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Being Simran and acting till the last breath: Priyamvadda Sawannt


Actor Priyamvadda Sawannt in all her elements.

A relatable face on Indian television, Priyamvadda Sawannt wooed and won hearts of fans on the small screen playing the girl next door Simran in Meri Doli Tere Angana. The year was 2007 when the young actor captured the imagination and love of the nation in sitcoms like Bhabhi and Antariksh. One may argue that playing Simran was her calling card in the world of Indian television as the lead actor.  It’s been an interesting journey for the actress who has won laurels, critical acclaim and recently bagged the Best actress Gold Award for ‘You and Me’ at the Virgin Spring Cine Fest and the Global Independent Film Awards in 2018. The short film ‘Adhure Poore se Hum’ whose English name is ‘You and Me’ has won several international awards and critical acclaim not just in India but spanning across the globe.

First break, early days and acting aspirations:

Describing herself as a Mumbaichi Mulgi, the Andheri born and Dombivali-hailed Priyamvadda was raised in the hurly-burly city of Mumbai which she calls her ‘jaan’, a place which catches humans in the raw.  “In college, I was keen to walk the ramp since modeling has always occupied my mind and took part in several inter-college fests.  While ads were something that I was always wanted to do but soon realized the need to not only learn but hone my acting skills is a life-long process,” the young actor quips.

The saree and the look. That’s how Priyamvadda does it in style.

While doing her BA in Sociology at VG Vaze College in Mulund, it saw her genesis sitting in acting workshops helmed by the revered theatre guru, playwright and the late veteran actor Satyadev Dubey -Ji and Rekha Sabnis-ji. “The workshops helped me to grab the main lead in a play directed by Rekha-Ji which was a great learning experience to understand the intricacies of acting.  I was also part of acting workshops helmed by Chandrakant Kulkarniji and Waman Kendre-Ji,” she says.

“It’s been a beautiful journey as a model and an actor laden with struggle as life is a mixture of everything under the sun which prepares you for challenges in the profession. Struggle is part and parcel of life for if there is stagnancy, decay creeps in. Every single day is an ongoing challenge that keeps one on the toes and the struggle is a constant reminder to keep learning and believing in the adage of being an actor till I breathe,” she says.

Priyamvadda who also holds a post-grad degree in advertising secured her first break modeling for Liberty shoes, the ad which she believes was an awesome experience swaying to a small dance sequence and a challenge completed successfully.

Being Simran, good content vs hit shows

I gottta show you my killer looks if you thought Simran ia a good girl.

Playing Simran on the popular telly show, Meri Doli Tere Angana came into her kitty as a surprise and at first, thought was a prank call played by someone. She says, “I didn’t approach anyone for the show. I was relaxing at home and thinking about work one day when the phone suddenly buzzed. Someone called Shivani from Zee TV approached me and they happened to see the audition rushes that I gave to play the main lead in one of the shows which didn’t work out. I was elated thinking, ‘bhagwaan ke ghar der hain ander nahin naaji.’ Priyamvadda says with playfulness on her first stab in playing the leading role on TV.

The down-to-earth actor believes that irrespective of the medium or language, be it Marathi or Hindi, good content is always lapped by the audience and it is a great feeling to be part of meaty projects.

Today, there is a hue-and-cry on the state of Indian television, unlike the glorious 90s where strong content was churned and rifled with powerful roles sketched for actors. The down-to-earth Priyamvadda says, “I strongly believe that the audience’s taste has changed over times since in the past, shows were considered as milestones on TV. The Doordarshan days was marked by thinking minds where people were not like Priya Tendulkar’s Rajni chal padi toh follow the trend. People never followed trends in the heydays.”

The award winning Adhure Poore se Hum.

“The past is the past which we should never hang on to. We must be able to think differently and nurture novel thoughts that will benefit society. The show, ‘Turning Point’ in the 90s that saw a few episodes hosted by Mahesh Bhatt was a landmark in Indian television’s history. Unfortunately, we don’t want to try novel things and today, many directors are making short films which are not seen by many people.”

For the actor, TV channels must consider giving one hour slot dedicated to new filmmakers that will pave the way for creating the platform to usher quality shows. She rues, “Everyone is desperate for hit shows and the attitude is to mint money which seems to be the sole reason they are in the business. Agree that we should all eke a living but that shouldn’t be the sole consideration, right!”

Priyamvadda says with a whiff of reason, “The first reason to be here is creativity in business but unfortunately we lack the conviction to make good work. We have become trend followers rather than trend setters and remixes is given prominence rather than trying to be uniquely creative. I am not saying everyone but most of us lack patience where our lives are tamed by 2 minutes maggi noodles be it TV or films which is the mirror image of society.”

