Collateral Beauty (2016) _ A Struggle to find the Rhythm (Rating – 6 / 10) – A Movie Review!

 

Collateral Beauty (2016) _ A Struggle to find the Rhythm

Rating – 6 / 10

Claire: I just… Look, uh, this doesn’t feel right.

Simon: I know. But when something starts with a six-year-old dying, nothing is gonna feel right.

 

Every day we see, hear and read numerous stories of death & loss. These days’ newspapers are almost filled with such tragic news. But very few of us understand the aching heart, the depth behind those tears and the agony which death leaves in its wake. Very few of us can relate to the throbbing pain people undergo when they deal with the most difficult phase of their life – Coping with the loss of a loved one.

That’s exactly what Howard (Will Smith) goes through in this beautiful, yet tragically slow paced mind-numbing drama. It’s easy-flowing and tedious at the same time leaving viewers with a feeling of mixed emotions both about the character, Howard and the story line of the movie.

Howard is a successful ad agency partner with full of life and love at the start of the movie. As Claire (Kate Winslet) claims, he is a brilliant, creative and charismatic guy. He starts with a speech, “…..Time, love and death. These three things connect every single human being on Earth. We long for love. We wish we had more time. And we fear death.” Sounds feigning and out of place at that time but lays a foundation for the rest of the movie. Things change for the worse quickly, as we find out that 3 years has passed in the movie timeline and the chirpy and delightful Howard is a moody and lonely guy who has lost his daughter and trying to cope with the loss by writing letters to Love, Time and Death. The road ahead is not easy for Howard as he tries to grasp the reality of the situation. It is not easy for us either to watch the jovial and charming Will Smith, who is known for his amazing personality both on-screen and off-screen being subjected to such tragic roles. Yes, he nailed it in Pursuit of Happiness and with good reason. That was a biography with a deep background and a resounding finish. Collateral beauty gets stuck where it started.

As if to add to the grief, Howard’s business partner and friends hire three actors to act as Love, Time and Death to try to get Howard out of his misery. Instead, we end up with some so-called deep conversations which don’t have any ending or solace to the grieving heart and Howard is branded as mentally unstable for claiming that he had conversations with fictional characters to whom he once wrote letters. I know…. Who is the good guy? Who is the bad guy? The line is very thin, my friend.

The movie is loaded with a star-stubbed crew – Oscar winners, Oscar Nominees, and Golden Globe winners. I’m not even going to try naming them all. Please google it. But sadly even such awesome crew doesn’t seem to save the otherwise poorly written and executed script. Don’t take me wrong, this is far from a mediocre movie. There are indeed some good conversations which will be interesting and keep you hooked during the movie, but unfortunately, the brilliant individual dialogues don’t culminate to our expectations. Of course, there is no well-proven way of completely eradicating grief, but it would have been nice to see some interesting change in Will Smith’s character by the end of the movie.

Howard {Speaking to death}: I’ve heard all of your platitudes. I got them, I know. “She’s in a better place.” And, “This is all a part of a master plan.” Heard that one, too.   Here’s my favorite. “God looked down and saw the most beautiful rose, so beautiful that he picked it to have it in Heaven all for Himself.” Then there’s the science, biocentrism, and we’re all living and dying in infinite universes all at the same time. And then the religion, the Christians and their salvation, and the Buddhists and their Samsara, and the Hindus and their 41st sacrament. And can’t forget the poetry. Oh, the poetry. “To die is different from what anyone supposed and luckier.” Whitman. And, “Rage… Rage against the dying of the light. Though wise men at their end know dark is right.” Thomas. And then…

Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream Merrily, merrily merrily, merrily Life is but a dream I got it. I got it! It all basically says that you’re a natural part of life, we shouldn’t hate you, we shouldn’t fear you. I guess we should just accept you, right? That’s it? I get it. Here’s the thing. It’s all a bunch of intellectual bullshit because she’s not here holding my fucking hand.

Yes, you are right, Howard. It’s all just a bunch of intellectual bull shit. If you want to watch a movie with deep moments and intense conversations, go for it. But rest assured, you probably might not come out of it any better.

P.S. – I loved the movie and probably will watch it again. Don’t ask me why!

 

Howard: Death came first. She met me in the dog park.

Madeline: Oh, so Death is a “her?”

Howard: Uh, yeah. It turns out Death is an elderly white woman.

 

 

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Series: Chronicles of Shyam & Kiara! -“The perceptions of Glamour” – (Final part)

Continued…

Prime Suspects

  • Ajay – Husband / Not a convincing Alibi / First Suspect in the case / No known motivation identified to kill Maya
  • Sanjay – Ajay’s best friend from childhood and Maya’s close acquaintance from work / Known to have spent more time with Maya recently / No known motivation identified to kill Maya / booked a room at Trident hotel at the time of the murder but no solid evidence that he was in his room
  • Ritu – Maya’s close friend / currently in a small role and more to gain if Maya leaves the show / On Personal leave for 2 days due to sickness / Claims to be at her residence at the time of the murder / No known Alibi.

Shyam started with Sanjay. He felt he could learn more about Ajay from his best friend.

“Sanjay, how long have you known Ajay?” asked Shyam.

Sanjay was a dark, sturdy and well-built guy and walked with a touch of confidence. The recent events did seem to have taken a toll on him.

“We did our high school together. We lost touch during college days but later became close again. I got a good role in this show, because of Ajay. And Maya was such a lovely person. I was so happy for them. Ajay always felt like he was missing something in his life until he met Maya,” said Sanjay wiping his tears.

“Did you know Maya well?” asked Shyam.

Sanjay took few seconds to compose himself and then replied.

“Ya, I was the best man at their wedding. Before Ajay fell in love with Maya, I knew her from work but never too close. During their marriage, we became good friends,” said Sanjay.

“Did Maya any time disclose any information to you that might be linked with what happened to her?” asked Shyam.

