am Chandar. Vidya’s cousin. Glad to meet you. I am an Assistant Director and am currently working for….” The name that was dropped was so big to make Raghavan jump from his seat. And now the intruder’s name rang a row of bells in his heart. He remembered Reshma saying about Chandar, the Assistant Director, who was the kingmaker. His attitude towards the intruder changed completely. With his left hand he held Chandar’s hand and told him in a pleading voice about his vain attempts to become an actor. Vidya who knew Chandar’s character did not like Raghavan talking to him in a voice that almost begged help. She was irritated. Chandar stood up and came right before Raghavan. He held his hands as if it were a camera and saw Raghavan from various angles.