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Priyamvadda sporting the angelic smile which stole hearts.

She believes the entire thing whittle down to the way children are brought up in society to become doctors or engineers in this mad rush to make the moolah where creativity goes for a toss. “The most important thing is to be good human beings, instilling the right values in the mind to be able to lead a good life. Ultimately money will come. Our work reflects our values and injecting the right attitude will go a long way to make India the country we want it to be with less corruption in every sphere of life, not just films,” the actor avers.

Shows and films must be loaded with rich content that bears the imprint of great minds showcasing values like honesty as the pathway to success, she says. “Core strength in creating characters will make roles serving as reference points in future and it’s a challenge for great thinkers embarking upon it to overcome the tide.”

Hard work and perseverance always pay:

Priyamvadda Sawant is on a roll and her performance in Adhure Poore Se Hum has forced critics to sit and take notice with several awards such as Gold and the globally renowned GIFA Film Awards as best actress in 2018 coming her way. The actor says with a twinge of humility and philosophy, “It is very encouraging and important for your work as an artist to be hailed looking at the portrayal that won hearts. It’s the happiest feeling on earth and is an emotional high for me, Mile toh bhi acha na mile toh mehnat jaari karo kal miljayega. The most important thing is to have faith and be a better version as a human being.”

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Actor Priyamvadda Sawannt posing with her co-star Pawan Shankar on the sets of U & Me (Adhure poore se hum).

The Mrigank Dubey directed Adhure Poore se Hum has played an important role to boost the prospects of Priyamvadda where she lends credence by portraying various shades of acting.  The versatile actor muses, “Such a beautiful question on the role that the film played in my career but tricky as well. See, it’s all about showbiz and talent but also good PR. I am yet to share the good news on Facebook or Instagram which is as bad per the film dictionary or showbiz bible since social media is important in today’s times. “Frankly speaking, the awards and recognition garnered on me as an actor have not yet been announced and not many know about it…“Toh abhi casting ho gayee hai awards ki bas telecast baaki hai.” The effortless gaze and ubiquitous charm with which she effortlessly switches from English into Hindi makes Priyamvadda at her natural best.

Bagging Adhure Poore se Hum:

On the outset, Priyamvadda considers herself lucky to bag Adhure Poore se Hum whose English name is You and Me that happened at a film fest where she says the maker Mrigankji approached her after liking her role in ‘God Knows’ which was also a love story.  “I am thankful to my director and the creative team who strongly felt that I would do justice to the role. It was love at first sight after listening to the narration, fabulous dialogues coupled with both script and screenplay that made it easier for me to perform and emote on screen.

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A dream and eyes filled with love.

The dearth of funds shouldn’t deter filmmakers in exploring fresh and path-breaking subjects where perhaps crowdfunding can play a major role in executing good cinema on screen, she says. “It’s quite interesting to witness the power and support of commoners pitching through crowdfunding and case in point is the 2011 small budget film, I AM bagging the national award which showcases the need for all of us to explore novel ideas that will help pave the way for the new wave of cinema for the audience. Such brand of cinema should not only be nurtured at home but globally when we look at the slew of recognition, awards and accolades doled on‘You and Me’ that was selected under the short films category at the 71st Cannes Festival.” The short film also won big at the Calcutta International, Mindfield, Remi Film Awards, Cult Critic Movies awards, La Short Film Awards New York and City Indie Fest Awards.

Challenges of being an actor:

For Priyamvadda, the most challenging aspect of being an actor is to keep trying and striving till success doesn’t kiss one’s feet. Her motto is, ‘Acting till I am alive’ which not only showcase her mettle but an unrelenting passion for the craft. “I am always looking forward to delivering a good performance in doing quality and not quantity work,” she ostensibly says.

The actor who has modeled for numerous leading brands such as Kalash Oil, Vanita Mag, Amul and Tata Indicom believes that ads wield a huge power on society. “At the end of the day, it whittles down to both positive and negative aspects where perhaps propaganda in a positive way is downplayed to sell the product. Unknowingly, advertising helps to make up your mind in buying a product and this is what makes it so big.”

Films, theatre and small screen:

Being someone who has dabbled in various genres right from movies to ads, serials,and plays, it makes contrasting nuances for an actor to deliver. Priyamvadda says: “The difference lies in the various mediums while preparing for roles and in plays, for instance, there are several rehearsals but at the same time, the actor faces the string walks of no retakes. Performances in plays and screen differ since in the former, the actor should be audible to the person sitting at the last row while performing on the top whose voice should reach everyone. It’s the golden rule.”