Sanjay looked surprised for a second. He quickly recovered and said, “No, nothing I could recall. She seemed quite happy. I couldn’t understand how would anyone ever do this to her. Did you check with all workers and security at her place? It might be an inside work too.”

“Yes, we are inquiring with all workers, too. Thanks for your time and also for your suggestions, Sanjay. We shall be in touch. Feel free to reach out to me if you remember anything that might help us,” said Shyam.

 

“So what do you think? Is it Sanjay?” asked Kiara curiously.

“It’s too soon, Kiara. We shall talk to others and decide.”

Shyam then moved on to Ritu.

“Hi Ritu, I’m Shyam and this is Kiara. As you would know, we are looking into the death of Maya. We thought we could catch up with you and have a small chat,” said Shyam.

Ritu was a smart looking woman with blonde hair and a round face. She had a bob cut. She looked apter as a TV Serial actress than a mainstream actress. Shyam noticed that she was wearing a bright red jacket which seemed to be a misfit to her dark blue shirt and white pants. ‘Fashion is really evolving these days,’ thought Shyam. Or maybe not … He parked his thought for another day.

“Of course, detective. Anytime. Maya was my best friend. I knew her only after the show started and when we were both cast in it. But in a short time, we grew very fond of each other. I can’t imagine something like this happening to Maya,” said Ritu and started crying.

Immediately Kiara got up, went to Ritu’s side and put her hands around her shoulders.

“It’s fine Ritu. If you can’t talk now, we understand,” said Kiara.

“No, no, I’m fine. Sorry about that. I couldn’t control myself. I just can’t believe I won’t be able to see her anymore. How can someone who was with you just the other day smiling, full of life and vigor suddenly disappear?” said Ritu.

“I understand. Prayers and fond memories are what we have to remember our dearly departed. I cannot begin to understand what you might be going through right now, Ritu. But we must ensure that we bring justice to Maya’s death. If you could help us with anything that Maya might have said to you or you felt something was off, please let us know,” said Shyam.

Kiara took her hands from Ritu and silently sat beside her, all the time, looking surprised at Shyam.

‘The stone does melt at times,’ thought Kiara.

“Maya seemed very happy after marrying Ajay. It was like all she ever wanted was happening to her. She had a good life, a loving husband and a lead role in a TV serial. But last few days, she was upset about something. She turned up for shooting a little late than usual and she wasn’t her enthusiastic self lately. When I asked her about it, she shunned it away saying I was imagining things,” said Ritu.

Shyam listened to Ritu with rapt attention.

“Do you have any idea what might have been bothering her?” asked Kiara.

“No, she never told me. She seemed very secretive. But I think it might have to do with her conversation with Sanjay. I overhead Sanjay and Maya having an argument a couple of days back and that involved Ajay,” said Ritu.

“Could you please elaborate it for us?” asked Shyam.

“No No, I guess it was nothing. I don’t want to complicate matters,” said Ritu.

“Even a small piece of information will go a long way in solving the case, Ritu. So please do tell, I insist,” said Shyam.

Ritu started narrating the conversation exactly as it panned out.

 

“What the hell is going on between my husband and that bitch?” Maya’s patience was at its lowest ebb and she was ready to burst.

Sanjay knew that she was serious. “Look, Maya. There is nothing going on between the two of them. Just a little bit of healthy flirting, I’d say.”

“Flirting? Healthy flirting? Really Sanjay . . .” she rolled her eyes in disgust. “That’s what you men call it? There is nothing healthy about flirting, Sanjay, not for a married man. Healthy flirting is a term introduced by perverted men who want to lend legitimacy to their extramarital dalliances. Flirting invariably has a sexual connotation to it.”

She got up from her seat and walked around the room gesticulating and muttering something to herself. Suddenly she stopped, turned back, looked at Sanjay and asked, “Did my husband sleep with her? You are his friend. Did he ever tell you anything about it?”

 

“That’s it? Do you have any idea whom Maya was referring to?” almost shouted Kiara shaking Ritu’s shoulders.

Shyam shot a look at Kiara, raised his voice a little and said, “Kia!”

“It’s okay. Someone walked in and they changed the topic,” said Ritu.

“Thanks for your time, Ritu. It was helpful. You take care now. We shall look into it,” said Shyam and dismissed Ritu.

 

“Do you think, Sanjay is the one? Obviously, he hid this conversation with Maya from us,” asked Kiara.

“No, we can’t conclude anything yet. There would have been plenty of reasons why Sanjay choose to hide this from us. We either need to make them confess or need solid proof to build a case against them,” said Shyam.

 

They took a short break for lunch. Upon returning, Shyam looked confused and little offbeat.

“What’s up with you?” asked Kiara.

“I just got the postmortem results. We don’t have the complete information yet, but few hours before Maya was murdered, she was intimate with someone,” said Shyam.

“Any idea with whom it could have been? It can easily be Ajay. They are husband and wife after all,” said Kiara.

“No it’s not Ajay,” said Shyam looking perplexed. “It’s Sanjay.”

“What? You have to be kidding me. After all that!” exclaimed Kiara. She took a pause, looked at Shyam’s reaction and said, “And you don’t seem convinced.”

“Yes, I don’t. Sanjay is not an idiot to kill Maya right after he had been intimate with her,” said Shyam.

 

Shyam and Kiara then went back to Ajay’s place and had a talk with the security.

“Sir, Maya madam’s car came into the apartment at 12:30 p.m. and she was alone when she came to the apartment. Ajay sir had already left the building by the time she entered. I didn’t see anyone else entering or leaving the apartment last night,” said the security.

“Did you by any chance check the truck of the car?” asked Shyam.

“Yes sir. She had some luggage and asked me to carry it inside. There was no one else in the car,” said the security with an air of confidence.

 

“I believe Sanjay and Maya were not intimate in the apartment. Wherever they had been together, Maya then left Sanjay and came alone to the apartment. But someone was waiting for her inside while she came,” said Shyam.

