The movie star

On a visit to a movie set, I dis­cov­ered a love story as pow­er­ful as any por­trayed on the sil­ver screen.

EQUUS - - Eq True tale - By Devyani Bo­rade

The year is 1975. The place is Ra­mana­gara, Kar­nataka, in south In­dia. It is high noon. A beau­ti­ful woman driv­ing a car­riage is hotly pur­sued by vil­lain­ous men on horse­back. From her at­tire---a short blouse with an ex­posed midriff, a long col­or­ful skirt, and a long veil that bil­lows out be­hind her---it’s clear that the woman is the belle of the lo­cal vil­lage. Her mare is white as snow and is at a full gal­lop, but she is tir­ing. The woman urges her on with cries of, “C’mon, Dhanno! Fly! Fly to pre­serve my honor!”

The men in pur­suit are dressed in black with scab­bards hang­ing from their belts, and they ride black horses. They are slowly but surely catch­ing up. Dust rises be­neath their feet and the sound of pound­ing hooves echoes.

“Cut!” yells the di­rec­tor. “All right. That’s enough for to­day.” He yawns, stretches and stands. The fans stir­ring brown dust pow­der stop whirring, the bright sun­light sud­denly dis­ap­pears as the over­head in­can­des­cent lights flicker off, and the crew erupts into loud chat­ter and a bus­tle of ac­tiv­ity. Props are car­ried away. Within min­utes the equip­ment and the peo­ple are gone, the set roped off and shut for the night, and all is si­lence.

Decades later, I watch the very same chase scene on the tele­vi­sion screen in the iconic Bol­ly­wood film Sho­lay, which is among the high­est gross­ing movies in In­dian cin­ema. too, will fea­ture a white mare. I watch a young, skinny boy lead­ing her half a mile down the shore be­fore turn­ing around to walk back. She is sad­dled, and they are wait­ing for their shot to be called. We’ve been here for half a day, and film­ing hasn’t even started yet. The lead ac­tress has not yet ar­rived.

I walk up to the young boy. He watches me ap­proach and stands still, most likely an­tic­i­pat­ing a re­buke of some kind. He looks poor and lonely. I smile to show my friendly in­ten­tions and ask his name. “Bandya,” he says. “And what is her name?” “Dhanno.” “Ah, just like the one in Sho­lay?” He nods wearily, with­out en­thu­si­asm. He has prob­a­bly been asked this ques­tion a thou­sand times. “How long have you been wait­ing?” “Six hours. We were told to ar­rive at the crack of dawn.”

As though sens­ing the late­ness of the hour, the mare stamps her foot. The boy con­tin­ues, “All these peo­ple are time wasters! They promised me 500 ru­pees for to­day. Said it will only take an hour. Now they won’t al­low me to take on cus­tomers while I’m wait­ing for them. I’m los­ing my busi­ness here.”

I nod in un­der­stand­ing. This is typ­i­cal In­dian men­tal­ity when it comes to time. No one is ever punc­tual, so you al­ways quote a time a bit ear­lier than re­quired. “Where are you from?” He names an un­fa­mil­iar vil­lage. “Where is her sta­ble?” I ask, ca­ress­ing the mare’s fore­head. She pays no at­ten­tion to me.

He tells me it is three train sta­tions away from the beach. But he is not al­lowed to ride her, so they had to walk nearly 10 miles to get to the set. “And here they haven’t even started.” He shakes his head in dis­gust.

I shrug. “They are wait­ing for the hero­ine. She is go­ing to ride Dhanno, isn’t she?” He looks away and doesn’t re­ply. I wait for a beat, then ask him if the mare be­longs to him. “My fa­ther. He keeps a sta­ble.” I get cu­ri­ous. “Do you know how to ride?” “Of course!” “Then why does he not let you?” The boy shakes his head as if to say,

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