Picking up from where I left off after a long time—-
20: A Special Night
A blinding flash of light followed by another and yet another then several in succession.
Shiny limos plying equally shiny bodies that disembarked and gave the paparazzi their much needed glamour and gossip fix.
But Shaan didn’t realize that he too was one among them—a willing player expected to read his lines from a script repeated and rehashed so many times that it had become second nature. So much that sometimes it was hard to distinguish the real from the put on.
But this acting and role playing had become boring and stale. He wished he could fling the cloak away and scream—This is not me!
And that urge was particularly pressing today as he stood there all alone on the red carpet acutely missing his new associate and partner.
He wasn’t flashing his usual heartbreak smile nor paying heed to the earsplitting screams of jostling fans leaning over the fences with their arms and bodies stretched out, wanting to touch, to get a piece of him.
He appeared totally unaware of it all and that infused his persona with a uniquely mystic and attractive aura.
Where is she? Should be here by now. Not a peep from her since she left in a hurry this afternoon! Is she not coming? She said she would be here well in time. Khanak isn’t one to shirk from her professional duties. He racked his brains; Did she take that blabbermouth Trish seriously…or did something happen between her and that loser?
A voice hailed him from behind—“Someone is looking wickedly distracting tonight!”
He didn’t have to turn around to figure who it was. He cringed; “Natasha…you here?”
She was checking him out in her usual pose—perfectly coiffed head slightly tilted to one side, a slightly amused smile playing on voluptuous red lips and a svelte figure wrapped in deep sea green that perfectly offset her eyes. She had mastered the art of snaring attention.
Yet it did nothing for him. He stared blankly at her.
“Are you so overwhelmed with happiness that you are struck speechless?”
He heard one of the Khatri brothers’ high pitched laughter in the background. It was their show and she was the guest of honor.
He flashed her his usual smile; “think what you will Tash.”
“Won’t you walk with your dear old friend? Or have you forgotten your manners?”
Shan offered her his arm though he’d have preferred to seem uncouth and walk away. The news hounds didn’t need any more scoops that night.
Earlier at Diva’s–
Khanak had rushed over following the prompts of her instinct knowing that he was probably the only one most likely to provide the peace and comfort she so desperately desired.
“Now look at yourself!” Diva said turning her around to face the mirror.
Khanak’s stared at her image wide eyed, “Do I look okay?”
“Okay? OMG girl! Get real!” Diva exclaimed in exaggerated surprise. Today he had on a purple do with sweats to match.
“You look sensational! Stupendous! Kya kehte hain usko… Item! Yes you look like an item! And in that shade of blue you are bound to send the whole audience to the hospital–the men with hearts attacks and the women in a raging jealous hysteria!”
Khanak laughed; “Oh please leave it Diva! Don’t flatter me! Tell me the truth!”
“You hurt my heart!” he looked woebegone.
“Oh I didn’t mean that! I’m so sorry!” She jumped up to console him; “You are so sweet. I’m just not used to so much praise.”
“Girl get this straight!” he said tapping her shoulder lightly with his beautifully manicured fingers. “What Diva says Diva does! He speaks his mind–showering praise or critiquing when and where it is deserved. I don’t believe in keeping people in the dark!”
She nodded waiting expectantly.
“All right,” he smiled gently holding the point of her chin between his thumb and forefinger; “Let me put it simply. You possess a special kind of beauty, a rare hypnotic mix of innocence and charm. It is so powerful that it can even make a gay man wish he was straight.”
Her cheeks grew warm when she noticed that he was quite serious.
He then laughed and blushed himself, “But if that were to happen my Shaan wouldn’t like it at all! And Diva cannot afford to infuriate one of his best customers can he? Uske biceps dekhe tumne? Did you see his biceps? Mein toh mar hi jaoonga! I’ll be dead for sure!”
“That’s where you are wrong,” Khanak said solemnly turning back to the mirror.
“Diva wrong? Never! And that Shan is an open book for me. I’ve seen the way he looks at you sweetheart! Haven’t you?” His face wore a fond smile.
Khanak pursed her lips and shook her head not wanting to acknowledge what her heart so eagerly wished to believe.
“Eyes speak a lot…and I know exactly what Shan’s say.”
Khanak made a valiant attempt to steel herself, “He is a very nice man, kind and generous. It’s just his compassion that you see.”
“Okay. So be it. But why should you let that bother you?” Diva asked watching her closely for her response.
Khanak dropped her gaze; “I…I…”
Diva chuckled; “There! So the flame burns equally on both ends! Wonderful! I can’t wait to dress you up for the wedding!”
“Diva please don’t!” Khanak exploded in anguish. “… that can never happen!”
“Shan is meant for Natasha. They complement each other perfectly. They are the eternal couple!’”
“What utter rubbish! Who has filled your head with such bakwas?” Diva appeared genuinely surprised.
“I see it everywhere…in the news….magazines…even Tarun…”
“Tarun!” Diva spat out, “…that slimy SOB! His only job is to create malevolent mischief! Don’t you believe a single word he says! As for the magazines, Khanak hon… I didn’t think you were so naive! Don’t you know the only way the media keeps itself in business is by feeding the frenzy and fanning the rumors?”
She wasn’t convinced; “Yes you may be right. But I believe it in my heart to be true. She has been Shan’s friend and partner for a long time and he has relied on her. The only reason I came into the picture is due to the accident.”
Diva nodded, “Some of what you say is true but not everything. These eyes have seen a lot.” He laughed, “You can call me a walking behind the scenes encyclopedia! If I get my memoirs published I’ll become an instant millionaire! But then who’ll trust in me?” He said wryly.
Khanak gave his hand a tight squeeze; “I do Diva…”
He smiled, “I know you do darling. That’s why I love you. You are pure of heart and you don’t pass judgments just because…”
He paused before going on; “…as far as Natasha is concerned… she too used to be like you at one time… fresh, talented, hardworking, eager to make a mark. But then she changed, she became a victim to fame. She became self-centered. She couldn’t tolerate anyone better or even as good herself…she couldn’t let independent talent thrive. So instead of working on improving herself she began to resort to crooked and devious ways. She made herself indispensable to Shan; started producing his shows… took on some of the hiring and firing in the pretense of helping him out. It was a way of making sure that nobody in Jhankaar could challenge her position and then even got him to give her an exclusive contract.”
Diva looked at Khanak, “I could see Shan’s frustration build. He wanted to break free from her. But she had accumulated a lot of powerful ‘friends’ in the industry who always managed to convince him otherwise. Then all of a sudden out of the blue, I don’t know what occurred in that twisted mind of hers that she decided to break her ankle…”
Khanak broke in, “Break her ankle? What do you mean? Which dancer would want to do such a thing on purpose? You must be mistaken!”
“Exactly, no dancer in her right mind, but Tash isn’t sane! When she saw Shan unwilling to toe the line, she took it upon herself to teach him a lesson. So just before the new season began she faked an accident and broke her ankl, sure that he won’t find anyone else good enough to take her place thereby making him undergo a major loss and ultimately enslave him for the rest of his life. But…” Diva smiled, “…she made a mistake. She failed to figure you in to her calculations.”
Khanak stared unblinkingly at Diva, stunned at the revelation.
“Unbelievable isn’t it? But this is how showbiz works…talent isn’t enough anymore. You need a mentor…and fortunately you’ve found the best one in Shan.”
Khanak was at a loss for words; all this information was too much to absorb. It was difficult to fathom that evil could reside behind such a beautiful face.
Diva glanced at his phone and cried out, “OMG! Talk of the devil! You have been summoned!”
Khanak eyes twinkled, “Then we should get going!”