“Do you think Ajay might have never left the building? He could have pretended to leave but then returned via some secret entrance. It’s his home after all,” said Kiara.

“That’s a possibility. But I think we need to re-visit the crime scene to see if we can get any more clues,” said Shyam.

“Hi, Detective. Were you able to find anything?” asked Ajay once they entered the apartment. Ajay looked shaken and was still in his dress he wore the previous day. He had a glass of rum in his hands.

‘Either he should be a really good actor or he is genuinely not the killer,’ thought Kiara.

“We have few suspects in mind, Ajay. But we haven’t been able to conclusively find anything yet,” said Shyam. He started to go through the crime scene inch by inch in the hopes of finding anything tangible.

“So did you talk to everyone in the studio? There was a cameraman who always had issues with Maya’s poses. And then there was this make-up artist who Maya asked me to fire last month. I guess you would have talked to Sanjay. Maybe you could also talk to his girlfriend,” said Ajay.

Both Shyam and Kiara looked at Ajay with Surprise.

“Sanjay has a girlfriend? I thought he was single,” said Kiara. She looked like she was annoyed that she missed out this tabloid gossip.

“Yes, it’s kind of their secret. She is a blonde girl with short hair. She was also Kiara’s close friend at work. Sanjay likes to keep his personal life, well personal,” said Shyam.

Kiara was dumbstruck.

At the same time, Shyam noticed two blue colored buttons lying at the right upper corner of the bed, which the forensics team might have missed confusing with all other stuff in the room.

“Ajay, does your security have an entry of all the visitors for the past 2 days?” asked Shyam.

“For last 2 days, you ask?” quizzed Kiara.

“Yes, I believe the murderer has been in the home for the last 2 days and we both know who has been missing for 2 complete days from work,” said Shyam with an air of finality.

 

——-

Haven’t figured out yet? Here you go…

“What the hell is going on between that bitch, Maya and you?” Ritu’s patience was at its lowest ebb and she was ready to burst.

Sanjay knew that she was serious. “Look, Ritu. There is nothing going on between the two of us. Just a little bit of healthy flirting, I’d say.”

“Flirting? Healthy flirting? Really Sanjay . . .”she rolled her eyes in disgust. “That’s what you men call it? There is nothing healthy about flirting, Sanjay, not for a committed man. Healthy flirting is a term introduced by perverted men who want to lend legitimacy to their extramarital dalliances. Flirting invariably has a sexual connotation to it.”

She got up from her seat and walked around the room gesticulating and muttering something to herself. Suddenly she stopped, turned back, looked at Sanjay and asked, “How long have you been sleeping with her?”

——– THE END ——–

Leave a comment if you want the Chronicles of Shyam & Kiara Series to continue!

Series: Chronicles of Shyam & Kiara! -“The perceptions of Glamour” – (Part 1)

4:15 a.m.

Yawning.

“You know that I don’t work for you full time,” commented Kiara.

“First of all, stop yawning in the job and second, there are no timings for homicide detectives. You wanted to tag along with me and learn more about our line of work. Then get used to it,” smirked Shyam.

Kiara punched him in the arms. “At least bring me a coffee next time,” retorted Kiara. “So what’s the case?”

“Just one and half hours back, a woman named Maya was killed in her own apartment. We are going straight to the crime scene to investigate,” said Shyam with a calm head.

“You are saying as if we are going out for a new movie that’s released yesterday. It’s a murder, Shyam. Someone is brutally murdered. Show some signs of human emotions, Mr. Robot,” teased Kiara.

“Kiara, in your profession of Journalism, you should focus more on clues & facts and try to unravel the mystery behind stories. If you sit and weep for every case, then you have to keep weeping 24/7,” said Shyam.

But in secret, he admired her compassion and her love for fellow men. Kiara has been a pleasant surprise to an otherwise monotonous life of Shyam. Shyam is a homicide detective in his early thirties trying to take life one step at a time. He was so caught up with his professional life that he didn’t bother himself with dating or matrimony. “There is still plenty of time,” will be his usual remark whenever his sister or mother brought up the topic. He did have a decent friend’s circle but seeing dead bodies and talking to suspects who would also be the depressed relatives and friends of the victim, made Shyam more rigid and straightforward in the emotions department.

During one such day, where Shyam was busy with a case, his superior and friend, Sudipta introduced Kiara. Kiara is a budding (wannabe) journalist who wanted to investigate and report about crimes happening in Mumbai. She was the niece of Sudipta and she wanted to observe the happenings in crimes department to get some inspiration and probably inside news. She didn’t take a particular interest in Homicide, but Sudipta thought Kiara will be a welcome change to Shyam’s life.

Kiara was a short and fair looking woman at 4’9’. She always wears jeans and a T-shirt with funny memes printed over it. Being in her mid-twenties, she was trying to find where her passion lies.

“So where are we going now?” asked Kiara.

“We are going to an apartment in Land’s End, Bandstand, Bandra.”

“What?” shrieked Kiara. “That’s near the residence of Shahrukh Khan. I guess it’s a celebrity. I wonder who that could be.”

“As I told, the woman’s name is Maya. Supposedly she is a famous TV Serial Actress,” said Shyam.

“You are not talking about Maya from ‘Life is beautiful’ serial, right? The one telecasted in Colors?” asked Kiara looking aghast.

“The one and only!” said Shyam.

“Oh no, she was an amazing actress. How will I ever break this news to my Grandma? How can she ever imagine ‘Life is beautiful’ without the character of Maya?” cried Kiara.

Shyam rolled his eyes and stopped himself from snapping back at her.

“Just promise me, you won’t ask for anyone’s autograph in the crime scene,” teased Shyam.

“I’m not insensitive like you, Mr. Robot” retorted Kiara. “But I don’t think it would be such a bad idea to collect their visiting cards. You know, it will come in handy during an investigation.”

‘I knew she was trouble when I signed in. But this…. !!’ thought Shyam.

