It was late night. Surprisingly, the first auto I stopped agreed to come from Rajajinagar to BTM. The driver looked like Vijay of the movie "Duniya". He had long hair, wore a gaudy shirt and sported a 92.7 FM logo on his faded cap. I dont initiate conversations with auto drivers in general. But, when they start an interesting conversation, I know how to keep it going.
He was silent for almost 15 minutes.
"Saar, I will get the gas filled for the auto. Jusht 2 minutes", he said as he took the deviation off the main road. I remembered my dad warning me just an hour back that Bangalore is no longer safe and to be careful while going home.
"It wont take long, right?", I tried not to sound too worried and suspicious.
"Jusht 2 minutes saar. We can join the main road directly from there itself. See, here is my driver identity. I did not get time to stick it on to my seat", he seemed to sense my uneasiness.
"No thats fine, I just meant to ask if it wont take too long. I had to go to office early tomorrow, thats why I asked", I smile sheepishly.
"What are you working as?", he asks while taking a weird U-turn near the petrol bunk that seemed to defy all laws of physics.
"I am a software engineer", I blurt out.
"You also do computer graphics? If you know anybody who can do movie posters, tell me. There is an opening in Gandhinagara (Kannada movie industry) they pay 8000 saar", he tells me as he fills the gas into his auto. "My auto was missing from one month saar. Got it just today"
"Oh, what happened?", I knew I was getting into a long conversation zone. He got off the petrol bunk and joined the main road.
"I am actually Vinod Rajkumar's car driver saar". The way he legitimizes Vinod Raj's surname amuses me. "I had rented the auto to a friend. He owed me lot of money and also escaped with my auto. I spent so much money in finding it. When I found him, his wife begged me not to beat him up. Even Vinod anna and amma (Leelavathi, Vinod Raj's mom - he calls her amma) told me to forgive him and forget about that money. Bere yaar hathra aadroo avnu hinge maadidre majestic li hoge ne"
The way he said "hoge" makes me uncomfortable. [For those who are not familiar with Kannada or this slang, "hoge" means smoke - which is symbolic of post death ritual. The sheer audacity and casual carelessness towards death gives "hoge" that chilling effect]
"Vinod anna said that shooting will start next month, and I have to help them in farming also. Amma cooks nice food to us all the time. Vinod anna lost almost one crore ten lakhs when he made 'Shukra'. Even 'Inthi Ninna Preethiya' did not yield much money. So next month we are starting 'Govindu, Karnataka Nindhu'"
"Did you not enter into the movie industry?", I ask him.
"I have acted in 'Shukra' saar. I was the villain who raped the heroine and killed the inspector. And then Vinod anna comes back and takes revenge. Nowadays, anybody who has made some money in real estate business can cast his son as a hero. After 'Mungaru Male' and 'Duniya' were hits, everyone wants to act as a hero. 'Nanda Nanditha' was good, the girl has acted well, even the hero was okay. 'One Two Three' was nice saar. Full comedy. 'Om shanti Om' was good too, did you watch it?"
"I saw 'Om Shanti Om'. You watch lot of movies, is it?
"Tamil, telugu, hindi - we watch all and remake them into Kannada. Who writes original stories in Kannada today saar? And did you know, even the hindi people copy from english movies?"
As we were still half way to BTM, I decide to ask him about the actors. Movie trivia flows effortlessly as he speaks.
"Ganesh, saar, has same type of dialogues and mannerisms in all movies, he will fade away. And he will be replaced by 'Nanda Nanditha' hero. As far as I have heard, Shivrajkumar is the most decent in his family. Puneet earns one and half crores per film saar, but no commissions, no rollcall. Nenapirali Prem, 'Sainika' hero, 'Shishya' hero - they are all big rowdies saar. Darshan is good, he has struggled a lot to reach where he is today. He used to do up-and-down from Mysore in lorries so that he can save 20 rupees. My friend who is a lorry cleaner has told me this. But, Darshan is not proud, very down to earth. And Vishnuvardhan - he is almost God saar. His heart is purer than Rajkumar's. He has got homes built for all the people working for him, and he treats all the people - from his car driver to bathroom cleaner - equally".
As I keep wondering if someone needs to be employed full time as a bathroom cleaner, he abruptly stops the auto at a junction near BTM. "If you take a left from here and then first right, the third house is Darshan's"
"Why do Kannada movies get their heroines from Bombay?", I ask him, half expecting to hear stories about Kannada heroines not 'compromising' to 'expose' when a 'role demands'!
"Kannada heroines ge kobbu saar. This 'Cheluvina Chittara' heroine got 25 lakhs for that movie. Before that, she had got only 10000 for 'Shishya'. Now, she is demanding 1.5 crores saar, Narayan has filed a court case also. Kobbu saar, kobbu. But, heroines from Bombay, they are inquisitive about our industry and want to prove something.", he said dashing all my hopes of some juicy gossip.
As he takes the last turn towards my home, he makes me an offer - "People in our industry loot a lot for giving an acting chance. If you want to act, dont go anywhere. Come to our office, give 3 photos of yours, mention my name on the backside. I will get you a chance, no money. I am the one who processes all these things in Vinod anna's office"
As I get down from the auto, I imagine myself in a movie awards function, dedicating my first award to this driver.
When you are not talented enough or ambitious enough, you should at least be brave enough.
I sit here and blog, while I could have been applying make up in the van or watching that driver get beaten up yet again trying to rape Vinod anna's onscreen sister!