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FULL STORIES: The Flames Of Paradise – Episode 05 [Read]

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Flames
Episode 5
Hi! Got the good news?’ Nitin saw her beaming smile and smiled back.
Snigdha locked the door and sauntered towards the round glass dining table where a metal flask of tea was kept made by Dimple. She poured steaming tea in a big white tumbler with a smiley printed on it and passed it on to Nitin. Then she picked up her letter. Twirling the letter around her long fingers, she couldn’t hide her excitement. Nitin looked at her face glowing with excitement, her uptilted nose wrinkling, with the wide smile that her full lips were sporting now. Snigdha plonked herself on the fluffy rug on the floor, and leaned back on the settee kept near the window, close to where he was sitting. Nitin felt amused seeing her expression.
‘So finally we made it!’ Snigdha said happily.
‘No you made it!’ Nitin took the letter from her hands and skimmed his eyes around the subject. It was the same he had seen CCd to him by his boss, Chetan Nangia, who owned the ‘Triple Eye Communications.’ It’s your brainchild Snigdha. I just helped you push the proposal a bit. Now we are a team. Coming Monday, everything will be finalised. Your role in it, the contract, the initial advance given to you, the people who will assist you from Triple Eye and the deadlines. Soon after that, I will leave for Srinagar, to make some arrangements, take permissions, etc. In the meantime, you have to make the entire plan with two team players from Triple Eye, Tripti Khetan and Srinivasan from the production team. ‘They will tell you everything about the finances and introduce you to the right people. Of course, you are free to choose your own crew members.’ Snigdha was zapped by the speed with which Nitin was making the plans.
‘What about the person for the protagonist’s role?’ Snigdha asked cautiously.
‘Haven’t thought about it. Maybe you might want to do an audition. Again Tripti will help you. You know better the kind of person you need. My suggestion, take a professional, as the person has to be present throughout our shoot and be in command of herself in front of camera.’ Nitin said taking a sip from his tumbler.
Snigdha cleared her throat and began gingerly, ‘How do you feel about Dimple?’
‘Dimple? Your crazy, multicoloured friend?’
‘Nitin! What do you mean multicoloured?’
‘Never mind. Do you mean to say she is interested in this? Is she a good presenter? Has she ever appeared in front of camera?’ Nitin fired a barrage of questions.
‘One at a time please! Yes, she is a very good bilingual narrator, good in English as well as Hindi. She has emceed a couple of stage shows and is a voice over artist too. Satisfied?’
‘Ask her to come and meet me in a couple of days.’ Nitin said thoughtfully. He tried to remember the effervescent, chirpy little girl he had met a couple of times with Snigdha. She was one hell of a good looking female, no doubt. But she was not of this type. He liked serious, level-headed women, more like Snigdha. He shrugged off this sudden excited leap of his heart at the thought of meeting Dimple.
‘Good for her.’ Snigdha said under her breath.
‘What did you say?’ Nitin came out of his reverie.
‘Oh nothing. Tell me Nitin, in my research paper, I have mentioned a couple of local links of journalists and social activists who can help us get in touch with the militant groups that we need to interview. One of them is Chander Prakash Raina from a local daily newspaper who met me in Delhi to give me some significant details. Would you be meeting them as well when you visit Kashmir?’ Soon after that Snigdha and Nitin got engrossed in the nitty-gritty of the planning that they were supposed to do regarding their shoot. The documentary was going to be a real life account of some militant or ‘Jihadi’ groups as they were called, out of which Snigdha had mentioned two low-key operatives whose members might be willing to appear on camera for interviews. They were surrendered militants. Nitin told her about the contact persons he had located from her research paper through a couple of his news channel friends, a few stringers, social activists and local Kashmiris in whose homes these militants took refuge during snowfall. In-between the discussion, Snigdha observed Nitin’s clean shaven face, sharp brown eyes, and crop-cut hair, cut close to his skull, giving him a distinct army guy look. He was one of those guys who had attracted a lot of female attention during their FTII days. She looked at his neat, expressive hands moving with his words, the expensive gold watch flashing under his formal shirt, and the pearl ring on his little finger. A cool-headed guy, she wondered why he was wearing a pearl studded in a smooth silver band, as astrologically she had heard, pearl was meant to cool hot temperaments. She was sure his cool temperament would gel really well with Dimple’s fiery nature! She felt aghast at this new matchmaking streak in her and shook herself literally to come out of the Dimplesque mood. It seems some of her best friend’s nature was affecting her too!
‘So, now I will have to take my leave Snigdha. Must get packing done and make some important calls to Srinagar.’ Nitin was getting up Snigdha scrambled up guiltily from her sitting position on the rug, realising that she had been busy matchmaking while Nitin was rattling away his plans all this time. She had to stop this bad habit of her thoughts going on a tangent every once in a while making her forget her surroundings, where she was and who she was with.