Shyam couldn’t control his smile. He usually smiles in public. But this time it was different. There was a shimmer in his eyes.

 

Shyam drove silently the rest of the way, careful not to implant any other ideas in her head. The house was huge with security at the entrance and a big parking space. Three cars were parked in the Parking space and the security guided Shyam & Kiara, inside the house. Kiara had her mouth open all the way. She was mesmerized with the grand entrance, the Mercedes and the BMW parked outside and as if it was all just a teaser, they were welcomed to a breathtaking hall with classic interior design. There were small footsteps leading to the upper floor right in the middle of the hall with a slider along with it.

“Stop gawking, Kiara. You are in a crime scene,” said Shyam. Kiara couldn’t hide her delight until they reached the bedroom where the body of Maya lay in the middle of the room half-naked, with her hands tied to the bedposts and her throat slit open. Kiara used all her will-power not to scream. This has to be one of the gruesome murders she had ever seen.

There were scratches in Maya’s hands & hips and her toe nails were plucked out forcibly.

“Her face cheeks was covered in mascara probably because she had cried a lot,” observed Shyam. “I believe the killer might have tortured her before killing her.”

“But this is really bad. I guess the killer was sloppy. Just look at this crime scene. I bet we could get hundreds of DNA samples from this crime scene. Easy one, I guess,” claimed Kiara.

“Hold your horses, Kiddo. This could also be to mislead us in the wrong direction. We need to first have a chat with her husband,” said Shyam.

“Oh, the evergreen and handsome, Ajay,” chirped Kiara. “You know Ajay is the Director of the show ‘Life is Beautiful’. Ajay and Maya met each other only when the shooting for this show started and fell for each other eventually. It’s more of a quick marriage. Within a year of meeting each other, their dating life became public knowledge and before we know, they announced their marriage,” said Kiara in a single breath.

“I can see you are using your free time wisely,” joked Shyam. But he took note of what Kiara just said. “It seems to be a rushed marriage. This makes Ajay one of the prime suspects,” said Shyam.

“Are you kidding me? No way, Ajay would have been involved in this. Theirs was a perfect love story,” said Kiara.

‘We shall see about that,’ thought Shyam.

 

Inquiry with Ajay didn’t reveal any tangible clues for their investigation. But Ajay didn’t have any solid Alibi. It’s clear that Ajay was out on a trip to look for shooting locations. Ajay had claimed that he wanted to shoot a late night scene and exploring it after midnight seemed the best idea for him. He had not taken his driver along with him. He was not able to give any convincing reason for driving on his own on a late night when he had 3 cars and 2 drivers.

“As he told, Ajay was looking for some quiet time and sometimes artists need alone time for inspiration,” said Kiara.

“Kiara, he was not looking out for inspiration for a story or a new concept. He was just looking out for a shooting spot. I say, he would have been more comfortable sitting in the back seat so that he could focus on the location rather than the road,” said Shyam.

“But suspecting the husband is the first thing anyone would do. Don’t you think he would have been better off killing her in some other place than her own bedroom?” asked Kiara.

Shyam didn’t reply. He just started walking towards the door. “Hey, where are you going? We were having a conversation,” bellowed Kiara and ran behind him.

“Do you want to sit here and create improbable possibilities or go to the field and collect more information?”

“Okay Okay, so where are we going now?”

 

After returning to the station from the Maya’s residence, they now headed towards the Shooting spot of “Life is Beautiful” to directly interact with the co-actors.

“OMG, OMG, OMG, pinch me! I’m actually surrounded by all the celebrities. I was never close to so many famous people at the same time,” exclaimed Kiara.

“They are all just TV serial actors,” pointed out Shyam.

“So what?”

“Nothing. Shall we get into the work?”

After going through the entire crew, all the main actors & background workers, Shyam concluded on 3 main suspects whom he felt might have more to benefit from Maya’s death in one way or the other.

He noted down in his notepad, while Kiara kept correcting him and giving pointers.

Prime Suspects

  • Ajay – Husband / Not a convincing Alibi / First Suspect in the case / No known motivation identified to kill Maya
  • Sanjay – Ajay’s best friend from childhood and Maya’s close acquaintance from work / Known to have spent more time with Maya recently / No known motivation identified to kill Maya / booked a room at Trident hotel at the time of the murder but no solid evidence that he was in his room
  • Ritu – Maya’s close friend / currently in a small role and more to gain if Maya leaves the show / On Personal leave for 2 days due to sickness / Claims to be at her residence at the time of the murder / No known Alibi

“If it must be one among this three, then my first choice would be Sanjay. He is always quite cranky,” said Kiara.

“Being Cranky doesn’t qualify to be a murderer, Kiara,” said Shyam.

Shyam took turns in having a chat with each of the suspects. Obviously, he didn’t share his viewpoint with others. He exhibited a concerned detective who had their best interests at heart.

“I’m surprised by the way you handle the suspects,” said Kiara.

“Kiara, out of all these people excluding one all others are innocent. And they might be deeply troubled with what happened to Maya. Also if we don’t be gentle with him, then we can’t extract all the information from them,” said Shyam and winked at her.

“Can I sit with you in the inquiry, pls, pretty pls!” asked Kiara.

“Ok. But only observation, no questions. Got it?” asked Shyam.

 

Will Shyam & Kiara figure out the murderer? OR will there be a new twist to the tale? Wait and watch.

Update: Next part to be released on 5th Jan 2019.

A Devil Within… A Devil Without! (Part II) – The Emergence

Budha waited patiently for the killer to make his appearance again. He went to all the spots where the murders happened and did thorough research.  Soon he started finding some patterns and weak spots of the mystery man. He always made sure to cut the neck of his victims and left the dead bodies in open space for people to find out. It’s clear that he wanted to leave a message to the world.

