‘Shashank, don’t touch that,’ Nivedita said, pulling her six year old from one of the mannequins. There were many of them, in fact – all donning various costumes. The place was dusty, noisy, not to mention smelly. People milled around, some looking busy, some actually busy and almost everybody was shouting orders at some body. A typical movie set.
It was the famous Trimurti studio, and Shashank’s first day out to such a place. His mother Nivedita was the supporting cast for one of the movies being shot in set number four. There were two other sets, all occupied and all busy with the same amount of hustle and bustle. Shashank had wandered out into the front yard where five to six huge vans stood, generator sets adding to the din, and of course, people milling around. Nivedita’s husband Rajesh was traveling on work and their day governess had taken the day off, so Nivedita had no choice but to get Shashank to the set for a day. She had instructed her make-up assistant to take care of him when she was busy giving her shots, but it looked like he was a bit of an explorer and didn’t much care for instructions. Plus all the colour and hype around him had gotten his energy levels a notch up. A few notches, actually.
He frowned at his mother as she dragged him into the air-conditioned set where the main lead and a few other actors were cooling off. Nivedita made an apologetic face at one of the assistant directors, ADs as they were called, left Shashank with her makeup artist and hurried to the small group of actors who were now animatedly discussing a shot with the director.
The makeup artist thrust a bottle of fizz to the little boy’s hand and quickly muttered something to the tune of ‘be right back, be a good boy etc.’ and sauntered off into one of the narrow corridor-like thingies in the set. Shashank frowned, sipped from the bottle and looked around. A while later he perked up, placed the bottle down and looked at something curiously. He stood up and slowly tip-toed to it.
A pistol. Wow.
He grabbed the gun and ran to a secluded spot, furtively looking around. He came to a small changing room where there were loads of boxes, clothes, some weird looking equipment and other funny things. He held the shiny metal object in his hand and admired it. Just then from the corner of his eye, he thought he saw something move. A man was hiding here, behind one of the boxes. He craned his neck to make sure, and suddenly a huge, hairy guy leapt up from behind the box, shocking him.
‘What are you doing here, kid? Run along now.’ Shashank noticed the man had a gleaming knife in his hand.
‘Are you a baddy?’ Shashank asked matter of factly.
‘Are you the bad guy?’
It took a while for the man to understand and then he laughed out. ‘Yes. Yes, I’m the bad guy. The villain.’ He scowled and made a scary face. He then brandished his knife at the little guy.
‘You know what this is?’
‘Knife,’ Shashank said poker-faced, like he’d been asked the dumbest question on this planet.
The man ‘tch-tched’. ‘What I mean is, do you know who this is for?’
Shashank shook his head.
‘The hero.’ He stretched the word ‘hero’ for effect.
‘But..the difference is, I’m actually going to kill him.’
‘What is actually?’
‘Not in a film, but in real life.’
‘You’re not scared?’
‘You’re killing the hero, why should I be scared.’ Shashank smiled.
The man looked confused now. Shashank looked at him blankly, and then with a wicked smile he brought out the pistol in his hand.
‘Ha ha, but I’ll be the hero’s savior.’
The man looked surprised for a fleeting second before he burst out laughing.
‘That one? That my friend, is a fake pistol. They use it all the time to shoot movies.’ He then brought his thumb along the edge of his knife. ‘This – is the real thing.’
Shashank frowned. Was this guy right? Did they really use fake pistols in movies?
‘Hey, where is the goddamn pistol I kept here?’ Shouted one of the prop guys who was ticking off a checklist in a notepad. His mouth was full of paan and it resembled a beetroot about to explode.
He continued looking around, all irritated. One of the ADs came upto him. ‘What pistol?’
‘The one that’ll go into the shoot now. I’d kept it here. You seen it?’
They exchanged a few worried words which got the director’s attention. He came upto them. Nivedita was on the floor. She and the main lead of the movie looked at each other and smiled awkwardly at this intrusion. She was playing the hero’s sister-in-law in the movie.
The director walked upto the prop guy. ‘What’s the matter now, Vishwas?’
‘Sir, I had kept a pistol here. It was for the shot now.’ He kept looking under a few chairs.
‘Fine, we’ll use another fake; must be lying in one of the rooms. Ask your boy to go get it.’
Vishwas turned to the director, looking a little worried.
‘Sir.. I forgot to tell you. The fake one went missing last night, and I know how you get mad if things aren’t in order. So I quietly flicked one from my brother. He’s a cop, and on vacation. So…’
The director took off his cap and wiped his brow. ‘Unbelievable. I can’t.. I don’t know what to say, Vishwas.. you got a real gun, goddamnit?’
‘Sir, please calm down. We’ll find it.’ Vishwas hollered something at one of the guys.
‘Ok, I hope it’s not loaded, right?’
Vishwas again looked at him dumbly.
‘Vishwas. Don’t tell me you didn’t take the bullets out. Man, are you out of your stupid mind? That was the least you could have done.’
‘Sir, it was all a daze. I had to get here early on today and didn’t have the time..’
‘I saw a little boy playing with it a while ago,’ said a spot boy who was passing by and learned about it.
‘What, a little boy? Here?’ The director said, sounding a lot more worried now.
The word ‘little boy’ got Nivedita’s attention and she walked upto them. The first unit AD knew Shashank was her son. She turned to the director and told him about Nivedita bringing him along.
The killer stood smiling at Shashank, who was now feeling annoyed.
‘So? What are you thinking… hero savior?’
Shashank looked up at the man and said, ‘no, I will still protect him.’
The man quickly strode across, snatched the gun from the boy’s hand and stood back, laughing.
‘And now? What will you do? Go crying to your mommy? I think that’ll be best.’
‘How do you know the gun is a fake?’ Shashank asked, his nostrils flaring. Nobody could take him for a ride like this.
The man slapped his forehead. The kid was getting on his nerve. He was on a contract to kill the main lead of the movie. He just wanted to quietly finish his job and get back to his native town with the money. He specialized in knives and had never before fallen prey to the cops. He certainly didn't want the little tyke to burst his bubble. He knew the shoot would get over any time and the hero would walk to his vanity van. He'd put one of the security guards to sleep. But what the hell, some entertainment before the big job didn’t hurt.
‘Ok, you want proof? See, if this is a real gun,’ he said keeping the muzzle to his temple, ‘it should blow my…’ he pulled the trigger.
He never completed the sentence as most of his face blew apart like a water-melon and splattered across the wooden wall of the room, accompanied by a deafening sound.