Now Brewing

of a meeting in sheesh mahal, or episode 3 of episode 1

the third and final part of our episode 1 take. you can read the first part here and the second part here.

legs slightly apart, body immobile, he stood looking at the mansion…

we were no longer at gomti sadan where bua ji bustled and shook a mean leg, shakin’ the old kamariya too, and where people worried about dowry and said “phone” with a soft “ph.”

we were in the rich part of town where havelis had helipads and many other things, some not so apparent, but which a set of dark unmoving eyes could clearly see.

the stunning young man in cravat and jacket who was slim and not too tall had a fabulously commanding air, his face looked as if it were hewn from stone… and the eyes. have i ever seen eyes like that. so deep and still with something lurking right inside. an opaque shut down in them right now. yet you could feel their sear.

power seemed to cling to him, and the air around throbbed with it.

if anyone had told me that a 27 year old untrained actor from not the most posh neighbourhood of delhi could have done this, i’d have of course laughed on their face and said, pass me the whisky.

now i was hyperventilating and thinking what’s going to happen now. yes, exactly like a kid. the story was in his slow walk, his complete cut off, inert presence, as if the hordes of people thronging him were not there, and in his orbs.

he stood and looked up at the imposing edifice, an almost sublime contemplation.

in the meantime the reporters shot questions, and we heard he is “arnav, sir,” owner of raizada company, an international… multinational company, so why had the owner come here for such a small deal? was there a reason?

how succinctly, story is being told and taken forward, no need for long drawn out conversations and set ups…

the next question, the whole country wants to know when you’ll marry. ah, so he is a bachelor.

then the third question hitting at the core of this visit and telling us this is key… “excuse me, sir, suna hai aapka iss shaher se bahut purana rishta hai.”  sir, we’ve heard you have very old ties with the city.

and the drums pick up… asr music comes on, full throttle. he begins to take long loping steps forward. he has not even bothered to glance at the reporters once, obviously quite used to this mobbing and in no mood for it.

but then at one point, he stops, just when he sees a board with the words sheesh mahal on it…the only little detail in the episode i felt was wanting. looked fake.

as he watches, memories come.

again a wedding. but here the sound of shehnai, and a beautifully dressed bride. who was she? with her stands a young boy, enjoying the whole thing, suddenly the bride looks worried, troubled, the music changes, a lady runs down the corridor, past the shehnai players. a gunshot and a voice.

“maa!”

and we cut to pigeons flying out.

in less than four minutes, the makers seem to have created an entire character with history, innate nature, current scenario, everything in place. had i just seen that much of this man and gone away never to see ipk again, i’d still have known him in a funny kind of way. so strongly and deftly thought out this bit seemed to me. and he hadn’t even spoken one word.

every time i see this landing, i wonder how barun sobti got it so right. this was at a time when he was not yet familiar or comfortable with asr, doing several takes for each shot. that day, they couldn’t find a tie that would work, so he had on a cravat; shoot having been delayed and they having to stand outside in the heat for hours, he in a jacket. and if i am to believe the blog of the production house, he kept his cool despite all the sweltering heat and confusion.

he was looking very thin and young… yet the stature and power, the conflicted, volcanic inner core, the shrewdness of a successful entrepreneur and the arrogance, also a boundless youthful energy, he wrapped it all into himself and exuded it with a stunning economy of action and word.

as the pigeons flew out we found ourselves on a balcony, a patio like space, of the mansion. three men, two older and “arnav sir,” sat around a table. one of the older men was particularly ingratiating.

“ussulon ke toh hum bahut pakke hain bhaiya,” said this man, i am very firm of principle. a pigeon fluttered across, almost touching a still, cold face, a pair of eyes, looked up. ice in their depth.

in a ruthless deal designed to stun the opponent, the young man bought over the mansion. his look as he sat quiet, eyes trained on the older man, not a muscle on his face moving, deal making, i did think of michael corleone. there definitely was a don air to the man. and how calibrated were his gazes, his turn of head, even the flicker of his lids. precise, clean movements, each conveying so much.

finally, he pushed an attache case full of money. and when the not too sharp older man said his aim wasn’t quite right, he stood up deliberately and leaned toward the older man, towering over him… and opened his mouth for the first time.

a soft husky lethally arrogant voice said, “arnav singh raizada ka nishana kabhi nahin chugta!”

his first words were his name. a thing most important to him. his identity.

arnav singh raizada never misses his mark.

the older man quaked. the dealmaker went for the jugular.

“paisa mera shauk nahin, pesha hai.”

money is not my hobby, it’s my occupation.

then, sure that he had done what he had come to do, he straightened up with a satisfied air, wore his shades in one smooth movement and all set, he walked away, followed by his men, one of them had come along only to hand over the attache case with money in it, he walked away from the place.

the whole scene had a bated tense air, yet designed most stylishly, a mafia movie feel to it.

we cut to khushi on the road… her phone dies on her, but not before she has said that if a man has no zameer… conscience, no point in having a relationship with such a man, “usse apne dil mein bithane ka kya faida, jiji?” what’s the use of letting such man rule one’s heart, didi?

back at sheesh mahal the older man follows asr begging for understanding, speaking of principles and unfairness.

“ussul sirf bewakoofon ke liye hotey hain,” principles are meant for fools, says asr… why does it sound faintly exciting?

“karobar mein sirf ek cheez maine rakhti hai… paisa.” in business, only one thing has meaning… money.

