1998. I am shooting for Split Wide Open on the roads of Bombay, as it was known then. The shot is simple, I have to walk down the pavement. The street’s cordoned off with ropes and bouncers. I am preparing for the shot, well into my character. Suddenly a desultory voice six inches from my ear says –
I jump, startled. A typical gutka-chewing mumbai-tapori, no more than 16 years old, stands with his hands on his hips, looking totally bored.
‘Uhm…nahi.’ How the hell did he get inside the ropes?? I look around for my manager.
‘Uhm…haan.’ The bouncers are in a corner, fighting for their nashta and cups of tea. I try and catch their eye.
Where the hell is my manager?? Tapori shuffles closer.
‘I shake my head’.
Now Tapori asks, ‘Hero kaun hai?’
I draw myself upto the full extent of my 165 cms and reply haughtlily, ‘Main hoon’
Suddenly Tapori’s face cracks into a huge Vinod Kambli-esque smile. He turns to another spindly Junior Tapori who was apparently standing in Tapori’s shadow all the while and says –’Arre chalna, yaar. Documentary hai.’ I have repeated this tale of extraordinary humiliation many times converting it into a joke but it has left an indelible scar on my self-conscious.
Another time, I was invited to a shoe store to distribute a 100 pairs of shoes free to orphans on Children’s Day. I entered and the lead song from Jhankaar Beats thumped out of the in-house PA system. The children clapped as I ascended a makeshift stage. Then the emcee introduced me. ‘And, ladies and gentlemen, who does not know very talented, very sporting, very loving star that is in between us. Please welcomes, the one and only…Mr Rahul Dev!’ My manager fled the spot.
I have a new manager.
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