PrEm Ji

ART IS CRUEL (Short story)

 

ART IS CRUEL

Before joining into Government service, I was working as an associate director. Cinema is a field of cut throat completion and cheating in every form. Mostly, manipulators only can survive there. That’s why I decided to join as a low profile creative director of Kalaivani Studios in Trivandrum City.

Kalaivani Studios is owned by a non-resident Indian, named Mr. Ulpalakshan Nair. He started his life as a hotel bearer in deserts of UAE (United Arab Emirates). He now owns ‘East End Retail,’ one of the largest retail chains there. Even though he is a multimillionaire, inferiority complex ruled his life almost every moment due to his poor educational backgrounds. Naturally, he used every possible means to blow up his ego. He used to appear on every advertisement of his company and people used to spit on TV when his dirty face was shown!

The third phase of his life started inside of an air craft, when he met a famous Malayalam playback singer named Sagar as his co-passenger. Sagar was getting older and older and there were patches on his voice. And above all, young boys are ready to pay any amount to the producers of movies just for a chance. Technology made every other boy a singer and it rules the music industry now! Sagar planned to change his forte as that of a Music Director based on the above revelations! Filthy rich man Ulpalakshan Nair was an easy prey for him!

‘Ulpalakshan Sir, I know… you are a very creative person,’ Sagar started pouring out the sugar coated words of flattery immediately after the cordial introductions.

‘Not exactly… I don’t agree with you,’ Ulpalakshan Nair said politely, even-though his mind touched the peaks of happiness.

‘Please don’t underestimate yourself Sir… You have great capacity for creative imagination… See Sir, without imagination how can you accumulate this much riches!’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Sir, you are capable of doing anything… writing songs… composing music… singing… directing movies… anything… everything is there deep within your mind!’

‘Directing movies… No… No... That’s not possible’

‘That’s possible…Sir... After all direction is nothing but people management… If you can easily manage thousands of workers, it is very very easy for you to manage some hundred member crew… It’s nothing before your caliber..!’

‘Is it true?’

‘Yes… absolutely’

Thus Ulpalakshan Nair became the producer of the first music video album of Sagar.

Sagar knew how to play his cards very well to safeguard his career,… like the lyrics were written one of the leading veteran poets…. Music videos were shot by noted film makers at superb locations… especially with very sexy models… flesh... flesh... everywhere! Posters... posters everywhere... Finally it was well distributed by a leading marketing group. And beyond all, he redesigned the name of the producer to ‘ULPAL,’The music video was a super hit and the success provided him immense self-confidence. Just through the first venture, Ulpal became a celebrity Music Video producer! What recognition for a man of extreme inferiority complex! 

Who said that this world is made of Brahmn? It is made of pure ego!

Ulpal is a quick learner and he picked up the entire techniques of Music video production through his first venture. And naturally the businessman in him planned to cut short of the expenses, that ended up in the inauguration of Kalivani studios. Fortunately or unfortunately, I was the first customer who utilized the complete facilities of his studio. I completed the sound recording, mixing and editing of an advertisement of twenty seconds time span. Ulpal was standing near me all the time watching me working carefully and at the end, he requested me to become his creative director. I readily accepted the offer, a permanent income is better than piecemeal like small ads! But, I was not all aware that my worst times had started already! Ulpal returned to Dubai on the next day.

Two months passed. Ulpal landed with several cases of expensive liquor. There were very long discussions followed by drinking session almost every day. And on one such day, he opened up his ‘long cherished’ dream.

‘Premji, I want to produce a new music album’

‘Superb idea Sir! What is the theme?’

‘Why doubt? As usual... Love only,’ Ulpal laughed.

‘Who is writing the lyrics?’

‘Me,’ Ulpal said proudly.

‘That’s great again. Then, composing of music and direction?’

‘This video is ‘my personal video’… Premji... you know something like personal film… Director Priyadarshan had come with an award winning personal film… what’s its name?’

‘Kancheevaram’

‘Yes… yes… something like that… everything should have an Ulpal touch’

‘What?’

‘Ulpal touch!’

It was a pleasant Sunday and I was busy with the installation of some new editing software. Nobody was there in the office and Venpakal Surendran, an emerging revolutionary poet, entered into my chamber. 

‘Good Morning Sir... Can I meet Mr. Ulpal?’

‘Tell me... What is the matter?’

‘Ulpalji asked me to meet him today... He needs some lyrics to be written for his new album.’

‘Mr. Surendran... He is not going to produce a revolutionary album... Anyway, best of luck’

I pointed towards Ulpal’s personal room.

‘Sojaa... Rajkumari... Soja...,’..Ulpal was busy listening to the everlasting songs of Kundan LaL Sehgal.

‘Good Morning Sir,’ pleasing words from Venpakal Surendran brought him back to the present moment. Soon, they were immersed in great discussions about poetry, music and all other forms of art. Surendran was a talkative and Ulpal a keen listener! What else a numbskull can do, other than that!

