Hit Hit Hurray


Hit Hit Hurray

Illustration: Vidyasagar Saple

“How desperate is he?”

The judgement is whispered in between sips of cheap champagne as Star of a sleeper hit air-kisses Rookie Reporter for another selfie. The former child celeb has finally got his big break with an ensemble cast of fellow B-listers; the low-budget sex comedy had hit the ₹50-crore mark.

In the foyer of a suburban five-star, a few hundred merrymakers, including Bollywood scribes, industry peddlers, and the six sidekicks of the film are drinking determinedly. Star is only desperate to make it to the papers the next day. And he has a good chance of hitting headlines. There are, after all, no big names here to steal his thunder. There’s going to be no SRK-style table-top dance or Salman Khan-type slapping. He wonders if he should pull off an impromptu act that makes the news, but he secretly knows that the media will snigger. He hasn’t yet acquired the chutzpah for a charade.

He drops the idea and works the crowd, air-kissing as he makes his way, peppering his conversations with the magic words – 50 crore. He wonders if he should just offer all of them a shot at a selfie, although he suspects that the seasoned reporter, that annoying Veteran Hack who is staring at him from the bar, may laugh him off.

Veteran Hack, who is nursing his fifth drink at the bar, never watches Bollywood. Kurosawa is more his style. He does his job with contempt and a great deal of Blenders Pride. He has attended countless success parties over the years. He’s from an era when the success of a film was measured in time. If the film was still playing in theatres 30 weeks after its release, it was a hit. Now the judgement comes in the opening weekend and a ₹100-crore collection is easier sleight of hand. The charade of triumph is fuelled by money; cash can buy you as many good reviews and column inches as you want. A success party is the final touch, a self-congratulatory shenanigan that desperately seeks to convince the world when the numbers don’t.

Veteran Hack needs juice, about who kissed and made up, who kissed ass, and who played tongue tennis.

But tonight is a slow Friday night, so he’s here. At the other end of town another success party is on at a local bar at Lokhandwala, another of young Bollywood’s stomping grounds. After a standing ovation at Cannes, the film has released in Indian theatres and recorded a weekend collection of ₹3 crore. The bigwigs have stayed away from the celebration, so has the media. The free booze and forced conversation will be flowing, but there is nobody to record it for posterity. Veteran Hack knows that the director will be sporting a scraggy beard and wearing a nondescript T-shirt. Something brown.

But here, Veteran Hack is surrounded by an army of glittering starlets and sleeper stars. Not a speck of brown here, instead it’s all glitter, tulle, and thigh-high slits for the leading ladies and leather jackets for the heroes.

Soon, he will have to leave his perch. His editor will kick his ass, if he comes back with a canned red-carpet shot and a sound byte of “50 crore”. He needs juice, about who kissed and made up, who kissed ass, and who played tongue tennis. He knows exactly who to ask.

Most often found at the bar, is Has-been. He is still invited to parties for a bygone brush with fame or by being a card-carrying member of a star’s entourage. Hack will offer him a sixth glass and a plug of his upcoming project in the next day’s paper. Juice begets juice.

Before he can make his way to Has-been, Star waltzes up to him. Out of the corner of his eye, he spies one of his co-actors, another leading man, schmoozing with an entertainment editor, who is agog about his “on fleek” eyebrows. Star leans in conspiratorially toward Veteran Hack who is making a beeline for Has-been and goes for a disarming icebreaker, “How desperate is he?”

Hack wants to slams his glass on the bar and walk away. But the media mogul, who owns his magazine, is one of the producers of the film. So he pushes down the bile and offers a smile and says, “Let’s take a selfie.”