‘Let me know if you need me to talk to anyone. Maybe my Dad can pull a few strings. He was posted in Kargil for some time.’ Snigdha said.
‘Ah… Yes I remember! Sure I will get in touch with you… and do ask whats-her-name… to meet me as soon as I am back… OK? Chao then… see ya soon!’
With that hurried one liner, Nitin departed, leaving Snigdha feeling happy about Dimple being a part of her project… in case she was chosen.
The rest of the week passed in a flurry. The day of the meeting arrived. Dressed in beige colour linen trousers, and beige and black short top moulding itself softly around her body, with brown strappy low heeled sandles, Snigdha felt confident and cool enough to face anyone. The meeting started off well, except for the hostile, calculating looks thrown at her from Tripti the Head of Operations at Triple Eye, as if she was not sure about something. Her hostility permeated the atmosphere a bit, because she could feel Nitin bristling with a defensive attitude every time a question was thrown at Snigdha regarding her film. Snigdha was torn between her irritation by Tripti’s attitude and Nitin’s fending off the blows. She felt she could take care of herself. But in the end, sick of Tripti’s snide remarks about her debut in film-making as Director, Snigdha braced herself, and spoke in what she thought was her most cool-as-a-cucumber tone and looked directly at Tripti while telling her about her plan and preparation.
‘I have done more than a year’s research Tripti, and handled all types of cameras from analog to high definition for documentaries. Though I’m a trained cinematographer, I have a few internationally-awarded films to my name, which have been on as difficult subjects as this one, where as a cameraperson, I had to literally live amidst thick jungles and deserts, rural areas and hostile people. That’s how I’ve learnt my trade. I haven’t been sitting on my laptop tapping my painted nails and surfing the Internet.’ She paused to let that sink in. ‘So don’t worry about my “inexperience”. Triple Eye won’t be disappointed in me.’ She could see a scowl appearing on Tripti’s smooth brow, and found her hawk-like gaze lock with hers in challenge, her painted lips pursed with scepticism. She noticed some amused looks exchanged between Nitin and other male members but she ignored it. It was not a victory for her but a statement which she had to make if she wanted the shooting to be smooth. After that, the meeting was buttery smooth, ending with some papers signed by her, her documents checked and finally her first cheque being handed over to her.
Tripti was a reed thin, attractive, smart woman, who was tasting a different kind of power of the electronic medium since she had shifted from a leading daily newspaper in Kolkata. With her looks and brains, she had managed to carve a niche in the field of television industry, yet the innate negativity in her personality oozed out of every pore of her being. Her outlandish dress sense added to her persona. Tight fitting clothes draped her body like second skin and made her look older than her thirty something age. She made even a decent
sari look overtly brazen on her body. Her behaviour towards most people in general and women in particular was patronising and arrogant most of the time, giving her a label of a hard nut to crack. Maybe she had a bad personal life to make her so snappy. She had heard somewhere in the grapevine that Tripti had two ex-husbands to boast of. Snigdha knew how a bad personal life could affect one’s mental state.
Signing the last of the documents, Snigdha shook hands with everyone and came out of the conference hall, followed by Nitin close on her heels.
‘B—h.’ He said under his breath.
‘Shhhh… don’t. She might hear you.’ Snigdha uttered looking over her shoulders.
‘Good for her. I hate bossy and aggressive women. What the hell does she think behaving like that with you? As if she is the boss, whereas Chetan and I were present there to handle it. Sometimes, she goes over the top.’
‘Come on, she was just doing her job. And she’s good at it. Probably, she doesn’t like me, or she was just being…’
‘Bitchy. That’s what she is! Anyways you are right. She is good at her job. Let’s ignore her. So tell me how does it feel to get your first big fat cheque?’ Nitin asked with a twinkle in his eye.
‘Lovely! But then I need it for paying advance to the crew and studio from where I have to hire equipment. Then logistics have to be taken care of and… ’
‘YES BOSS!’ Snigdha laughed and held her hand out to Nitin who shook it before leaving.
The next few weeks were a whirlwind for Snigdha. She met a number of cinematographers, sound recordists, technicians who she interviewed and hired the ones she liked and finally paid them their advance. Daily she sat on her schedules, shoot plans, shoot scripts, shot divisions, interviews and many things that only she could do. She had hired a young, energetic Assistant Director for herself, Ruby who worked with her round the clock, sometimes sleeping at her flat after a bone crunching day of hard work. She wanted Ruby to handle the interviews. Dimple had been auditioned and finalised. Snigdha sat with Nitin to discuss the style that Dimple would have, which would be of a journalist who is investigating and unearthing hitherto unknown group.

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