A friendly fly on the wall has been privy to a number of recent interrogations that have been taking place in Mumbai in connection with the alleged Sushant Singh Rajput murder / suicide case (strike out whichever is not applicable), the Rhea Chakraborty angle along with her brother, the death of Disha Salian under mysterious circumstances followed by several other noteworthy names that have now surfaced. In fact, the murder investigation appears to have turned stone cold and the drug possession, consumption and peddling links have taken pride of place. We have the CBI, NCB, ED, the Police and who knows, perhaps even the FBI, CIA, MI5, ISI and KGB involved. I do not know the name of China’s primary dirty tricks department, but let’s bung them in as well, to show there’s no ill feeling. Anything is possible. After all, when it comes to drugs, the international cabal must be thoroughly looked into and is rife with exciting and ominous possibilities. From drug peddlers to terror networks is but one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind (with due apologies to Neil Armstrong).
Now to get back to my friend, the fly on the wall, we’ll call him Fred. Fred the Fly has a nice ring to it. Fred has been hanging around those dank walls of police stations and other investigative agencies for several years now, and what he does not know about sleuths and their methods can be written on a pinhead with a pneumatic drill, as I have heard it described. And believe me, those walls are very dank indeed, as well as damp and peeling rapidly. A crummy environment is a sine qua non for criminal face-to-face interactions. Atmospherics is crucial. Fred is an authority on dankness, to say nothing of dampness – the last word, if you must know. So I decided to buttonhole Fred in order to get the lowdown, the real down and dirty on the ongoing skullduggery. I requested him to buzz over to my club where flies can easily evade the membership committee and I did not have to sign him in as a guest. I ordered a beer and a nutty fruitcake, on which Fred (not one to miss a free treat) settled nicely, feasted well if not wisely and we were able to have an extended natter, with nary an interruption. I came straight to the point, without beating around the bush.
‘Right Fred, take a break from that nutty fruitcake will you? You are in danger of being smothered. I have some questions for you. What exactly did they ask Deepika Padukone? And what did she say?’
Fred brushed away a morsel of cake and replied, ‘I think one of those CBI nerds, or it might have been the NCB I can’t be sure, I was looking down from a high ceiling, was very keen to know if her backhand was as good as her father Prakash’s. All-England badminton champ in 1980, don’t you know?’
‘Listen Fred,’ I riposted, ‘I am not interested in Deepika’s backhand, or forehand, come to that. And I know all about Prakash’s exploits at the All-England. Stick to the subject matter, will you?’
Fred took another dive into the fruitcake and came up smilingly, ‘Look my friend, I am reporting the conversation verbatim. Can’t you see, the inspector was trying to put her at her ease with some casual small talk. Standard procedure. He had done his homework, or maybe he was a bit of a badminton freak. He could also have been angling for Prakash’s autograph, or even a selfie.’
‘Why not a selfie with Deepika? Get to the point, for God’s sake, Fred. You are wearing me down.’
‘I am coming to the point, just be patient. Can’t you get them to add a bit more chocolate sauce to this cake? It’s a bit dry. I like it sticky and sweet. All right, all right. Don’t get so nettled. The thing is, Deepika was refusing to play ball. They pushed her to explain words like “hash” and “brown stuff” found on her mobile phone chats, but she was equal to the task. The stunning starlet said she was sharing her breakfast menu with her socialite friends, hash browns being her favourite. I tell you, she’s a clever one.’
Truth to tell, I was beginning to get a bit nettled myself. ‘Listen Fred, I haven’t got all day. Let’s move on to this Sara Ali Khan babe. How did the NCB or CBI or ED or whichever alphabet soup was involved, get on with this scion of the famous Pataudi and Tagore family?’
Fred smiled through his nut crumbs and chocolate sauce. ‘What a combo, eh? The NCB chap was positively slobbering. “I would love to meet your Granny, Sharmilaji. I don’t know which was my favourite film of hers, Aradhana or Amar Prem. With Kaka Rajesh Khanna, they were just too good. That song in Amar Prem, sailing on the Hooghly under the Howrah Bridge, Chingari koi bhadke, aaahaahaa! Brilliant composition by Pancham.” Then this NCB bloke went on to tunelessly warble Mere sapnon ki rani kab aayegi tu from Aradhana.’