Also, he made sure to completely know about his victims before taking any decision. A few eye-witnesses clarified that they have been questioned about these victims by a man with a thick beard and a sword lying around his torso. So Budha decided to leave a trap. If he made one of his men to impersonate as a criminal to lure Sudyumma in, then he might notice any flaw and get alerted. He instead decided to use a real criminal. And he did find one.

“Sir, with all due respect, I don’t think it’s such a great idea,” said Bheema.

“You should have said that to yourself before you decided to become such a low-life,” said Budha.

“But I didn’t do anything so heinous to come into his radar,” said Bheema, desperation etching all over his face.

“And that’s where I come in, my friend. I have my little birds who can pass around any message I want easily all across the village. I should say, I pitched in two or three good deeds to your list,” winked Budha.

“What if he kills me? What if you can’t stop him and he cuts off my neck?” asked Bheema.

“Are you implying that I’m not competent enough to stop a criminal? You are saying that the future of this kingdom is lying in incapable hands?” asked Budha with a murderous look.

And that was the last time the topic was brought to the debate.

Budha ensured to choose the location in the middle of the forest so that Sudyumma can’t easily get away by water. He made Bheema camp out in the forest and made his soldiers surround the area in incognito. And then the wait started. 2 days, 5 days, 2 weeks. Budha waited patiently.

But he did miss Ila. He always ensured to return to Sauviragram once every few weeks and spend some time with Ila. He didn’t know what he was going to do when this is all over. Will Ila come along with him to the mainland and rule alongside him? And there is also the issue of Ila’s mysterious past. Who she could have been?

And he heard the sound. The sound of a horse scurrying into the forest. Budha remained well hidden beneath the trees waiting for his prey.

Sudyumma stepped down from his horse and took out his sword.

“Please…. Please don’t hurt me,” trembled Bheema.

Sudyumma had a wicked smile in his face. He walked towards Bheema unhurriedly but never missing his gaze. It was as if he wanted to savor the moment and at the same time increase the fear in his victim.

“Did you ever think about the innocent girl before you took everything from her? Her family? Her life?” asked Sudyumma with a thunderous rage.

“What? What girl? No, no. Lies! All those are rumors,” said Bheema and kept looking at the bushes.

Budha signaled his soldiers to stay put. He wanted to know more about this man.

“Is this what you tell your conscience, every day? You know there is a special kind of hell for people like you,” threatened Sudyumma. He took a swift step forward and clutched Bheema’s throat. One look at his eyes, Bheema screamed and called out for his saviors.

Sudyumma took a step backward with his sword ready in his arms.

“You are a tough man to catch,” said Budha finally stepping out of his hiding spot.

Sudyumma laughed. “You are smarter than you look. I thought it will take you at least few more years to catch up to me. I’m impressed,” said Sudyumma.

“You know me?” asked Budha surprised.

“Yes of course. If someone is hunting you then you need to be aware of that, don’t you? Especially if it’s the prince himself. But honestly I didn’t expect you here, not today,” said Sudyumma.

“I’m afraid this is the end of the road for you,” said Budha and signaled all his soldiers to come out.

What followed next was an epic combat between Sudyumma and Budha. His soldiers didn’t stand a chance. Everyone was down in just a minute. Everyone except Budha.

Sudyumma propelled his sword forward aiming at his right foot, hoping to slow him down. But Budha dodged it and jumped with a step on Sudyumma’s sword and aimed at his shoulders. Both fought intending to injure but not to kill. Budha didn’t understand why Sudyumma didn’t aim for his vital organs. Budha’s sword met with a metal armor instead of flesh and skin. ‘Obviously he came prepared,’ thought Budha.

Sudyumma made use of the momentary surprise from Budha’s end to knock his sword from his hand. But at the same time, Budha used his full body weight and jumped right over Sudyumma, not giving him enough space to use his sword and thus knocking him of his sword as well. Both of them unarmed faced each other with only their courage and bare hands.

“Why are you doing this? Don’t you know it’s against law to take a life of another man?” asked Budha.

“They speak to me. They want revenge. They can’t move on until that’s taken care of. And I can’t trust your law to take down all of them,” said Sudyumma.

“What do you mean they speak to you? Whom are you referring to? The victim’s relatives?” asked Budha puzzled.

Sudyumma just smiled and left a smoke bomb on the ground and before the air cleared, Sudyumma was nowhere to be found. Budha stood spellbound. He could recognize that smile anywhere.

‘But is that even possible?’ thought Budha.

 

A flash of red light, a scream loud enough to shook a village and clouds enveloping him, he saw a man standing in front of him.

Sudyumma never felt such rage from any human before in his life. He heard the man speaking some words but he couldn’t hear anything.

And then before he knew it, he was transforming. Transforming in ways he never thought humanly possible.

Slowly she started to lose consciousness. Ila found herself along the shores of the river Godavari with no memory of how she got there or who she was. ­­

A Devil Within… A Devil Without! (Part I)

Almost 1000 years ago, after the era of Gautamiputra Satkarni, there was a majestic king, forgotten in history, armed with his knowledge, power and tenacity. He ruled his kingdom with valor and beauty where roses sang and water sparkles danced. A kingdom where art was celebrated in its grandest form. Musicians and performers of varied art forms traveled far across the mighty oceans to indulge in the King’s celebrations. Happiness and joy poured in from all corners.

But there was something much more sinister going on that no one prophesied. The king was fighting a demon within himself. The demon unleashed itself whenever it saw fit. Slowly and gradually the king started to succumb to its wishes.

 

‘I am sick of this!’ she grunted loudly.

Close to the city of Paithan, in a small village called Sauviragram, which lay along the banks of the great river Godavari, lived a woman named Ila. Being cotton farmers, her family was well to do, but not among the richest in their area. It was the harvest season, and cotton had to be picked from the plants. The wholesalers and traders from Paithan would be arriving in just a few weeks, carrying gold and goods for barter. They would exchange what they carried for the cotton that the farmers grew. The bales of cotton had to be ready in time! Work was at its peak!

But Ila was not to be found in the fields. She wasn’t working. Instead, she was sitting by the banks of the great river Godavari.

