I believe it would be considered by most to be very unwise for someone to openly explain the exact reason for committing an act that would generally be considered by the civilized society as a crime. And that too, in a typewritten letter. But the definition of a crime is a very vague one according to the civilized society. And the definition of a civilized society is even vaguer. So I have decided to put forward the complete and unadulterated reason, or reasons if you will, for the act I am about to commit. Without this exposition, I am afraid that the truth will be wiped out of existence by the constant and untiring efforts of the print and electronic media, along with the singular inefficiency of the police department and their army of incompetent investigators.
I write this explanation knowing fully well that you, the reader, may never come to accept its contents with an open mind. But I write this explanation with a mind unburdened by the fears of apprehension. For I have taken the best and most foolproof measures to cover up any traces or, as the detective calls them, clues that may lead the ant to the picnic basket.
I met with the individual the world knows by the name of Aryan Sengupta when I was only twenty years of age. He was a charming young lad, remarkably handsome for his age, and very polite in his ways. Aryan was the sort of boy one’s mother wishes her son to become and one’s son begins to envy. But such feelings did not come to me when I met him. We were both students of the same college, of the same age, and were both pursuing our bachelor’s degree in Bengali, our mother tongue. But we also had another thing in common. Both of us were strongly inclined towards the performing arts.
Aryan was introduced to the sensations of being a stage actor from a very young age. It was mainly due to his father, who was a veteran of Bengali theatre. He introduced the little boy on stage as the lead character of Amal in one of Tagore’s plays, and the debutant was very well received by the audience. That is where it all started for him actually. I say he owes it all to his father. Well, one thing led to another and Aryan now had his very own youth theatre group, ‘The Storytellers’, which gained considerable popularity in busying itself mainly with street plays and performances in some of those innumerable cultural festivals organized by colleges and universities all over the city.
For myself, I should say I was the man behind-the-scenes. My friendship with Aryan developed very quickly and I soon found myself taking a lot more responsibility for his work than I should. I stayed up late at night, attending his rehearsals, going through his lines over and over, correcting his expressions each and every time he faltered or was likely to falter, though he’d seldom do so. Aryan was good at emoting, but his memory betrayed him from time to time.
I remember how I reproached him, and how I made up peculiar mnemonics that would somehow make him remember. Then I had to look into his costumes and his make-up. I had to ensure Aryan didn’t look like a cheap plastic action-figure on stage. Nor was he to look like a person woken up at two in the morning. Strangely and surely, I became terribly involved with his performances. I couldn’t have cared more if it was my own brother in Aryan’s place. I was Aryan’s mentor. And he my ever-obedient disciple. Without me, he would not have become the much celebrated television and film actor that he is today.
It was a beautiful relationship that I shared with Aryan. No friendship was ever so strong, so pure, so fruitful as ours. Maybe it was this boyish charm Aryan has always retained throughout his life. It made me feel for him like a person feels for his younger brother or sister, or in some cases, like a father feels for his son. I will not hesitate to admit that the responsibilities I had to take for Aryan’s sake were by no means a burden for me, as Aryan’s achievements became my own. His dreams became my ambition. Aryan’s life was as precious to me as mine. Aryan completed me.
But this wondrous castle of sparkling white glass that I built for myself started to develop its cracks without fail and drifted towards destruction with the same inevitability with which a man is woken from his dreams.
It was, to my knowledge, during the eighteenth production of ‘The Storytellers’ at the Gyan Manch that this began. Aryan and his team had played to an extremely positive audience, and the curtain call was almost inaudible against their thunderous applause. Aryan, under my training, had learnt to deal with this type of success and to control his excitement, and was sitting calmly facing his mirror in the green room, while I was wiping the last bit of make-up from his forehead. Suddenly, Bishu da, one of the stage hands, rushed inside, eyes glowing with excitement. The people inside were, to say the least, very surprised at this sudden intrusion and naturally demanded an explanation. The man paused for a while to catch his breath, then turned towards Aryan to say, ‘There’s a man outside who wants to see you right away!’
‘What man? What does he want with Aryan?’ I enquired, mildly irritated. I never wanted Aryan to interact with strangers. There was a certain child-like innocence in him, which, I feared, he would lose if he came in contact with the general public.