‘O.K. Mr. Surendran... Let’s come to the point... I need some seven songs,’ Ulpal told while handing over double large Royal Salute and a bundle of imported executive bond sheets. ‘Love... Birth... Rebirth... Love at first sight... sleepless nights... endless love... thorns of love... passion.. These words should appear in the lyrics... So, get me one sample lyric,’

Ulpal was literally shocked to see the empty glass before Surendran. He poured another double large and it also vanished into the revolutionary poetry!

Poetry was flowing out like a torrent from his soul. Ulpal was very keen on supplying Royal Salute in regular intervals. Surendran wrote seven lyrics in three hours and handed them over to Ulpal.

‘When I could listen

Your heartbeats on mine,

Call it love’

‘Wonderful lines... Venpakal Surendran, you are a superstar...,’ Ulpal told him while putting his signature under those lines.

‘Saaaar,’.... Venpakal Surendran was literally shocked to see that and he cried out literally. His poetic world was broken into zillion fragments.... Exploitation... Exploitation... his conscience cried out...

Ulpal poured the last large of Royal Salute also into Surendran’s glass to cool down his burning soul. Surendran didn’t touch it. How can he? ‘Am I a surrogate pen?’ Ulpal kept a cheque worth rupees fifty thousand also on the table.

‘Mr. Surendran... fame or money... you can opt for any one,’ Ulpal played his cut throat business tactics. ‘If you need fame, money will not follow... and vice-versa,’

‘Is it a permanent contract?’

‘Yes... you can remain as my ‘ghost’ forever.,’

‘O.K. Done...,’ Revolutionary poet Venpakal Surendran grabbed the cheque while consuming the remaining liquor in a single gulp. He had just one and only permanent picture nailed on his mind’s wall... the picture of his deaf daughter.... ‘Yes, I can buy her a world-class hearing aid,’

Ulpal presented him a VAT69 bottle too... No more Royal Salutes friend... Once your work is over, you will be treated with only cheap quality things!

‘Exploiters of the world had reunited...

They call it Globalization...

O! The Exploited hearts! Let’s unite...

Let’s throw away the hopeless fucking revolution!

Venpakal Surendran walked away with ‘baby-like’ legs, singing his own ‘modified’ revolutionary song...

‘Art is cruel,’ Ulpal told himself and closed his eyes victoriously. In his dark mind-scape, he saw Director John Abraham* shouting the same dialogue! ‘O, the matter is not yet over,’

‘Hello... Is it Music Director Sunnikkutty?’

Sunnikkutty, music maestro of yester-years’ picked up the phone with his shivering fingers.... Ulpal started spreading his cards again on his ancient Harmonium, along with Chivas Regal! Poor man was fed up of fame... All he needed was bundles of lengthy red notes with grand old-man Gandhi!

Seven wonderful songs were ready for shoot. Auditions for Music Video also started and of course It was a hectic process. Twelve boys and seventeen girls were shortlisted by me. The final choice was left with Ulpal as it was his personal video!

‘Premji, I will shoot the first song at Munnar,’ Ulpal said.

‘That’s fine Sir... It’s a wonderful location... Anyway, let’s start the homework’

‘What?’

‘Homework... Like... finding out exact locations... preparing story-boards,’

‘What a pity! Premji... You have seen only very cheap directors... See... there are two types of directors... One.. Those directors who make their movies with proper screenplays... two... directors who take movies straight from their heart... talented people like them never need any screenplay or storyboard... understand... I fall in the second category,’

‘Venpakal Surendran,... I will pulverize your balls someday....,’ I cursed.

We planned for the shoot of the first song in the midst of March. (Ulpal was free only at that time!) And at last the shooting party reached at ‘Kallivayalil,’ a three star hotel at Marayoor town. Marayoor is a superb location near Munnar, very famous for Sandal wood plantations. Ulpal, heroine and her mother, hero and I, we stayed there and the rest of the team had to stay in a cheap lodge to ‘cut-short’ the expenses!

‘Sir, please come to the location as early as possible... Some scenes has to be shot in mist as background,’ I reminded Ulpal in the early morning and left for the shooting location along with our team. Manik, the Hero of the album also accompanied us.

Eight O'clock... Nine O'clock... Ten O'clock...

‘Where the fuck is that bastard?’ I asked the hero.

‘Let’s wait for him... Sir,’

‘Every new hero will tell like this... later his tone changes,’ I told out of frustration. 

‘Sir, there he is...,’ Manik pointed towards the white Mercedes Caravan approaching us.

White cap, goggles with white frame, white shirt, white banyan, white pants, white belt, white socks, white shoes, white watch, white pen, white mobile phone and possibly white underwear with holes... He came out like man of white! I was literally shocked to see the metamorphosis of Ulpal.

‘Everything is white...except his fuckin dark mind,’ Venpakal Surendran murmured...

Pappan Chettan, the caravan driver, pulled out a white chair from the caravan and Ulpal sat on it peacefully.

‘O.K... Premji... Let’s shoot,’ Ulpal said.

‘Sir, what to shoot?’