“Serials bear a sharp contrast that carries a vice versa technique but the places shown makes the actor’s performance important as much as getting into the character’s skin. Put simply, the protagonist should always follow the writer’s and director’s vision that goes a long way in visualizing the character on paper that gets translated on the screen making it quite an interesting medium,” she says.

With this bang on attitude and passion, Priyamvadda Sawant is sure to tick off her bucket list while experimenting with various roles and pushing the envelope a notch higher to prove her versatility.

 

Love

V

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Fiction: Undersieged at night


Dense foliage ruffled in the dark and fluttered at intermittent burst. Thud! Ballistic gunshots exploded in the air and tiny fire sparkles triggered the wolves leaping at a fleeting pace resembling spaceships zooming like electric waves. Tiny dotted lights flashed in the deserted night and carcasses were flung in the air to pop inside the famished mouths of the bloodthirsty animals whose faces spelled fear.

The pack of wolves skulked to the trace of blood drop slithered on the faces. The scent of an invisible flesh and lifeless skin slipped down the alley to float inside the iced water. The fearless animals splashed inside the water, tearing apart the cake flesh into tiny pieces and gush of blood seeped inside the stormy icy lake. The invisible flesh at the tip of dark disappeared. Splinter of gunshots ballooned in the air which distracted the wolves, oscillating the bodies’ right and left at swift round to follow the movement in the forest.

A flash in the pan moment captured the senses of the fierce animals trudging and thrusting their huge meaty bodies inside the forest, crawling to catch the enemy storming their territory. No human could dare to wander freely inside the vast expanse of forest rightly guarded and belonging to the terrifying creatures. The fur grew thick and battling the sudden rush of cold to conquer the demons playing havoc on their lives. Angry howls put to rest the thunder boiling in the sky. Every inch of the vast land sprawled from one end to the other was surveyed with the minutest detail to tear asunder vile forces daring to play with the force of nature.

The eerie silence stood helpless to the angst of wolves pack slowly growing into huge numbers and running in different directions to chase the intruder creeping silently to wreck the peaceful night. A bizarre night stretched endlessly. The trap was laid.

Huge forest roiled and swayed to the whims of the hurricane blowing widely as the mammoth trees twisted, bent and fell on the harrowing ground. The wolves flipped and jumped past the trees on the trail of the shadow slipping away from their sharp senses. It was now or never. Hot and violent blood chasing a nameless force. The thunder subsided into silence.

An unidentified body floated in the river. Flesh calcified in the pack of ice on the rocky terrain. The security guard who knows the wolves and forests at the tip of his finger disappeared since a couple of days. Search was on. No trace of wolves, the protector of forests. It was strange. The newspaper typed the headlines, ‘Pack of wolves found dead, security guard missing.’

The article that made the front page read: The biggest forest in the country witnessed a dark secret that seems to be an impossible task to unearth. A skeleton snuggled between the ice. One cannot say that the wolves ravaged the security guard who has been missing for days. The wolves are dead and lying in a sea of dried blood in the scorching summer. Who did it? The entire forest has been ravaged with fire and still, no alarm bell was raised. We just lost signal with our reporter and hope to bring you on the ground information when the signal is retrieved. Inputs with bureau report.

V

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Day 14


The childhood friend’s birthday treat came as a surprise. No fancy cake, bundle of alcohol bottles or wild party. I didn’t even know that it was his birthday last Monday and getting caught into the humdrum of routine tasks in life takes away the small things away from us. We take our relationships for granted, too often.

He messaged me on Sunday asking about my plans for the next day and told about the beach outing with his wife and two-year-old munchkin. No slightest hint about the birthday. We get set on the day in his swanky BMW and reached the idyllic resort which he booked and sea facing, sitting at the hut having gorgeous food and exquisite wine. As we spoke about everything under the sun, N casually mentioned about the birthday and not without betting that I didn’t know about it. Thing is that he never told me or might have in childhood but got lost in translation. We spoke about everything under the sun, life, career and how he changed over the years. I have a knack for remembering so many small anecdotes and he feels it’s terrific to recall about mundane things or simple anecdotes. We both grew up in middle-class homes in the 90s when there was no access to computer, forget the internet and how out parents slogged to ensure we get meals or study. He was always a front-runner in academics and extremely proud to see him shining in life. He deserves all the success for I have known him as a shy guy but who was always dedicated, diligent, and hardworking. Today, he is a leading banker but who never forgot friends or people.

