Chapter 1 to 4, synopsis
In past Abdul Khan—a big producer of Hindi movies had used Sashakta’s agency. Many upcoming unknown-writers would send their scripts to Khan in hopes that Abdul would select their script to make a movie. Instead Khan would put his name on the unknown-writers’ scripts to pass it as his own. Sashakta and Shakti would dig-up dirt on those unknown-writers to intimidate and threaten them.
Sashakta Kumar is a licensed private detective in Bombay city. She owns a detective agency ‘Akta.’ Almost middle age, she has no morals and no understanding of right and wrong, as she only cares about her bottom line–money. Her secretary cum assistant, Shakti Singh is her on-and-off lover. He is an aspiring actor who likes socializing with movie producers. He is almost twenty-five years old–a ripe age to start his acting career in C-grade Hindi movies.
Six and half days ago, Sashakta received a new client, Sonia–her former lover. Sashakta learned that Sonia is one of the unknown-writers whose script is with Khan. Sonia asked Sashakta for help. Sonia isn’t aware that Sashakta intimidates writers like her for Khan.
In a rare moment of emotional empathy, Sashakta requested Khan to release Sonia’s script. Khan reacts . . .
Khan shakes his fist, foams at mouth, and stamps his feet. “He is a petulant child,” thinks Reena–his secretary. She watches as saliva slides from the side of his mouth to his chin to her secretary-desk. As he speaks, his saliva rains on the marble floor like Bombay’s drizzle. And just like the suddenness and intensity of Bombay monsoon, his saliva rains on Reena’s secretary-desk and on her big round breast that peeks from under her saree-pallu.
He looks at her wet breast and says, “I have shown her.”
Reena takes the end of her saree-pallu and wipes her breast. She could cover her breast but she does not. Khan moves to stand next to Reena. He leans on the edge of the secretary-desk, runs his tongue across his lips and says, “She will not find a place to hide in Bombay.”
Reena puts the end of her ballpoint in her mouth and says, “I should call others?”
Sashakta is standing with her right hand on her hip, staring at the ceiling fan going round and round. From either side of her face, front hairs try to escape her tight bun. There are few drops of sweat on her forehead. She is in a room that has four walls; a room on the thirty-third floor of Aparna building; a room that is her office. She stands facing the wall with the door. The walls on her either side have two tube-lights each. Opposite the door is the only window in the room.
She stands with her back to the window, ignoring the majestic view of Nariman Point that lies beyond. She doesn’t see people covering their heads with their purses, bags, newspapers, or polythene-bags to protect themselves from the drizzle. She pays no attention to low tide of the Arabic Ocean. From the thirty-third floor people appear smaller than insects.
The wooden door to her office is ajar. It has ‘Akat Private Detective’ written in big gold letters under the number 3313. Beyond the door, her eyes can see the black-and-white thick stripe design on the corridor’s carpet. For a moment she thinks, “Just like my prison!” Even though it is dusk, all the tube-lights are switched off.
In the center of the room, almost towards the wall with the window, is a long sturdy wooden desk. Behind the desk is a revolving office-chair. Draped on its back is a grey cotton hand-towel that bears a faint impression of Sashakta’s head. There are few strands of her hair lost in its weave. Kept on the wooden desk are three un-hooked phones, one black, one green, and one red. On the left wall under the tube-lights are three cane chairs and a small square cane side-table. On the wall with the door are a sofa and a rectangular glass coffee table.
Shakti is half laying and half sitting on the sofa. His newness is a stark contrast to the sofa. He is twenty-five, has medium length curly hair, stark white teeth, and almond shaped eyes. He is dressed in skintight jeans. The flower pattern on his cotton shirt blends with the sofa fabric. His shirt is open almost to his navel and a gold medallion with ‘S’ in a circle hangs from a long gold chain that plays hide-and-seek in his chest hair.
‘Bastard. He is bluffing.” Sashakta says, “Let’s call everyone.”
Shakti walks toward her and says, “It is of no use. We are done.”
Sashakta sits on the office-chair, picks the receiver of the black telephone, dials, and leans back on the grey hand-towel. “Hello.” “Yes . . . Sashakta.” “Is he in?” “But.” She stands. “No, no. I can explain it to him.”
She bangs the telephone receiver on its cradle. She looks at Shakti who is leaning against her desk. In his left hand is the receiver of the green telephone; the index finger of his right hand is on the rotary dial. He hesitates. From the corner of his eye, he watches Sashakta but he continues dialing.
Sashakta unlocks the second-from-bottom drawer of her desk and removes seven files. She opens the top file. She licks her right forefinger and browses through the file’s pages. When she finds the page, she flattens the ridge of the file folder with her left palm. She repeats this for all seven files. She puts the open files next to each other and gasps. She sits with her head in her hands.
Sashakta’s business depends on the superstars of the movie industry. Bollywood celebrities rely on Sashakta and Shakti to manage and intimidate their mistresses and to cover-up their conquests in the Dancing Beer Bars. If Bollywood bigshots withdraw their support because Khan has blacklisted her, Sashakta will have to move out of Nariman Point office and set shop in Dombivali. She will have to start her business from scratch. Lower middle class people of Dombivali hardly have enough income for their own survival. Rather than hire private detectives they prefer to ignore their problems.
Sashakta rests her head on the desk. Shakti gently squeezes her shoulders; she leans back on the office-chair; she rests her head on the hand-towel; she takes a deep sigh. Shakti stands behind her and firmly kneads her shoulders. Outside the monsoon has stared early and it is pouring. There is no shelter anywhere.
The wall clock over the door shows two and seven. The door is closed. There is faint moonlight in the room. Shakti is sleeping on the sofa. Sashakta slides open the second drawer of her desk. She takes out a bottle of Officer’s Choice and a blue plastic glass. The bottle is half-empty. She pours whiskey in the glass and gulps it down in one swift movement. She keeps on pouring and drinking. Sometime in-between all the drinking, she opens the top drawer, takes out a compact, opens it and looks at her bloodshot eyes in the mirror.
She drinks more whisky and laughs softly. She laughs at the situation she has created for herself. She tries to recall her love affair with Sonia. She tries to visualize Sonia naked, but her eyes keep on wandering to the shirtless Shakti sleeping on the sofa.
She laughs again. Shakti stirs and moves to lie on his left side. The ‘S’ medallion hanging in the gold chain from his neck almost touches the grey cement floor. He doesn’t open his eyes. Sashakta places the open compact on the desk. She positions it such that she can only see her right eye in the mirror.
Sashakta mutters, “So this is what I get for cleaning their messes? threats instead of rewards? Ok! Khan thinks he can box me in a corner? How will he operate without the likes of me? he is no better than me.”
She pours more whiskey in her glass and continues, “His films are nothing without me. I should get my name in the end credits. Hell, I should get my name before his in the opening credits! his world is of my making. I can do anything.”
She screws the cap of the whiskey bottle, revolves her office-chair, and lifts the bottle against the light from the window. It is one/tenth full. She closes the compact and speaks loudly, “I am as important as Khan in every way. Bollywood is built by me. I will shake his foundation! I will relegate Khan to Dombivali.”
She stands and walks towards the sleeping Shakti. She announces, “Similar to my name, I am strong. I am Sashakta.”
Shakti opens his eyes. Sashakta says, “I will show them the real hell.”
From the bottommost drawer of her desk, Sashakta takes out a red diary. She opens the first page and keeps it on her desk. She picks the receiver of the red telephone and starts dialing. She plans to call every person she has ever intimated.