Bishu da gasped once more for breath. His eyes widened when he said, ‘You don’t want to miss this opportunity Aryan. Chances like this come but once in a lifetime. Go, man go! He is waiting! He told me not to tell you his name, but he wants to see you now. Right away!’ Now there, undoubtedly, was bait hard to reject. So we took it, Aryan and I, and went outside, with Bishu da on our heels. There was, indeed a man, waiting patiently out there, beside the sound console; a tall, lean bespectacled middle-aged figure with long, back-brushed, jet-black hair, a closely cropped beard, and wearing an off white kurta and dark blue corduroy trousers.
Even in the dark shadows of the empty theatre, it was unmistakably clear who the man was. With more than a dozen national award winning features in his bag, it would be difficult not to recognize the man who makes it to the front page of every entertainment magazine there is in this city every other week. Especially if he was standing right in front of you with a warm, welcoming smile on his face.
Bishu da stepped in front with an idiotic grin and gestured to Aryan while saying to the man, ‘Here he is sir.’
That was the very first nail on the coffin. It was early next year when Aryan made his debut on the silver screen, here too as the lead actor. Coincidentally, this film was based on a story by Tagore. Aryan would joke about this later in his interviews to the press, saying that Tagore played a key role in his life as an actor. There were a good deal of magazines and television channels ready to buy that line, for the film was a turning point for both Aryan and his director. After all, who would have dreamt of being felicitated in Venice for one’s debut film? For Aryan, it was simply too good to be true. Little did he realize that he was standing just at the very edge of an endless chasm that would engulf him for the rest of his life.
All these years, I tried my best to keep away Aryan from the hazards of that cruel, ugly world out there, waiting eagerly to drown anyone who approaches in its vitriolic poisons. All along I shielded him from the horrors of its demons, which constantly threatened to eat away at his soul. But now that Aryan had tasted this almost miraculous success that brought him toward so wide an audience, he was willing to experience anything and everything that this world had to offer, be it the pleasures or the pangs. The fact that he had been kept away (even if it was for his own good) from it for so long seemed to ignite in him an unvanquishable desire to take it all in, all those things that satiate the senses and scar the soul.
Gradually Aryan began to slip out of my reins. Reason gave way to burning passion. My efforts of censuring were in vain, for the man who was once a mentor and guide had been reduced to nothing more than an irritating, over-inquisitive relative in Aryan’s eyes. He treated my ways to reform him as clinical methods to trap and cripple him in a gilded cage of my own! I believe I shall never forget the day he first shouted at me, his beautiful face in a terrible contortion, his eyes bloodshot with rage. Only a mongrel is worthy of such a rash treatment.
Yet I received it, and from none other than the man I, myself, created! What pain it is to see your very creation lash at you! Aryan was a different man now. Far from the charming, innocent young lad I met all those years back. Fortune had surely smiled on him, for I do not know of another actor in our film industry who could ascend to so much success in so little time. Not one his films bit the dust. Accolades of all sorts were showered on him, both of national and international status. Newspaper magazines were literally feeding off him. All this gave more fuel to his desires, and amplified his craving.
And then the newspapers started bearing some other news about Aryan. Reports started coming in, of what he had done with all his fortune and with all his freedom. Of his brawls and bashes, of his affairs and escapades, of all his fantastic spending, and of many other things I need not mention here, for it is not fit to record them on paper. How a man could undergo so radical a transformation, was beyond my comprehension. At one point it seemed scandals of all nature were synonymous with Aryan Sengupta, the same person whom I trained, whose good looks have only been hyperbolized by age. To think that such degradation of the soul can be housed in so exquisite a casing!
But the most abominable of all sins, the one which has made me contemplate the act you may interpret as a crime, the reason for which I am writing all this, was yet to be committed by Aryan.