She was having nightmares and her biggest concern was not being able to remember her true self. But she knew something was not right.

‘I feel like I’m not comfortable in my own skin. Who I really am? My family claims that my name is Ila and I have lived in Sauviragram from my birth. But I neither have any memory of them nor able to feel any connection towards them,’ thought Ila and sadness started to envelop her.

“Ila what are you doing here? We have lot of work to do,” said Radha.

Radha was Ila’s close friend.

Seeing Ila’s face, Radha quietly sat down next to her and held her hands. They remained quiet for some time. The only sound was the splashing water and the cool breeze which was gliding gradually across the river.

“I’m afraid,” said Ila.

Radha could not do anything about Ila’s situation other than to be at her side. Radha found something very odd about Ila. Though she was beautiful and a kind woman, there was something eerie about her.

“Is it those nightmares again?” asked Radha with concern.

Ila nodded her head. She tried to make sense of it to gain some understanding of her past. But those nightmares were always very cloudy.

With a bow and arrow in his hand and confidence in his step, he marched towards unmarked territory. Slender tall leaves, an uncanny chill and a touch of mystery in the air lead him to a spectacular archway. This place was nothing like he has ever witnessed in all his travels throughout the world. This felt…. Godly.

‘Nooooooooo,’ shouted Ila.

“Are you alright? I thought you had your nightmares only at night,” asked Radha.

“No, I’m having some flashes even during the day. But it feels very real. It’s like I’m remembering something and revisiting my memories than a dream,” said Ila.

“Does that mean you are remembering your past?” asked Radha excitedly.

“I don’t think so. These seem very different. The dreams or memories that I have does not have any scary moments. At least not so far. I just feel at peace. But something triggers within me and I wake up yelling and feeling panic,” said Ila.

“Excuse me, is this Sauviragram village?” asked a stranger. He was accompanied by three more men. All of them got down from their horses and the stranger who raised the question stepped towards them.

Ila turned towards the stranger anxiously. She was afraid in case the stranger had overheard their conversation. But even in her fear, she couldn’t help but notice his handsome looks, thick mustache, and eyes worthy of a warrior. She gave a mischievous smile towards Radha. Radha was one step ahead. She not only realized that Ila likes this stranger but also that this man seemed completely lost in Ila’s beauty.

“Yes, you are in the right place,” said Ila.

He took few seconds for the stranger to regain his composure.

“Thanks. My name is Budha. I’m the prince of Bahlika. And may I know the names of the lovely ladies with whom I’m honored to make acquaintances?” said Budha.

“I’m Ila and this is my friend Radha. We belong to this village,” said Ila.

“Can we know what brings the prince to our humble home?” asked Radha.

“I’m here in pursuit of a murderer. A man named Sudyumma has been very active in the past year leaving behind dead bodies in his path. I’m here to find this mysterious killer,” said Budha.

“Well, some say he is a savior,” pitched in Radha.

Ila was surprised to know that Radha has known about this man and she never did.

“What do you mean by that?” asked Ila.

“There is a rumor going on that there is a man who is punishing the wrong doers of our land,” said Radha.

“No common man has rights to punish a citizen of our dynasty. It’s by Ikshvaku’s rules that we must lead our kingdom,” said Budha.

He seemed agitated.  But as soon as he saw Ila, he felt at peace. She was teary eyed when he first saw her but even that tears added beauty to her eyes. ‘Oh, you lucky tears! You get to dance around her eyelids and glide along her silky cheeks,’ thought Budha and it brought a smile to his face.

“We can take you to our village leader. He will help you with our quest,” said Ila waking Budha out of his reverie.

“Yes sure,” smiled Budha.

 

“How dare you step into our private quarters,” shouted the voice. Sudyumma held his bow tightly. He knew he entered into an unknown part of the forest, but never realized it was someone’s personal quarters.

‘But how do I know that?’ thought Sudyumma. All he wanted was a few days of peaceful hunting. If he wanted to take over Pratihana he needed to practice.

“Hello anybody there?” asked Sudyumma warily.

A flash of red light, a scream loud enough to shook a village and as clouds enveloping him, he saw a man standing in front of him.

Slowly he started to lose consciousness.

 

Ila watched as Budha introduced himself to all village leaders. Everyone treated him with the utmost respect and care. One reason was love towards their future king and other was the fear of the current king. They don’t want to mistreat the prince and get the wrath of the king.

“Thanks for bringing me here. The village leaders have given me five men to help my cause,” said Budha.

“It’s our duty,” said Ila.

“Are you free now, my lady? Would you like to give me a tour of the village?” asked Budha with a pinch of nervousness in his tone.

“You don’t have to be very nervous,” said Ila laughing.

‘Oh the laugh,’ thought the mesmerized Budha.

It didn’t take long for Budha and Ila to become close. Other than the time Budha spent searching for this mysterious vigilante (or a savior according to Radha), he spent all his time with Ila.

 

One lovely evening, Ila took Budha to a hilltop alongside river Godavari.

“You are braver than I thought, Ila. You are able to use sword unlike any women from a village I have seen. Also, your knowledge of Vedas and our dynasty’s unique history amazes me, my love,” said Budha.

He was holding her hands and they were making their way to the top of the hill.

Ila just smiled back. Budha learned that Ila was not from Sauviragram. She was found along the shores of the river Godavari a year back. Since she couldn’t remember anything from her past, the village gave her shelter and an elderly couple took her in as their own.

“I just wish you could accompany me on my quest. I believe you are skilled enough for the mission,” continued Budha.

“As I already mentioned to you Budha, I need some time to be alone to try to remember my past as well as spend some time researching on my own to find some answers,” said Ila.

‘But obviously all that time was not giving any progress,’ thought Budha. But he was smart enough to not bring it up.

“No matter who you were or who you want to be, I will always be at your side,” said Budha.

At the same time, a man came running towards them. He informed Budha that there has been one more murder just outside the village.