It touches my heart how N has been able to stay so grounded and stay true to his roots, not changing an ounce as a person. The person chooses to spend his birthday and inviting me to be part of his lovely family when he could have spent the special day in the company of his closed ones. The toddler is an enthusiastic young girl and we spoke how in our, life flitted like the sea breeze. In no time, the little one will one day travel to explore her dreams, go to university and soar. Somehow, I just let off about not being able to witness the blooming of the little monster who was having the time of her life, prancing on the beach and disappeared away from our glares. We spotted her in time. Honestly, I don’t know why death suddenly popped out of my mouth that I may not be here at that time in future. Perhaps, life is so uncertain that makes me aware of existence and having seen so many people, including friends passing away suddenly led this thought of not seeing tomorrow. As we grow old, we tend to worry about not living enough to witness each other’s joy. He asked, where I shall be? I was like watching them from the sky.

Difficult to fathom that I am surrounded by the sea and pristine beaches yet it happens once in a blue moon. It was one rare occasion of having a blast and drenching in the water, playing with the little one and for a selfie with the three of them. There was no point in going to the beach after five years and not plunging into the water. I am not a swimmer and never mastered the art. Every non-swimmer knows a trick or two as you thrust the arms inside the deep water and hold on to the sand beneath the water to float ashore,  something that I have always done as a child. Did I tell you how N keeps pulling me of never inviting him at home since ages? I know and guilty of that for every time I make a planning, something or the other keeps happening. His wife jumped to my defense.

We spoke about caring which is a lost word in today’s world when I referred to mom who keeps telling me so many things in a day and he is like it’s better to be like that rather than not giving a damn. Lesson learned.

Quite an incredible week for me and it seemed that there is no place for a single boring moment. How I wish every day or week to unfold in this fashion! I remember telling the last time how a single FB update cringing about Jacqueline ek do teen reprise and A my friend in Jamshedpur called me instinctively. He made his sister read the message that resonated since Didi has a young daughter, learning Indian classical dance and how such reprise laden with double innuendos or crass dance moves is such a bane for young kids exploring dance as an art form in today’s times. A was my senior in Pune and it was quite an interesting WhatsApp conversation as I spoke to Didi and aunty for the first time. But, the line was breaking and we kept calling each other innumerable times. A bond has been forged not just with A but his entire family, from his sister and mom with whom I spoke via video call. Life and ways of friendship can be intriguing, right! How a small thing can trigger a deep relationship! I feel nurturing a strong bond with A’s immediate family whom I never met.

Something called retributive or divine justice like in Hindi films does exist in our otherwise monotonous life. It’s quirky and funny at the same time. Last week, I was chided by my yoga guru for the lack of concentration and not putting enough effort which basically means cheating on my postures as he has taught me since 2011. On Thursday, the yoga master told that I have performed well and had a good class. I nodded. It felt exhilarating and triumphant to be told of doing well. I agreed and told him how the last time, there was a lack of concentration due to the mind wandering from one place to the other.

I feel blessed for having such a good week of bonding with friends. The good ride doesn’t seem to wane and just been made a member of UK’s Chartered Institute of Public Relations which will go a long way in adding sheen and glory to my CV. It felt like being on top of the world but also a reminder to stay humble in life for what we get is the fruit of the efforts of so many people in our lives, from parents to close friends, the alma mater Fergusson college, teachers and plain strangers. Of course, my first mentor has played an immense role in my life and the latest I owe it to my current boss who should take the credit for this honor.  No success, big or small, can be claimed by one person for there are so many who have contributed to it. We would be stupid to think it belongs only to us. Stay humble, stay beautiful always.

Love

V

 

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Home Truth: Toxic relations are the substance abuse


I am a smoker. I drink occasionally and a rare treat nowadays to get sloshed and slam the brain with alcohol. The home truth is both alcohol and cigarettes consumption when done to an extreme level and pretty much like substance abuse becomes toxic that makes it an almost impossible task to breathe. The same rings true for our relationships be it with family, extended relations, friends, colleagues or whoever matters. As hard as it gets!

One cannot cut the umbilical cord but it’s legitimate to chuck off ties with extended family or relatives who do us more harm than good. Self-inflicted harm is not something that we should subject ourselves to for the soul deserve nothing less than the best to ensure sanity. Negative energy can come in the form of family members or relatives who seemingly want to decide everything for us, the choice to be educated, getting married or not, having children and the choice of a partner.

I have seen it from a very close range with this whole bullshit argument about keeping mum simply because someone is elder which implies that he or she has the right to drag us in the muck or utter any rubbish on the face. The whole R for respect argument is thrown like a volley on faces to hurl abuse. I came across this article on ‘Here why it is completely fine to cut off family members from your life?’ which is an eye-opener and show why we have no right to stay in a negative relationship by accepting to be insulted or listen to the crap doled out. As self-respected and dignified human beings, we cannot let them have an emotional masturbation over us.