“aur zindagi ne mujhe pahele sikha diya tha ki agar zameer ho bhi, toh usse maar dalo,” a hollowing out of voice on the last few words… life had taught me way back if you have a conscience… kill it.

neatly have we been alerted to the fact that khushi and asr stand on two opposite ends of the spectrum.

even as he strides out, uncaring, he stops suddenly. takes off his shades yet again… and says, “hai na?” then a slow smart swivel, a palat, his first… “chacha ji?”

isn’t that right, uncle?

as the nonplussed older man looks on and then gets the point we learn of arnav malik who was thrown out of this very mansion along with his sister by this same man… when arnav was only 14/15 and he is now no longer malik. raizada, he is only that.

deal done, revenge taken… we move onto the evening.

arnav singh raizada in jet black sleek clothes, flanked by two girls in red, walks onto a ramp, lights glitter all around, people wait, it is the fashion show of ar, bulund. at sheesh mahal.

instantly, the media comes asking questions… as always crossing the line… soon we have the first of asr’s english dialogues, a scathingly spat out through gritted teeth, “that’s none of your business!”

he so looks the part. lithe, sexy, arrogant, the fashion magnate. then on the stage a strange situation, a bit of creative license.

“arnav?” says a pleasant female voice. asr’s eyes go alert, then shift, a little question in them. he turns.

light falls across the new entrant, a beautiful woman dressed in fine saree and diamonds. it is his sister. his elder sibling… the girl who was a bride in his memory. the slightest hint of smile on his lips. then he steps forward. a world of information in that little lip movement. about an emotion. another main pillar of ipk, asr’s love for this woman who surprises him.

and in a flash a whole new side of this character is expressed. a protective brother, vulnerable before that emotion he feels for his sister. she is handicapped and walks with a limp, he rushes to help her.

his sister looks at him with a warm bright smile, but she asks hard questions. arnav singh raizada has not been able to leave the past behind, his sister wants him to forget the past… why can’t he let go… and how can he think of turning their old home into a factory… we hear he took complete responsibility at the age of 15, didn’t let his sister feel any burden and made their life work.

he tries to say he has moved on, not stayed stuck in the past. she persists with her questions.

there’s only one thing to do, swivel around deftly and say with that beautiful accent that says young, now, very westernized, “ladies and gentleman! put your hands together for my sister, anjali jha!”

khushi finally reaches sheesh mahal, it is dark already. she rushes in and comes upon the dreamy, rose carrying, receptionist in galaband. is it a poem she seeks? is she a poetess herself? khushi rushes away realising, no point really. in the meantime, the red rose, another ipk symbol is introduced with that quirky lucknowi twist.

khushi spins around asking for a way out of the bhoolbhulaiya with a ditty, and lands herself in trouble.

the fashion show is on. in a well put together sequence, which is glamorous in its own way and even if the clothes don’t feel high couture, the legs are long enough to create the illusion, we see models sashay on and off the ramp.

asr sits watching. then as if the day has finally caught up with him, he puts his head back and closes his eyes.

in that one gesture, everything he doesn’t show but you know he feels. the boy who was thrown out of his home, who lost possibly his “maa” when he was but a kid, who has planned this minutely for years maybe, today at last, he has succeeded to an extent. but the cost of this entire thing. the churning of his emotions… as the show gathers momentum, maybe he can just take a break for a while.

but a girl in a green lehenga has landed on the stage. who is she? the whispers start.

khushi is horrified to find herself pushed onto a stage.  again a bit of creative license, but done well… she looks around terrified. her lips move, hey devi maiyya she says under her breath.

she closes her eyes.

he opens his.

again that element of sixth sense.

his eyes turn unerringly in her direction. and stay there.

she opens her eyes and would possibly have tried to run, but two girls in red hold her as they walk past and take her with them down the ramp.

some inexorable force seems to have conspired to make sure the girl in green and the man in black meet today.

she almost falls as people watch, the show is obviously getting ruined. he stands up watching her as she stands transfixed on the ramp. their eyes clash, his glowing and gathering fire, hers scared, embarrassed, confused.

she turns to go and trips on a dupatta. the dupatta from this moment on will come fluttering and finding ways for them to meet again and again.

she falls.

without even looking like he is surprised or bothered, he coolly holds out his arms and she lands in them.

she holds onto him, staring, shaking.

he looks at her,  for a second there seems to be a lick of a flame in his dark eyes. his gaze is fixed on her eyes, and then slowly it travels over her face in a slow almost insulting appraisal, coming to rest on her lips. the pale pink lips tremble, she heaves and holds on, totally thrown by everything. he grips her firmly as he looks at her eyes again.

barry dhillon, who wrote for geet earlier, wrote the dialogues. looks like he gave us those unforgettable opening lines of asr. but really what made it work was the cool, finely sussed out delivery by barun sobti… might have become too rambo otherwise.

raju singh’s music was smooth, different, urbane and for that asr music, he deserves some award or something. music was one of ipk’s major strengths right through.

hrishikesh gandhi’s camera and creative work by all in the team was wonderful, especially the art directors’.

nissar parvez directed this episode with man singh, i will always be grateful to the two directors for crafting this episode with so much care and detail… there was a lady sewing in the background while shashi gupta and garima spoke, so very real in that setting, another lady pounded spices in a huge spice grinder, people rushed around doing things one does in that situation, little things had been thought through, and the whole piece sparkled… it had the lightness and joy of khushi, below it lay a layer of intrigue, a darker thing, surely that reflected asr. 

i am still reeling from the effects of long legs languidly unfolding and stepping on the ground. of eyes that are shut but their secrets call. of a voice low and husky and menacing yet oh it caresses. a slow turn of head. aviators being taken off… put on. the bad boy has arrived arrogance intact.


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