“It’s just been a day since I returned after my travel to neighboring villages and in all my travel, I keep missing this guy. And this time, it has happened right outside our own village,” said Budha angrily.

They reached the venue in 30 minutes. The victim was lying on the ground spread-eagled. His neck was cut and his head was almost on the verge of tearing apart. There were other marks all over his body.

“I recognize him,” said one of the villagers. “He used to be a farmer. Few years back he left us and started going to different villages doing heinous crimes.”

“He deserved it,” said Ila clenching her fist. She didn’t intend to say it. The words just slipped out of her mouth. Budha looked surprised. She always stayed away from sharing her feelings about this murderer. It was Radha who usually voiced her opinions on this matter.

“I will catch him,” said Budha and he meant it.

 

“Who is this mysterious man, Sudyumma? What’s his intentions? And who is the hero of the story, anyway? Budha or Sudyumma?”….

Wait and watch! To be continued!

What it takes to win a heart?

                                                                                              Finding the key to her heart (Part – II)

I finally mustered the courage and walked towards him. But still I didn’t have any idea what was I supposed to say. I never remained in contact. I didn’t even send him a Facebook request. What was I supposed to say now? And I faced him. I didn’t say anything. Just went and stood in front of him. It took that idiot whole 30 seconds to recover from the shock of seeing me. And then out of the blue, he hugged me. Not a casual ‘Hey there’, hug. But a serious one. I could feel he wanted it. He felt lost and he didn’t seem to be the chirpy kid that he used to be. I wondered what was wrong. And in that moment, I felt I too needed it badly – A friendly, passionate hug. I felt I’m not alone in my war. When he finally let go, I saw tears in his eyes.

“What’s up, kid? Long time,” I winked at him to lighten the mood.

“Hi, Rhea. How have you been? Yup, it’s been a long time,” he said, emphasizing on the word ‘long’. I felt a little guilty.

“You know, my life. It was never easy, but never missed a chance to surprise me either. Like today,” I said, giving him a warm smile, letting him know how much I enjoyed seeing him again.

“Ha ha. I missed you, Rhea. School life wasn’t the same without you. I wish you had stayed longer,” he said sounding genuine.

That’s one thing I liked about him a lot. He was always genuine.

“And do what? Eat idlis all my life? I prefer my PavBhaji, sir,” I said jokingly.

He let out a sweet laugh. Oh, his laugh! I realized how much I had missed him. His sweet smile, his homemade south Indian food, his genuine affection and last but not the least, someone who never bothered about my “Rhea Heartsawesome”.

Oh ya, that’s gonna be the name. And I’m getting copyrights.

“But Rahul, even at 13 you were stronger and fitter for your age. What’s up with you, now? Something seems odd. What happened to your dreams of having a six-pack and becoming a boxer?” I said and punched him. He winced.

I punched him and he winced? Seriously, what’s up?

“Boxer? Who me? Ha ha. What about your idea of becoming an astronaut? How’s that working out for you?” he said and pulled my cheeks affectionately. Oh, Cute! Anybody else and I would have punched in the face.

“Ok, ok. I get it. Dreams change and ideas change. So what’s yours now? What’s exciting in life?” I asked. Any other 18-year-old in his place would have listed a dozen things like going to a business school (Yaya, IIM I know), dating the hot girl of the college or joining the football team. But instead he just smiled back.

“Rhea, it’s getting pretty late. I need to be somewhere. Why don’t we catch up later? I hope you don’t mind that,” he said and gave a piece of paper with his phone number and without so much as a goodbye, he started to leave. I don’t get it. What the hell is going on? Wasn’t I supposed to be his favorite person in school? Wasn’t he supposed to be happy to see me and probably spend the whole evening with me?

And then I saw her. She hugged Rahul and scolded him for wandering off alone. And she gave me a loathing stare. A stare that I’m so used to all my life. And then I recalled. I saw her in front of my home, today morning. One among the crowd waving a placard and shouting slogans.

And that made me look closely at Rahul. He was weak. Really weak. Dark circles under his eyes, struggling to breathe and looking tired. And my heart broke on realizing the truth.

So is this it? Is this how am I going to lose my awesomeness? Or am I stubborn enough to still hold my stand? And all this time, Rahul never said a word. He could have pleaded with me to save his life. He could have blackmailed me emotionally. But he remained a perfect gentleman throughout. How am I gonna react? With a heavier heart, a heart filled with even more confusions and anger, than before, I decided to have a long walk back home.

 

If not for your heart, I would now be free minding my own business

But rather now my heart moves with a mind of its own;

 

If not for your smile, I would now be checking out different boys

But rather now my eyes say no to all but you;

 

If not for your love, I would now be a free soul

But rather now my happiness hinges on yours;

 

If not for your final goodbye, I would now be on cloud nine with you at my side

But rather, now I’m lost searching my way back;

 

And when I reached home, I knew what to do. It’s time to win a heart by giving one up, for a heart that beats for me.

And that made me smile. He always does.

What it takes to win a heart?

                                                                          Finding the key to her heart (Part – I)

      you-have-the-key-to-my-heart

‘Are you sure, Rhea?’ asks my mother.

‘Of course I’m. Survival of the fittest, mother. I’m not going against Darwin. Also I don’t want unnecessary scars on my body.’

It’s a known fact that we are all born to die. And frankly, I don’t understand why it has to be made into such a big deal. If it were not for my mother, I would have said that to the bunch of people outside my house, some of them with young kids, shouting slogans, waving placards, literally wanting me to cut one of my beating hearts out. “Save A Life. Donate!” they shout.

For someone who is one in billions, 7.125 billion to be exact, I expect to be treated better. Scientists are still befuddled regarding my condition that gave me two hearts in my mother’s womb. But years of research and sticking needles into me have led them nowhere, and they have labelled me as a freak mutation. It’s so rare – literally one in all humankind – that they didn’t even name the anomaly (as they call it, I will call it awesomeness). I wanted to name the condition myself, something on the lines of Rhea’s Heartsawesome but the doctors aren’t thrilled with the suggestion. Instead, they want to cut one of them out and save a life. Huh?