Manipulations, saas-bahu type drama, emotional aggression and putting us down is a forte they have mastered where they will not stop at anything to shows our rightful place as deemed fit in their dictionary. Putting in doubt the mind on how right they are and how wrong we are or deciding everything for us is something they are never shy at doing. It’s as if they are doing us a favor for being stupid. There is not a moment when they will not allude to this favor by pretending to be some saint, Baba Ramdev type and that you need to comply to their whims and fancies. The worse is to make one feel obliged to attend their family gathering or religiously meeting them or else you become an ungrateful prick and good for nothing. I am not arguing about the whole idea of being grateful and respectful to someone who helped in the past. But, I am sorry. I will help only if am able to, at free will and not at the cost of trampling my individuality. Firstly, I am under no obligation to you and secondly,  nothing comes at the altar of my personal space or privacy. One should be grateful in the wider context to none.

As humans, our brains have been wired in such a way to seek approval from others and particularly family or relatives who may never see us as their number one priority. Why should you bend and twist to their wishes or value judgments? There is nothing wrong with being selfish and putting the ‘ME First’ at the top of the agenda. Nobody has the right to muzzle your thoughts, individuality, dreams, aspirations or act as a chowkidar to the steps taken.  So what if they are family or close relatives!

As a person, I have always been more close to my friends rather than relatives for the first one has always let me be myself and blooming rather than casting sadistic judgment. It is my life and right to freedom. Healing should take prominence since, at every second, we face negative vibes, toxic energy, guilt or pain. I believe in the idea of erecting a wall or glass panel to shield myself from negativity. One has every right to choose travelers in this journey and chuck out the ones who make me uncomfortable.

Stop pandering to relatives, family or plain strangers who may hurt you for they may not be present at the time of waging the hardest battles. Of course, always honor your parents and close friends who stood tall through thick-and-thin moments. For me, my Mom, late Dad and close friends who stood rock solid by my side matter the most. I shall have no hesitation to filter relatives or family that may have hurt me or in whose company, the heart and soul cannot prosper. We all have choices to make and every step taken, good or bad will have a bearing on us. I have learned to take things in my stride by keeping distance or bluntly put, flushing people out of the system.

 

Love

V

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Day 13: A beach affair and childhood friend’s birthday treat


The sun-dappled shades and hues, intricate sky and the taffeta of stars, grey cloud and crystal clear sea water meshed into an intricate pattern of friendship, unadulterated love, innocence and relaxed mood rejuvenated the soul. Hello Monday! What a kick ass way to start the day and be treated by the childhood friend Nuvin, his wife and toddler who showered me with the exquisite wine, food and splash at the sea-facing resort.

The quaint and cozy place to spend some family moments sitting in the hut watching the sea and waves crashing. We reached the resort early at 11 a.m after driving in his latest BMW X 4 to being welcomed by the over-the-top and quirky manager who elaborated with details about the place, food, and the sun. The day was hot, surrounded by the sea and I ordered coffee which made me spring into action. We spoke about everything under the sun, from the times of growing up together as we slouched on the couch to enjoy some still moments amidst conversation that touched every single topic.  The unique wine and the food, I ordered yummy grilled chicken and green salad which makes a healthy combination and desert on the rocks to finally get sun tanned. It makes for an out-of-the-world outing which refreshed and reverberated the mind, soul, and body.

Being surrounded by the sea, I hardly splash myself to heavenly bliss. The joy of watching the little one and energetic two-year-old daughter of my friend brought me back to the yore days of childhood. The mind of a child is so pure and innocent, ever ready to explore the world and in no time, the little one dripped her feet inside the water and sand, curling on the toes on her own but, of course, unafraid to make friends with strangers. How we guard ourselves from people! Seeing the child making friends so easily can teach us so many things and remove prejudices. Stay like that always, little angel.

 

Splashing into the gentle sea water kicked this inert body into action and swimming at a leisurely pace, with one hand holding to the sand to wilt the balance since I don’t know how to swim. Getting into the water happened after six years and decided that I ain’t gonna go back without the testing the waters. It felt like having a ball drenching deep into the water and turning right, left, North and South to reach out to the destination with the mind in focus, being swayed by the magic of the waters. A selfie on the occasion is the norm of the day or an exception for this unenthusiastic dude that I am for this form of camera marvel.

We were having the best time in life and guess what did a Surya Namaskar on the sand to breath every single moment. The soul became one with the body. Harmony and balance coupled with the guilty pleasure of wine, fine dining, and swimming to bliss. Treating the self is something we should never keep away from for the soul always conspires to bring positivity and powerful energy erupting like a force unleashing its might.

