Friday, January 06, 2017


I do enjoy films, but am no great movie buff. I can certainly identify Amitabh Bacchan and Shabana Azmi, Ashok Kumar and Smita Patil, but that’s about it. When it comes to Govinda or Deepika Padukone, I draw a blank.
Fantastic credentials for a person to write about his tryst with a star, you might say, wondering at my gall. Hold your horses, gentle reader.
It was in the latter half of the 1990s, I think it was in 1998. After a late night, I had caught the early morning flight from Ahmedabad to Bombay from where I had a connecting flight at half past ten to Trivandrum.
As I was one of the first to check in, I could get a window seat in the front row. All I wanted to was to get into the aircraft, settle down in Seat No 8A of the Trivandrum-bound wide-bodied AB 300 (Yes, the one with eight – 2 + 4 + 2 – seats abreast) of Airbus Industrie and catch up with my sleep.
I did exactly that. As soon as the boarding was announced, I ran to the gate with my hand baggage, got into the bus and occupied a strategic position so that I could get down and get into the aircraft first. Flinging my bag into the overhead bin of the plane, I sat in my seat and promptly went to sleep.
I do not know how much time had passed, but when I woke up, the aircraft was still on the tarmac. The seat next to mine was empty. So were a few other seats in Row 8. A sidelong glance told me that the case was no different in the other rows.
I dozed off; again, I do not know for how long. This time when I woke, some more seats had got filled up. I looked out through the window: a horde of politicos clad in starched white khadi was trooping in, accompanied by a few babus walking deferentially a few steps behind them, but available in case their services were required. Obviously, a Parliamentary Committee was headed southwards, to enjoy Kanyakumari, Kovalam, Kumarakom and Munnar in December at the expense of whichever public sector units whose activity they were supposed to be overseeing.
Trailing them was a figure in a pair of ice-blue jeans and a white mandarin shirt with short sleeves. He had no carry-on baggage. His gait rang a bell. As he came closer to the plane, his features too could be discerned and he was so familiar. I knew I had seen him somewhere, but just could not place him, however hard I tried.
He walked in through the aisle of the business class now choc-a-bloc with the parliamentarians and sat next to me. I regarded him sideways and tried to guess who this man was. No luck.
After a while, I mustered enough courage and asked my neighbor, ‘Excuse me, Sir, I seem to have seen you somewhere. Have we met earlier?’
‘I don’t think so,’ he replied.
The gruff voice gave the person away: it was the same voice that boomed ‘Chakravyuh mein ghusne se pehle kaun tha main aur kaisa tha, yeh mujhe yaad hi na rahega’ in Ardh Satya.
Om Puri made the film world poorer this morning. One recalls the storehouse of talent that he was and his masterly performance in Aakrosh, Maachis and a host of other films.

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