After a daylong shooting from early morning with repeated retakes, Director Manivarman sought refuge at his usual haunt for some quiet. He sat on a bench near the old bridge across the wide river in the outskirts of the city. The view was somewhat sombre with the sun setting fast and the sky aglow in deep orange with occasional flock of birds flying speedily to their nests.
His eyes were closed but he could not refrain from thinking of the day’s events. The beautiful actress was from a different part of the country new to the local culture and the hero, a busy and impatient guy, could not hide his annoyance at the frequent retakes. Manivarman had to cajole him to go easy and be tolerant reminding him that the film was almost complete. He expected this romantic venture to be a great hit with its bold scenes and novel theme. Nevertheless, a thought flit across his mind that he should pick a local but a new face for his next film.
It was then, he heard a soft sob nearby and turned to see a young woman with disheveled hair and crumpled clothes standing close to the railings of the bridge and peering at the silent water. He immediately knew that she was in some distress and her choice of this lonely location did not augur well.
“Why are you standing alone at this hour near the railings? Don’t you know the river is deep in this part? I suggest you come away from the railings and tell me, if you wish to, what is bothering you. May be I can help you,” he said.
She did not answer though she turned her face towards him. What a beauty with her chiseled features, he thought for a second. “Haven’t you heard me or what?” he prodded her to speak.
She wiped the tears flowing from her eyes with her dupatta and continued to stare at him silently.
“Don’t you follow Tamil? he asked her.
“I am a Tamilian but why should I talk to a stranger about my problems. What is wrong if I stand here? “she asked
“Ï am glad you can speak well. You have every right to stand anywhere you like but it is unusual for a young lady in disheveled condition to be alone at dusk on a bridge with hands on railings. That reveals something is amiss. Do not act rashly with God-given life. Do remember that all these things get sorted out but a life lost can never be retrieved. Sit on this bench for a while. You will feel better.” said the director.
“Thanks for your concern. But you can do little to help me. I beg of you to leave me alone for me to find a solution to my problem, “she said with teary eyes.
“Okay. I will leave you to your own devices but on one strict condition that you promise never to take your life. I am in a hurry to go home, “he said.
“You cannot force me to promise. But, I am willing to share with you provided you promise to leave me alone.” she said in a determined tone. He nodded his head in agreement
“I loved a young man since my college days and he too loved me with same intensity. He sought time for our marriage till his younger sister got married. I agreed as he was a decent and honest guy. I trusted him so much that we spent several weekends together. His sister was married more than a year ago and ever since I have been pressurizing him to marry me. He was putting off initially offering one reason or the other and I did not mind giving him time. But when he came to know a week back that I was bearing his child, his attitude changed abruptly and advised me that I better abort the baby. When I refused, he avoided talking to me or meeting me. When I managed to confront him last week, he had the cheek to tell me that he had already married another woman under pressure from his family. I was devastated and initially thought of complaining to police and have him behind bars but the thought of his newly married wife deterred me. My doctor refused to abort the child saying it is late and would endanger my life. I cannot hide from my parents anymore. I was foolish and will have to pay the price. I assure you that I would not do anything rash and will think over the matter this week calmly. Please go home,” she said.
“It is dark already. Can I drop you at your place?” he asked
She agreed and went to fetch her bag while Manivarman turned and walked towards the car. It was then he heard a loud splash behind him. He looked back and found to his horror the young lady was not to be seen. He ran towards the railing and peered into the silent river for any sign. It was dark already and he could not see clearly. He hit his head repeatedly with his hand loudly remonstrating himself for trusting the troubled girl and for leaving her to walk behind him.
His legs trembled and he sat on the bench muttering to himself when he suddenly heard a loud giggle followed by peals of laughter. He saw the young woman emerging from behind a flower pot with bushy plant and said, “Sorry uncle. Did you fall for my short acting? I dropped a big stone into the river. I know who you are as you are famous and that you visit the place once a while. I was waiting for an opportunity to showcase my skill and I am happy I could do it today. The story was all a big bluff. Can you now help me with a break as promised? “she said smilingly.
Manivarman looking at her beautiful face and bewitching smile decided that here was the new face he wished to employ for his next project.
” I am angry with you for scaring me but appreciate your guts and impromptu histrionic skill. Yes, you will be the leading lady in my next film to commence soon if you pass the screen test. Here is my card. Visit me after a fortnight as I am currently busy,” he said with much relief and a large smile.