Spending a whole day at the beach is something which is incredible to believe and time flitted like the wind in ruffling burst to quench the thirst of a day well spent. Swimming is therapeutic like the feet dripped in the sand. The joy of letting loose, shedding the burden of routine life, taking things easy in sheer abandon, letting the hair down and waves caressing the mind gives this extraordinary feeling of not doing zilch. Feel the goodness of friends, pocked with gratitude offered by life letting the universe taking us in its embrace. It’s the biggest and unbridled joy. I wouldn’t let the moment go and captured moments of happiness, the sky and sea water that makes for a kaleidoscope and aesthetic pattern.

 

My attempt to swim but I am just a water baby.

The water babies that we all become and swimming at the edge as we hit the shells splaying beneath the water is a gentle reminder to flow and float with a little bit of care to avoid the risk of the feet being hurt. I remember that as a child, we would play with the fascinating shells and from time-to-time, one needs to be a kid again and never losing the innocence inside us. I love the comfort of places that give a ubiquitous and comforting feeling which the place offered minus extravaganza adorned with simplicity. Luxury can be simple and humble. A day well spent at the Mauritius sea nestled on the east coast at Trou aux Biches. I shall come up with a feature post on what tourists can do in the small island and particularly Indian tourists who love beaches and seawater.

Love

V

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Pune Memoirs (III): A twist of friendship


Pune Memoirs :

Third Year

2005-06:

Some relationships are just meant to be like lemon twist and the splash bubble that grow sweet and sour with maturity.  Today, Ajitabh Bhaiya called me from Jamshedpur after reading a status on how I loathed Jacqueline Fernandez act in the new version of Madhuri Dixit’s Ek do teen, something he showed to his sister who is a seasoned journalist in Bihar who related to what I expressed. A lovely conversation I happened to have with Anni Didi and spoke to aunty in Jamshedpur. Anni Didi is a Chief reporter for Hindi news channel in Jamshedpur and we connected on one common link, national issues in the country, journalism and the common brother, Ajitabh. At the stroke of a phone call, I can feel the bond with the entire family of Ajitabh Bhaiya in Bihar, the place we hail from and a strong realization just struck on the roots percolating in the heart and soul through the pure relationship nurtured in Pune.

I remember meeting Ajitabh Bhaiya for the first time at Savera one Sunday morning while sitting for breakfast with one of his friend and college senior S, an affable and cheerful girl with whom I became friends. A group of our seniors, both boys and girls would always randomly sit on the last table cheering and singing with a birthday cake that was their way to celebrate friendship. S was part of the enthusiastic group and some girls passed me a piece of cake, telling that it was no one’s birthday. A simple way to celebrate randomness, friendship, changing weather and the state of being. So much for being alive and makes me wonder why we celebrate less about everything worth living. That’s how I became friends with S and we sat at Savera a couple of times having chai, coffee and gupshut or taking walks.

She introduced me to Ajitabh Bhaiya who was dressed formally and we exchanged Hi, a few pleasantries. He was doing his Masters at SP College and once I met them on the way at FC Road which is always teeming with activities after coming straight from the small Ayurvedic clinic after buying sleeping pills since there was anxiety pang afflicting the soul and body. The man who became a good friend over the days, months and years told me that being sleep deprived happens when we think too much. The words worked like a magic pill that night when I slept peacefully like a kid. The hazy days when he took me as a subject to SP college as part of some Psychology department experiment and we had tea in the stall outside his PG institute is a fond remembrance of those moments of elated joy. Or another instance, when I was sitting with another senior Bhakti and he came along, both asking each other how do you know him, alluding to me. They answered in chorus, ‘He is my friend’ and laughed. I felt like a balloon being tossed in the air.

One thing led to the other and friendship was carved between smoke blown in the air, soulful and deeply intense philosophy conversation, chai aur coffee and boozing next door at Namaskar. There wasn’t a minute when we didn’t laugh at every mundane moment and making me mouth the favourite Amitabh Bachchan dialogue since I was Bachchan for friends. One morning, I walked inside Savera for a place to sit that was over packed and casually said, ‘Jaga Nahin hai baithne ke Liye bhenchod.’” Ajitabh Bhaiya would always say how I am very pyare (sweet) mouthing the Hindi cuss words that must have happened by chilling with the gang. We almost ended up acting in a short film that our friend Kaku was planning and Chanda would always say that Bachchan (me) asks too much questions. Doctor Sahab just said that it is our karma to ask questions since we are actors. But, the film never got to be made with us but was ultimately was canned, the time I left Pune.

