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Your days are numbered


Fahima Yousouf

“Autograph please, Ma’m”

“You are my all-time favourite. Please give me an autograph.”

        Fans crowded around the gorgeous lady in a glittering turquoise gown outside Patkar Hall, showering her with bouquets and autograph books. Her heart swelled with pride on seeing so many people struggling to get a small signature from the famous actress, the shining star of tinsel world. She scribbled in a couple of books and walked haughtily, her secretary pushing away the swarming crowd to make way to her black Mercedes. With a nod of her head, the driver set off towards the most beautiful house in Juhu, Mumbai.

        Sandhya Mitra, who hailed from a middle-class family, was lucky to establish herself in the cine field within a short span of time. She had never let anything get in the way of her dream of becoming an actress. She got her first break when she modeled for a local fashion pageant by the recommendation of her classmate, a relative of the show’s chairman. Her hard work paid off when she won the event. After that she started doing modeling as full-time duty knowing that it would serve as a gateway to filmdom. Her irresistible charm won the heart of Bhimraj Patel, veteran actor who saw her in various shows. As an excellent talker, she was able to ‘soft-soap’ him and get her first chance in a movie. In 3 years time she had done eight films, four in progress and dozens waiting to get her callsheet.

        On reaching her home, Floral Towers, named after the exquisite garden she had on her terrace three stories high, she strolled past the grand walnut doors at the entrance and made her way to the bath. She ordered her maid for a Jacuzzi with chamomile and ylang ylang essential oils fragranced off with lavender. After an exhilarating experience she dressed in a red satin nightrobe and sat in front of the dresser. As she sat smoothing her auburn tresses, her thoughts shifted to her family. Memories of chasing her kid brother for hiding her mascara, the tantrums her father threw on seeing her term exam marks, the way she sobbed silently hugging her mother floated by.

        Her father, an industrious officer in a private trading company, dreamt of seeing his daughter as an IAS officer. She remembered how her father subscribed only for Competition Success and India Today magazines. A forlorn expression took over her immaculate features as scenes of the fights with her father played in her mind. She could never convince him on how much she aspired to get into cinema. When she got into modeling, he stopped talking to her altogether. Till now, her acting talents had not been able to win the heart of her father and renew their relationship. But she had decided not to see him first. She wanted him to come down and praise on her achievement.

        The starting notes of Linkin Park’s Numb cut through her thoughts. She turned to see her cellphone vibrate and flash with the streaming polyphonic ringtone. She turned it on and said, “Hello”

“Miss Sandhya Mitra,” enquired a husky male voice.

“Yes, speaking,” she said in a pretentious tone.

There was a brief silence. The husky voice spoke again, slowly and clearly.

“Your days are numbered. Prepare yourself to die!”

        Her breath caught in her throat. She sat still for a few seconds but soon recovered. “Is this some kind of jo…” she stopped as she heard a soft click. He had hung up.

        She tossed her mobile on the velvet bedspread and flopped down next to it. She lay on her back and stared at the intricate carvings on the head-rest of her mahogany bed wondering which idiot would call a popular actress in the middle of the night and threaten to kill her. She considered herself to be the most well-guarded personality in Mumbai next to the Chief Minister, judging from the security outside her bungalow. In her career she had got lots of threats from pre-successful actresses for taking their place and frustrated producers for refusing their films. She was sure some aggravated person in that lot was trying to scare her off. She remembered she hadn’t checked the number and went through her received calls list. Strangely the number couldn’t be traced. She thought of calling Enquiry but her drooping eyelids forced her to snooze off.

        On waking up, she had completely forgotten the late night episode and got busy with her schedule. She remembered only after the late morning photo session in the Filmistan Studios. As she checked with her secretary for her next appointment, she noticed a man standing across the street, dressed in an olive green biker’s jacket. She thought it was a weird colour for a biker’s jacket, mostly she found only black and brown, occasionally red. As she looked at him, she felt that she had seen him somewhere. She sat thinking for a few minutes, then left it as she got busy with a call from her banker.

        Sandhya next went to Audio Genic Studio where she had a dubbing session. She was about to enter the building when she remembered she had left her script notes in the car. As she turned on her heels, she squinted a glimpse of olive green disappear around the corner. On an impulse, she ran to the street but saw no sign of the man in the biker’s jacket. She then walked briskly inside to avoid unnecessary questioning. Her secretary looked mystified, but followed suit.

        Sandhya’s heart was pounding. She knew she had seen that man outside her house when she left her house that morning. Realization dawned on her. He had to be following her. He must be the late night caller. The one who threatened to kill her. But who was he? She thought hard and tried to remember if she knew anyone who looked like him. Her mind drew a blank.


        Sandhya bit her lip worriedly. The day was a disaster. The director lost his temper on her after they did 15 takes for the same scene. She knew she was screwing up. At this rate, he might opt for a dubbing artist. And she knew it would be a major bombshell in her career. From her first film, she was lucky to dub in her own voice. It gave her a sense of originality and the public loved her voice. Now it would be a tremendous let-down if some foreign voice is heard speaking for her.

        She knew this was serious. She began to think who it could be who wanted so strongly to kill her. She knew she was not a favourite among her co-artists. Many a time she had spoiled many actresses’ dream roles by her way of tackling the producers and middlemen. She had once bribed producer Gaurav Krishna to sign up for his film. Her major adversary was Premalata Yadav, the ex-girlfriend of hotshot actor Vikram Chaterjee who now had his eyes set on Sandhya. There was a long list of people who may want her dead.

        She was now in Khandala, a famous public shooting spot in Mumbai. They were doing a song sequence for the film ‘Pyar Zindagi Hai’. Her make-up man Anoop Kumar had to keep touching up as her face was sweating heavily. Little did he know that it was not only the hot weather but the thumping tension that was making her sweat so badly. As the director signaled her, she started prepping up. She forced herself to calm down and took a few deep breaths. She saw the director busily discussing the scene with the cameraman and the dance director. Her secretary came and told she had a visitor.

        Sandhya frowned as visitors were not allowed during shootings. She glanced at the visitor and was thunderstruck. It was the stalker. He had come here too. Her secretary took her silence as a yes and told the man he could have a few minutes with ‘madam’.

        She looked around the huge mass of viewers. She looked at the film unit comprising of at least 50 people. She knew she was completely safe. This guy would not be that silly to attempt any games here, she thought. He was now within few inches of her. His hand slid into his pocket.

        Sandhya was terrified. What if this maniac was stupid enough to shoot her in the midst of scores of people? She opened her mouth to find she had lost her voice. She shut her eyes and rolled her lips.

“Excuse me,” she heard him say. She opened her eyes and saw him holding a book and pen. “Autograph please.”

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