‘Shoot the first two lines of the lyric’

‘O.K. Now please tell me the camera position,’

‘That... you decide,’

‘Sir, you are the director,’

‘O.K.... Then keep it there,’

‘O.K... Then action?’

Ulpal was really confused... George Padamugal, Cameraman, threw away his cap out of disgust.

‘Hero runs towards that direction... heroine runs towards this direction... they both collide... fall... roll... kiss..,’ (‘And sex in the middle,’ the hero told himself while eying at the beautiful heroine.)... ‘Mist is there in the back ground,’ Ulpal uttered like a child.

Were he imitating actor Srinivasan of Malayalam Cinema?

‘Sir, it’s already 11’O clock... Mist is a costly affair!’ I said.

‘No dry ice and all... Burn some old car tyres...You will get enough mist...,’ Ulpal announced his new invention. The heroine felt like vomiting thinking of facing that dirty smell... ‘Now, go shoot it... We have to complete it today itself...,’ Ulpal shouted while jumping back into the pleasure of the Caravan.

‘Deadline... Bastard, I will burn you alive someday,’ I told myself.

Suddenly my mobile phone started ringing. Raj, my cousin, and his newly wed wife had checked in at hotel Kallivayalil for honeymoon...

‘Sir, Ulpalakshan Sir... Sorry Ulpal... will give you directions from his caravan through mobile phone. You shoot the visuals based on that,’ Pappan Chettan, the Caravan driver told me.

‘Dirty bastard... Such remote control sons of bitches are spoiling Malayalam Cinema... sitting inside A/C caravans and fucking up of the movies,’ I was burning with anger...

‘Sir, please don’t be angry... Convert this situation as an opportunity.... You shoot this video just by thinking that... ‘I am the director,’.. Sir, everybody in the industry knows who he is and what is his capacity! It’s an opportunity to pour out your real talent... Sir, please remember this: an opportunity never knocks twice at the same door. Take it as an advice from an old man,’ Pappan Chettan told very calmly.

Pappan Chettan... what a man he is... how powerful are his words....It will work for ever... The heroine jumped out of the caravan and beautiful lines of the song started reverberating in the air, from huge loud speakers....

We completed shooting of the whole song that day itself... edited up to almost complete version of the Music video. When we were about to show it to Mr.Ulpal, he was snoring like a pig inside a swamp!

‘Bastard... A dog will remain as a dog even on the top of Mt.Everest!’

The shooting party was about to leave from ‘Hotel Kallivayalil.’ I introduced Manik to my cousin Raj and his wife. They both said ‘hello’ to him.

‘Manik, where is your heroine?’

‘She will come along with the producer... in his caravan,’ Manik told while running towards the Toyota Innova Car.

‘I am sorry Raj... I have to leave now... Some other commitments,’

‘No problem... Premji... Your music video is superb... He might be paying you well..’

‘My music video! Nothing like that... He might pay Rupees five thousand for Manik and me,’

‘So sad! Then, what about the heroine?’ his beautiful wife, a software engineer, asked quite innocently.

‘He has already paid her around Rupees hundred thousand,’

‘Hundred thousand! That’s a huge sum...But, why? So much?’ she asked again

‘Because.... Because, he has to shoot his ‘hottest video’ tonight...,’

‘Silly girl,’ the Mercedes caravan, parked outside, started laughing.

 

*John Abraham was a noted director from Malayalam. ‘Art is cruel’ is a noted quote by him.

 

PREMJI

Comments2

  • L. B. Mek

    reads like a memoir from a long suffering
    film industry stalwart
    with bitingly crude commentary
    and cynically - seething, depictions
    of those perpetrators, who defiled
    his idolised perception of 'Art'
    that he believed-in, a little too - naively...
    (we must dream, yes
    we must hope, yes
    but, we must do so with our eyes
    brave enough:
    to look at reality and realise
    there is no such thing, as a 'Must Be'
    there is only
    what is
    what could be
    and what we are striving, to achieve;
    if we 'Assume', our guaranteed rewards
    we only, make ourselves vulnerable
    to that guarantee of disappointment...
    So let us, instead
    walk our path in life, with our eyes 'Open'
    to the the 'Inevitability of Hardship'
    whilst still, cherishing our ability
    to believe - in, and hope-for: that yearning
    for goodness to prevail - over
    the abundant trials, in our lives!)..
    A wonderful write, immersive in detail
    and showcasing a wide scope
    of insightful social commentary.
    thanks for sharing, dear poet
    a Great read, truly!

    • PrEm Ji

      Thanks dear Mek...
      Your comment itself is a poem!
      Thank you...

    • Fay Slimm.

      Such a good read Prem - - ghost writers world over are ever shocked when the crunch comes and Surendran was no exception - but there are also many Ulpals too lurking behind their pretence - the story outlined the outcome with a phrase I agree with entirely - - " dog will remain as a dog even on the top of Mt.Everest!’- -- a factual conclusion to make and thank you for sharing this questionable part of the film industry with us.

      • PrEm Ji

        Thanks dear Fay...



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