Whatever conversations we always had was laden with Ajitabh Bhaiya’s own inimitable style that made me laugh about it and seems so vivid as if the ear just heard them. Once Chanda was driving in his car to college and saw an accident happening at Deep Bangla Chowk which he found funny in the way the vehicles banged. Ajitabh Bhaiya just came and popped something that irked him. “Haan Chandi, kahani sunao (continue the story),” Ajitabh quipped in a funny tone. Chanda was like, ‘It’s no story fucker but reality.”

He would always blame me for not being able to make a new girl friend since I keep calling him ‘Bhaiya’ (brother) in college and the girls who sit with us have started calling him that. I was the one to be blamed. We all laughed in jest. It was Bachchan’s fault, after all. That’s me. Our boozing parties were made of legendary stuff and he is one truly honest dude who would tell me the reality on my face on what I am lacking or getting a bit over-the-top after a couple of drinks.

In my heightened booze state, I would always say, ‘Ajitabh tu aata hai jaata hai, mamla kya hai ( You just come, meet us and go). Probably, because he was always in a hurry during the day, coming for a smoke, his personal brand was either four square or small Wills stick and to disappear suddenly in the distance like a UFO.  It’s another story that he was the much sought after person everywhere, in our surrounding, the external environment, cosmic and beyond for the deep conversation that sucks us into his world. The way he would play with his hand and glint in the eyes doing the theatrics and acting moved us into a world of dreams where nothing was impossible in life. The bunch of us vowed to make it big in music and films where he would casually remark that we don’t need to go to Mumbai to make it big creatively but the city of dreams would one day come to us.

The last time we met was in the same old Pune at Namaskar and recalled at that time, there were some tensions brewing among close friends. I was also going through a terrible heart break in Mumbai that compelled me to withdraw into a sullen mood but somehow, our vibes were lost in translation. The conversation was very less except for a snippet of conversation that Ajitabh Bhaiya made with a genuine smile on his face to dilute the tension. But, I suddenly grew distant and cold. Call it my immaturity but certain friendships have to take a leap back, wear thin on the sleeve to regain its strength. Like all deeply connected ties, we weathered the storms and connected again last year after a decade plus.

But, many years back, I sensed that we were destined for reaching out to each other.  I happened to be in Pune towards the end of 2011 and was having a joint with A and S when they told that Ajitabh Bhaiya happened to face a major accident in Pune where he fell down and his parents came to take him back. He was in a serious condition but he is fine. It came as a jolt. On that day, I passed out on the ground but don’t know whether it was the effect of ganja or focussing my mind too much on his accident, like my dear friend A said.

Love

V

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Pune Memoirs (III): Smoking up and midnight drama


Pune Memoirs: 2005/06

Third Year

Fergusson College Road:

It was a Saturday afternoon. I straddled my way to the college hang out at Savera for the cuppa tea ritual but this outing was beyond ordinary that would change my life forever in the company of friends. The road was always pocked with people in the evening and the gaze fixed at the cool crowd teeming their way for tea, coffee, and snacks.  Of course, our eyes were fixed to the college building watching people hopping past the gate for evenings walk, the sound or sight of vehicles screeching and honking or the favorite pastime of watching chicks thronging their way with friends or gallant company.

The first time I explored ganja in full public glare that happened in the nick of time. I sashayed my way outside the restaurant entrance that felt like an inlet, surrounded by the line up of bamboo,  flower pots and to huddle on the pavement. Someone in our group asked if I am game to smoke up and vaguely remember sometimes back I obstinately refused a friend A asking the same past noon at the same place. The crime was committed in less than 10 minutes, exchange filter that passed different hands and we bask into the glory of the puff and scent of the leaves. Ganja has a golden rule that newly initiated like me discovered:  Once you take a puff or two, it must be passed in the circle pretty much like the childhood games to everyone in regular interval till the roll is done and dissected with.

I was ballooning in the air and the throat felt suddenly dry as we lingered on the pavement watching in wonderment at our college that stood tall like a rock solid human made of steel that nobody could touch or harm. I stood in deference right in front of the alma mater’s gate.

Alcohol and the first brush of ganja do things to me, getting swayed by emotions high on adrenaline and feeling the wind blowing in ruffling burst. I felt like leaping and being carried by an unknown force to fly in the air. The feeling of unusual happiness has always made me feel good and smoking up parachuted in me in a universe where no dreams are too big a path to tread.

We took leave of each other since the boys had to go home after the traditional hug bonding us forever during the last year in college. I didn’t give a tinker’s curse about the world and took herky-jerky steps straight to the room. A bottle of water was kept by the side of the mattress lying on the floor and hunger pang was felt.

