Flashing Cameras and a Book Launch
The phone beeped. She was coming.
My nervousness levels spiked. She was there early. This wasn’t how movie stars were supposed to be. They were supposed to come two hours late once everybody had given up hope and started praying for divine intervention. But then Gul Panag is no ordinary star. She’s as famous for those adorable dimples as for her brilliant insights on current affairs and politics on Twitter.
I wiped my brow and rushed to the toilet for a last minute pee. Also had to make sure that the remaining half-dozen hair on the top of my head were all in place.
Soon she was there, and the army of photographers sprang into action. The Crossword PR lady told me to join her, and i scampered for cover. In the opposite direction. Posing for cameras isn’t for me. At best i can manage to look like i’ve only been constipated for a week. Okay okay, 3 days.
But join her i did. And the cameras flashed away. Like a firing squad going khachak khachak khachak. She got a phone call but they still kept going. Relentless, like the frantic meter of a taxi waiting at a never-ending traffic light.
One of them asked her to drop that book. ‘Madam, bina book ke.’
She laughed. ‘But book ke liye hi to aaye hain.’
‘Achha madam. Ek book ke saath. Ek book ke bina.‘ With such negotiating skills, i assume this was an IIM grad turned photographer.
Eventually i was moved to a side and some of them took my solo pictures (much to my disbelief), while the rest kept clicking her. Thank god for digital cameras or they’d be replacing the camera reel every five seconds.
Should have requested her to not wear heels. Or maybe worn a pair myself.
It’s an interesting experience looking into a thousand cameras at the same time, especially because you can only look into one at a time. But i tried. The only problem was that awkward smile of mine. I console myself by thinking that my pathetic smile worked like a counter to her 10 million watt blazing dentals. You know, like how they hang an ugly tyre outside pretty houses to ward off evil spirits?
You think actors have easy lives where they need to just look good, eat no food, kiss strangers and know how to smile for a camera when they really want to punch the photographer. Easier said than done. The last time so many pictures of me were taken was at my wedding, and I was ready to knock the dude’s head off.
I have a new-found respect for actors today. Working at a bank is much easier as compared to what they do.
Anyway, it felt great. I was standing next to a celebrity i admire; getting my pictures taken with her. A few months ago i could never even dream of this. I could get used to this feeling.
Also gracing the event was actor Ashwin Mushran, who very kindly accepted the invite for the launch.
Photo-shoot over, we sat down for the Mumbai book launch proceedings at Crossword Kemp’s Corner. But with her around, trust things to not go as planned. And boy, was she prepared with questions and insights. We had a great discussion around the whole Amreekandesi experience. We talked about fake accents, 100% cutoffs in Delhi University, FOBs, ABCDs, Mallika Shehrawat and that terrible American accent she picked up overnight and Bollywood movies (and their lack of stories). Joy. Different matter that i was sweating from all the talking and the cameras.
Not gloating or anything, but she praised the book saying that it is very well-written and tightly knit, and that it would make a great movie. If only, and I quote her, Bollywood made meaningful films that have a beginning and an end.
Hopefully someone will take offense and I’ll get famous. The other hope is Karan Johar ji will listen to her and make a movie on the book, and I’ll get famous. I’d prefer the latter please.
I did a little speech I had prepared to talk about various aspects of the Amreekandesi experience. A lot of it had been discussed already in our impromptu discussion though.
The missus did a presentation of the behind the scenes view. The Making of Amreekandesi. Writing a book takes a lot of sacrifice from you and the family, and I thank my super-supportive family for that.
A few questions from the audience, and we were done. Almost.
It was time for a media briefing. Suddenly there were about twenty mikes and a few dozen video cameras in front of us. They asked questions about the book, what did Gul think of it, was it my story or not, whether Gul recommends it for a movie, whether she has a secret crush on me, etc.
The quickest hour of my life was soon over. We were done with the event. Some people got their book copies signed. A tad disappointed that no female fans collapsed with dizziness after shaking hands with me, but maybe that’s for later.
The Crossword guys, eager to get back to work, asked me to move off the carpet so they could reclaim the space and get their book shelves back. It was time to head out.
All is well.
Now off to do a Google search and gloat over pictures in newspapers and magazines. And you, if you haven’t still read the book, go read it now. And write that review on Flipkart, Goodreads or wherever you like.
PS: I did make it to HT City page 3 yesterday.
Thank you Gul Panag. You’re awesome. Thanks for releasing the book, and for the generous praise. Thanks also to Ashwin Mushran for making the time to come by for the launch, and to Crossword for providing me the opportunity to launch the book from their store.
Buy the book on Amazon India, Flipkart, Amazon (US). Write a review for extra credit and bonus karma points. Thanks to all of you who have read and appreciated the book. Thanks also to those who are going to read this post and head to the nearest bookstore to get their copy.