My transfer of residence to a metropolitan city was marked by the strangest of experiences; no, not strange, but an experience most would crave for. But I was more surprised than excited when the moment came. When everyone around was shrieking aloud, I just stood and stared. And smiled.
Amitabh Bachchan, 'the living legend' as the LCD at South City Mall broadly proclaimed on the 12th of September, 2008, came here to attend the premiere of his film "The Last Lear". I got the news at around 1 in the afternoon. A man on the auto, carrying boxes of Parle-G, and limping on his left leg, asked me if I was going to wait till evening. I gave him a questioning look, while paying my fare. He asked me"Newspaper dekhen ni? Shauth shity dhukchhen, r janen na? Aj amader Amitabh-ji ashchhen ekhane!" (didn't you see the newspaper? you're entering South City and you dont know? Amitabh-ji is coming here today)
I smiled knowingly and walked inside. Little did I know then that I would leave the place through the same doors more than 8 hours later.
My purpose, that day, was to watch "Rock On!". It had released ages ago, but I have been waiting for my better half. There has never been a movie before that WE had planned to watch together, and hadn't. But a sudden tiff and a hasty decision brought me here. Anyway, this is off-track. I found that Rock On! had its next show at 3:40pm. Not prepared to wait so long, I entered Fame with tickets for "1920", an eerie movie, which I would have hated if I were myself that day. But I wasn't.
The movie started at 1:50pm. My past experiences with such movies told me that it would take less than a couple of hours, thus allowing me to watch Rock On! from 3:40pm. Wrong, was I. The movie, which managed to move me a lot, somehow, ended at 4:20pm. Rock On!'s next show was at 5pm. Thanks to 1920, I found myself against the idea of watching Rock On alone. I waited till 5:05pm, and watched the mall preparing itself to welcome the 'living legend'. And I realised that that I had found the perfect excuse for my friends (and better half) as well. I wouldn't watch a movie at the cost of an opportunity to see a celebrity with my own eyes. Thus, I had no option, but wait. For Mr. Amitabh Bachchan to come.
He was supposed to come at 7pm, or at least that's what the newspapers said. By 6:30pm, I couldn't find a place to stand, forget a seat. The crowds had variety, I must admit. Among the ones I interacted with, were groups of boys from Durgapur (the best company imaginable), old ladies from places around and far from Kolkata, young men who had come to shop (and regretted their choice of day), women who worked as petty labourers nearby and were waiting there since 4pm (pretty much like me) and kids as well. I particularly remember a boy of my brother's stature (age must have been close) whom I overheard saying into the phone "Dad, I'll be late. I have come to South City to see him!". What I reflect back on the most, and I will, even days after this, is the crowd reaction before and after the visit. The old ladies on canes, who stood on their toes on the brown couches with strange smiles pasted on their lips, and the rickshaw-wallahs who stood at a corner with blank looks in their eyes, and yellow teeth grinning through unkempt moustaches, the guards and the security people who stood dutifully emotionless since morning till...next morning i guess. The man dressed as Mickey Mouse, whom I'd never seen before on any of my past vists, who stood on the lobby since morning, doing just one thing: waving at people. Thanks to the mask, I kept having the feeling that he was ever-smiling as well.The guys who openly spoke aloud how they envied the guards standing on either side of the red carpet."sala gulo puro view-ta 1st class paabe...guard-r chakri korlei valo hoto janish..." (they'll get the perfect view. wish we were employed as guards as well!)The couple of men, one of whom was scolding the other for waiting for something as unproductive as watching a filmstar.The NRI daughter who fished out an opportunity to scold her mother for ruining her 'puja' visit by spending a day behind aimless loitering.The small daughter who cried and cried even while the whole mall was cheering Amitabh Bachchan, because someone had stamped her sensitive feet.
Somehow, it's only these that come back in flashes. Only these.
When the clock ticked 8pm, I rang up my brother and told him that I'm leaving for home. The man's lack of sense of punctualtity is disappointing (with some morons shouting "ShahRukh holey atokkhn-e chole ashto, ato koshto dito na amader" (If it was ShahRukh, he'd have arrived by then. He wouldn't heve tortured us such) but, lo! the doors were blocked from access, thanks to the over-flowing multitudes. Having returned from Durgapur that very day, my back ached with the load of my bag, and the strain of constant standing. But, there was no turning back. I was actually happy. When I had already spent my time and energy with a target, it would be definitely against my Principle Of Waiting (you'll learn about it later)
There were people laughing at the way the event manager slipped on her heels while inspecting the escalators. There were photographers, who, tired from waiting, according to some, had started taking pictures of the crowds from various bird's eye views. There were security people busy keeping the crowd pressure from leaking into the escalators. There were plainclothesmen roaming around with clean and healthy pariah-dogs.
Finally a huge "OOOOOO....." from the crowds. No, not Big B. It was Usha Uththoop, our local husky-voiced singer. She was invited, as were many others from Tollywood, but unlike others, she hadn't chosen the discreet garrage entrance from the back.
Almost an hour later (which was punctuated by at least 4-5 "OOOOO..."s from the crowds, made at the entries of various security personnel) there was one "OOOOO..." that outlasted the others. I woke up from my stupor. I turned around to face the red carpet. There was him. Amitabh Bachchan. In front of my eyes. In a black suit and blue tie, and looking perfectly the same as on the screen, he stood on the escalator, waving at the people, doing a 'namaste' at the elderly women, throwing kisses at the younger ones. He was followed by Rituporno Ghosh, the director of the movie. Little can I explain why, one day, I chose to be his admirer. He was attired in a weird combination of a reddish brown dhoti and golden-yellow short kurti with a matching sherwani dupatta. At their heels came Arjun Rampal. I wish Tiyash was here. She would have fainted at the sight of Arjun. As soon as the people saw him, they forgot Mr. Bachchan. people shouted their lungs out "ROCK ON ROCK ON ROCK ON....".And, as the others proceeded, Mr. Rampal lagged behind, busy making eye-contact with as many people as possible and throwing kisses at them. Ha!
While the whole mall was bursting with the ultra-vibrations of a lakh vocal chords, I stood still. And stared. And smiled. It just occured to me that the hundreds and thousands of people around (and above) me are here since evening, wasting (or otherwise) such a lot of time of their lives, just to get a glimpse of one person! I was awed by the way the crescendo of the noise changed with every wave of his hand. I was flabbergasted at his power (virtual or otherwise).
It was a strange experience overall. I never knew how I happened to be outside the mall few minutes later. As soon as the actors entered Fame for the premeire, the whole crowd moved outwards, and I sort of flowed out alongwith the tide. I took a rickshaw home. The puller shouted at a fellow man riding his rickshaw fast towards the mall "ar taratari chalash na, dhuke gechhe" (don't ride fast anymore, he has already entered". There was something to the way 'he' was said. Almost as if it was a He.
Coming back home, and typing this blog, that's what I'm wondering. What's the difference between Him n him? Why should a creature of the Universe, an actor or a politician matter so much to so many people that they take a break from their own lives and go and flock them?