An IQ of 180, increased concentration, exceptional athleticism and a phenomenal metabolism rate – are just a few boring benefits of an increased blood circulation. Why would I ever give that up? Or rather for whom would I ever give that up? Not in this lifetime, for sure. One major setback of this whole condition is that I’m viewed as a lab rat for a lot of – how would I term it – ‘curious minds’ out there. People would come from across the world just to observe my movements. After all, I’m one of a kind. There is one more person in this world with two hearts but even she got it only because doctors decided to implant her an artificial heart and keeping her own heart intact to recover. So other than Octopus (which flaunts itself with three hearts), I’m the only other unique species to have more than one heart naturally. Cool, isn’t?

For as long as I can remember, people have always called me with one word. Are you thinking, “Awesome”? Ha, I wish! One word that has lingered around me all my life, “Freak”!! I just don’t get it. It’s either pity or loathing. Why doesn’t anyone see me for who I’m? There are people with Photographic memory, excellent attention to detail, mathematical prodigies and here I’m with an extra heart. Isn’t a heart means a symbol of love? Then, doesn’t it mean I’m someone who can give an extra dose of love, which is very scarce in the world, by the way. Maybe it’s because people are scared of the unknown. So fixated on their idea of a normal, something abnormal takes them off guard. Or maybe I intimidate them? I think I should team up with X-Men. As far as my life goes, my dad has been my Professor Xavier. He taught me how to appreciate what I have and how never to think of it as a deficiency. Actually, he was the one who first came up with the name “Rhea’s Heartsawesome” as a casual remark and I stuck to it.

Today I’m totally worked up. They have gone far too much. Shouting slogans, waving placards? When did it ever happen to normal people? Isn’t supposed to happen only to politicians and since we are in India – when Indian cricketers don’t perform? Why me? Oh yeah, I forgot. I’m not normal in this world.

Usually, I don’t whine or crib about this so much since I got used to it a lot. But today something triggered in me. A rage that I can’t control. Feel like I want to pierce a sword into someone’s heart for wanting to take away my heart. And to take a casual walk in an evening, I need to travel far off from my home where no one would identify me. Leaving my beautiful Marine drive, I took a cab all the way to Juhu Beach just to stare at the same sea and the same crowd. My Gosh, would this day get any worse?

And that’s when I saw him. No, it can’t be. Is it really him? It’s been five years. Last time I saw him, we were just 13. Now I’m officially a major. Am I just imagining things? Because the only person in the world who could make me feel alive is he, Rahul. The only person who didn’t see my deficiency (that’s what people refer to my condition). The only person who really saw me for who I was, who I’m. But that’s really a long time ago. We were just innocent kids. Would he feel the same about me, now? Can I go and talk to him? Will he remember me? Oh my, why today? I feel like exploding from within. But one thing has not changed. Even in a beach, he is eating in a south Indian outlet. Typical! Wouldn’t he ever be bored with his idlis and dosas? Wow, that brought a smile to my face. That’s what he is! Always managed to bring a smile in me. The only day I felt sad around him was the last time I met him, exactly 5 years ago.

“Students, go in line. I don’t want to see anyone breaking the queue,” instructed the teacher to the class for the tenth time.

But Rahul did break the queue and joined Rhea, who was standing in front of the line.

“Hey, madam asked not to break the queue,” said Rhea but still pleased with his presence.

“Forget about her. She always says something or the other. Ramya told that you are moving out-of-town. Why are you going? Where are you going? When will you return?” asked Rahul breathlessly.

“Slow it down, Rahul. To which question am I supposed to answer now?”

“To everything!”

“My dad got transferred to Mumbai and so we are leaving this weekend. I don’t think I will be returning.”

“Why didn’t you tell this earlier to me?”

Rhea didn’t know what to reply. She never understood why she couldn’t muster the courage to break the news to Rahul while she said it easily to her other friends.

‘Did he think I’m going to live in Tamil Nadu forever? My dad was waiting for an opportunity to get transferred to Delhi or Mumbai’, thought Rhea. But she didn’t tell that to him.

“I..I was about to tell you,” muttered Rhea in a meek voice.

“Please don’t go,” pleaded Rahul.

“How can I? My parents are leaving. I have to go.”

“But.. But..”

But before the situation would get further awkward, the teacher dragged Rahul by his ears and took him away. He felt like going too far away from Rhea.

And the next day, Rhea didn’t come to school. The same evening he rushed to her home. They were ready to move.

“Hai Rahul. Did you come to say good-bye?” asked Rhea’s mom affectionately.

“Are you leaving today itself, aunty?” asked Rahul terrified.

“Ya. Didn’t Rhea inform you? We will surely miss you, cute boy. Take care.”

Then she was followed by her husband in bidding goodbye to Rahul and he never got a chance to speak to Rhea. At the last moment, he thrust a bit of paper in her hand and winked. Once she got inside the car, she opened the paper and found a small but cute note:

You look into my eyes and ask, “Do I look pretty?”

        I was actually dumbstruck, but I just reply “No comments”

 You look at me hopefully and ask, “Do you like girls?”

       I wish to reply back, “I like you more than anyone else”, but I just reply “No comments”           

You look at me meaningfully and ask, “What is love?”

       I wish to shout back, “It’s YOU”, but I just reply “No comments”

 “I love you, my dear friend…

                                                                            Do you?”

                                                                                                  Heart filled with none but you – Rahul

Rhea wanted to stop the car and go back to Rahul. She wanted to shout back, “Yeah, me too.”

But even for her age, she was matured enough to remain quiet. But accidentally the note flew from her window.

From a distance, Rahul saw his note thrown out of the window and cried the whole night. And it took five years for them to meet again.

                                                                                       – To be continued