For one moment, I almost forget about the dinner with Adi, M, K and a bunch of new people. It was almost six when Adi sms-ed with the typical, ‘When are you coming?’ It felt like quite an effort to type with a simple, ‘sum time…will get ready.’ I got up and swiped left and right on the feet, trying to strike a balance to stand straight. After all, the smoking up and a couple of drag didn’t seem to wane away. Half a bottle of Bisleri was gulped to dilute the effect. I was feeling good being high but had to cross the busy road to reach the apartment of my friends at the other end. I went back slouching on the mattress and trying to close the eyes. After some time, I not only felt better but saw a couple of missed calls from the chums. It was time to go. I washed the face and scampered my way down the stairs. I stopped at the pan wallah to buy a couple of cigarettes and crossed the road to again trudge on the stairs to reach my friends’ apartment. M’s younger brother G greeted me and as soon as I entered made a u-turn into flaneur mode back on the jam-packed road since the folks wanted to buy stuff to cook. We stopped at the small Kirana shop, halted for a smoke and got some paan since the dude wanted to have a taste in the evening. Of course, the bhaiya in me would never miss an occasion to munch on the banarasi.

We got back to the apartment and Adi who was on his way out asked whether I have an extra fag on me. I flipped open the box.  Trying not to speak and silently praying that he would buzz off since I didn’t want to be caught and subjected to his irritating sermons like the holy priest. But, some people have the dog’s luck and sniff! He was watching my mouth and casually asking, “What are you having?” ‘Paan’, came my answer. Dude sniggered and called me ‘weird’ before disappearing. He came back in a short while and pulled a fast one on me, making a joke on who eats paan before dinner. Well! I do.

Post dinner, we were roaming in the night a bit high on alcohol and smoking up stuff in his Dad’s brand new Maruti Swift that I loved to death. Now, you know why yours truly is hooked to the Swift that goes a long time back to connect the dots of friendship. Now, I don’t know what got into him or us as we drove from the Peth area at leisurely pace till Aundh. What happened afterward made me reel into embarrassment which was the entire doing of our dear friend.  I shouldered the blame and kicked myself in the ass for popping the question of exams where the conversation was routine in the middle of the night at Aundh village, smoking and having alcohol which we got from the wine shop.  Exams were round the corner. We whined on how we didn’t study and there was barely enough time to wrap up the whole thing as the finale was fast approaching.

Lord Voldemort was our staple diet in those days. He had to spoil everything. “Did G gave back your notes?”, he doggedly asked. I tried to avert the question with a chilled out, she will give it back. But, no, Mister decided to have his way and funnily enough to be concerned for Xerox notes in a subject that he wasn’t doing in the first place, Economics general. There was no way that I could avoid his pressing and he dialed her number from my mobile. The phone was ringing and finally, she picked up. Now, this guy was pinching and tickling me in the car. I had no option after saying Hi to ask in a hesitating tone about the notes but think she said something about giving it back to me on Monday in college. But, no, asshole had to speak and make his voice louder at the back of the conversation clearing saying something like, ‘ask her…you need it now.’

Pure hell. It felt like the end of the world for me.  This Abhay Deol feeling of the funniest situation in Socha Na Tha just happened to me and couldn’t believe that a chosen victim was born in my soul.  G was pissed and legitimately so.  She just fired while Adi pulled the trigger. “Please tell Adi if he has some problem, speak directly or tell it to my face.” I was crestfallen and felt like being caught in a war zone.  Fucker had the nerves to steer the engine and stationed right in front of G’s gate and casually ordering me to press the bell to take the notes. Can you imagine my plight? I tiptoed on my foot and walked the slowest praying the building gets into blackout mode. It would have been the saving grace. Nothing of that sort happened.

I landed in front of the door when Adi suddenly buzzed and telling, “Press the bell fucker.” What timing! I did it out of fear and G opened the door to hand me the notes. I apologized more than 10 times and made a silly face. She gave a wry smile in return, ‘that’s alright.’ But, I could make out that she was majorly pissed off. This story of losing face goes back to one year back when I had a huge crush on her and proposed on sms with 1, 4, 3-it was Adi’s idea by the way-but we remained good friends after that. But, suspense had to be triggered towards the end of it by one of my closest buddies to create unnecessary drama. Deep inside, I knew that gotta mend things out but, somehow, we were drifting apart which was not Adi’s doing but mine.

Love bell was tinkling inside the heart. A new crush and an old flame were surfacing in my life. I love Saturdays when one evening, path was crossed with K outside CCD on FC Road and she was wearing a saree. I instinctively complimented her saying that she looked like Rekha. The smile was divine and the drums started to dance inside the heart. Well! Adi believes that such compliments during evenings can be lusty.

Love

V