I could not believe what I was hearing. ‘Fred, you’re having me on, aren’t you? Stop joking and jerking me around. Next you’ll tell me Sara and this NCB hound danced around the office singing that Aradhana duet, Gun guna rahe hain bhanware, khil rahi hai kali kali. Get serious now and tell me all about the rubber truncheon and the third degree. I am sure Sara was in tears and begging for mercy.’
‘Anything but, my fine, feathered friend,’ retorted Fred, ‘au contraire, she was quick to spot the NCB guy’s weakness for celebrity spotting and hunting. She asked him if he knew about her Grandad’s cricketing exploits. You should have seen his face. He was the one in tears. Tears of joy. “Madam, Tiger Pataudi, my hero. With one eye and once with one leg, he hammered all those English and Aussie bowlers. What a handsome man! You have the same aquiline nose, Sara Madam.” The guy was beside himself. End of interview.’
I was more startled by Fred’s sudden infusion of French. Au contraire? Whatever next? ‘So that was Sara taken care of. What about this Shraddha Kapoor dame? What was her story? Come on Fred, so far I have got nothing from you but some stupid stuff on badminton, cricket and some Hindi film songs. You are a sorry excuse for a fly on the wall. More a fly in the ointment. What a waste of gooey chocolate cake?’
Fred was quick to take umbrage and remonstrate. ‘That is precisely my main grouse. The cake is simply not gooey enough. Where’s the chocolate sauce I ordered?’
‘Getting saucy, are we? Come on Fred. I am waiting. Give me the dope.’
‘Funny you should say that. That is exactly what the NCB honcho told Shraddha Kapoor. “Give me the dope.” Shraddha told him she had no dope on her and added, rather tartly, “I think we all know who the dope is round here.” That was telling him! That put the NCB chappie’s back up. “Listen young lady, just because you belong to the Kapoor clan and Raj Kapoor is your grandfather, don’t think you can throw your weight around.”‘
‘”I do not belong to the Raj Kapoor clan, you dolt. Nor to the Anil Kapoor brood. I am the proud daughter of the famous comic villain, Shakti Kapoor. Get your facts straight, before you accuse me of anything else.” Shraddha was livid. The NCB dolt was startled. “Daughter of Shakti Kapoor, my goodness! That guy was insufferable on screen. Now I am convinced you’ve been up to no good! I am sorry, I shan’t waste any more time on you. I will leave it to the Mumbai police to deal with you.” Shraddha left the room beaming. The Mumbai police will be putty in her hands.’
Fred the Fly looked exhausted after this latest revelation. He hopped on to the rim of my beer mug and quaffed a generous glug and hopped back to what remained of the gooey cake.
I needed to wrap the evening up. ‘Listen Fred, it’s time for your beddy-byes. Can you give me any last morsels of tidbits from whatever happened at the NCB’s den? What about Rakul Preet Singh? You left her out.’
Fred looked dead beat. The cake had taken its toll. ‘Never heard of her. Look, all I know is I saw some names and scribblings on the NCB ogre’s diary. My eyesight is not what it once was. Incipient cataract. For what it’s worth, I could make out stuff like KWAN, KJ, Kshitij, SK, SRK, AK 47 and all kinds of other rubbish I could not decode. So we’ll just have to leave it at that. There’s more gossip from Sandalwood regarding Sanjana and Ragini, but they are from south India, so they don’t count.’
So is Deepika from the south, but I let it go. Time was pressing. Instead, I persisted. ‘Was there any mention of Sushant Singh Rajput or Rhea Chakraborty or Disha Salian?’
Fred was quick to respond, ‘Look, that’s all old hat. No more newsworthy. Some television channels tried very hard to nail some actors. Now everyone is saying it was suicide, after all. What a bummer, eh? However, when the NCB chief came out to address the press, all he was willing to reveal was that he deeply appreciated the dress code all these hot-shot actresses adhered to. Sober pastel shades, matching masks, elegant kurtas and churidars were the order of the day. Saris would have been nice, but we must be grateful given what they have been accused of, that they did not turn up in hot pants and skimpy tops!’
So saying, Fred the Fly dived one last time into the chocolate cake, struggled to crawl out and collapsed under his own insupportable weight. A stiff, passing breeze blew him away. Fred was now one with the elements. His task was done. RIP.
Moral of the story – you cannot have your cake and eat it too!