If you have been keeping an eye over the news recently you will have learnt something of the suicide of a woman named Ayesha Ghoshal, the reason for which still remains a mystery. It will remain so, and it is to change that very situation that I am compelled to write this explanation. Like many who utterly fail to understand the true nature of the person they love with all their heart, Ayesha fell blindly in love with that wretched being who promised to reciprocate her feeling. For one thing, he took advantage of his acting skills, which had been perfected by none other than me! Ayesha was of the noble type, and was truly a misfit for our present age of corruption and deceit. She had this strange believe that true love could change a man, and turn him to good. Aryan first met her in her chamber.
The nightmares of his dissolute life have been haunting his mind for quite some time, and he needed some professional help to keep the voices in his head quiet. Ayesha, being a reputed psychologist, seemed a good option. But ironically, the doctor became the patient and the patient the doctor. She believed too much in Aryan to give up hope. Maybe that’s why she chose to hang herself in her bed-room when she read about Aryan’s fresh ‘involvement’ with his co-actor Ipsita Chowdhury. After all, there is no point in living when there is no hope, is it not so?
So there you have it. That is the very reason why it must be done. With all his money, influence and charm, Aryan can easily wriggle out of all those sticky situations he has created for himself. The police will never touch him. Mysteries will remain unsolved. But the death of Ayesha Ghoshal was just crossing the line. Is not there a saying that a poisonous vine should be nipped in the bud? Well, that is what I intend to do. I cannot go on seeing Aryan sinking deeper and deeper into the dark well of damnation. I know it will be difficult to put an end to something that I have worked so hard to make, but if it only brings pain and misery to others, I have no other option.
That is all I have to say in this explanation . In conclusion, I only wish that film director had not come to see our production that night at the theatre.
Chief Inspector of police Sujon Dutta closed the three page long note and made a deep sigh. It was six thirty in the evening now and the sky was a dark inky blue. Crows were making their way back to their crude shelters on the trees. A few dogs were howling at a dark green sedan honking away in the distance. Fruit bats started coming out of the shadows to claim the fast approaching darkness.
Number seventy-one Jatin Das Road was gradually being surrounded by media personnel, who desperately sought to pass through the security barricade and enter the imposing two-storey mansion that was, until yesterday, occupied by one of screen’s greatest actors. Closing his eyes, Dutta could just visualize what shape the chaos outside would take within a matter of minutes.
In a city like Calcutta, news such as this spreads like wildfire through a forest in autumn. There will be everyone, neighbors, reporters, fans, artists, who are the so-called cream of the society, the lot. His heart filled with disgust. He languidly handed over the letter to Officer Manab Mondal, who was staring in awe at the lifeless body lying on the four-poster in an eternal slumber all the while Dutta read the letter aloud. It is not every day that one gets to see someone quite so famous quite so dead. The dried froth around the mouth had created a white crust over the lips and chin.
“So, what do you make of it, chief?”, asked Mondal.
“An arrogant self-important whacko goes over the edge and kills himself. Big deal. I’m guessing those newshounds will be getting a big kick out of this one. I can see the headlines already- RAJIV BASU KILLS ARYAN SENGUPTA! What a story it’ll be. Probably spawn a couple of documentaries too! Some way to write a suicide note! Clever little whacko, I must say, using his stage name and all to make you think they were two different persons. Guess you were fooled, huh? Should’ve been. You weren’t supposed to know, anyway. It’s been twenty-five years since he first adopted that name for both the stage and the screen, ever since he started that little theatre group of his.
A lot of people don’t know Rajiv and Aryan are the same. Guess they’re in for the shock of a lifetime! Magazines and T. V. channels don’t give those kinds of facts these days. Even I wasn’t supposed to know if it weren’t for sweet ol’ missus and her in-depth knowledge of cinema artistes. She’s like this walking-talking encyclopedia on the subject. Has an entire book case full of film magazines dating back to God only knows when. All she does is gobble up whatever junk she finds in them and remembers it by heart. It’s her only hobby. Everytime it’s an Aryan Sengupta film on Saturday night she starts telling me all she’s learnt about the man and thinks that I’ll be completely fascinated. How can you not love that gullible creature?
“Anyway, wonder if Peter Pan on the bed there is getting too cold. Get the guys to take out the stretcher. Now that’ll be another pile of ashes Mother Ganges will have to swallow.”
~ The Explanation ~