“If this girl can give a soul to those who have lived without one, if she can create the sense of beauty in people whose lives have been sordid and ugly, if she can strip them of their selfishness and lend them tears for sorrows that are not their own, she is worthy of all your adoration, worthy of the adoration of the world.”
Wrote that great master of wit and scourge of the witless, the incomparable Oscar Wilde, in his only novel…
So I turned on the TV the other day and a familiar face came into view. A woman whose acting skills were as much in doubt as the proverbial casting couch which spawned many of her generations brightest stars. So forty odd years down the line from her last known role in Karz, the lady has evolved. Still dressed in widows or virginal white, depending on her mood of the moment, linked inextricably with the lives of countless stars, colleagues who outshone her in her day, many of whom are now jaded or glitter with occasional spurts of brilliance as all dying stars do, before they get sucked into the ignominy of black holes, she now stands brighter than them all, refusing to bow out.
So she holds them up to the light, for those flickering minutes, kind and gentle, graceful even. I should speak kindly of her therefore, of her grace and her poise and her gentle prodding and extrication of facts and fiction, and of her voice, soft, bordering on the sensual, none of the grating raspiness of tone like Barbara Walters, flattering, prodding, coaxing her guests to reveal all what Devyani Chaubal had already and rather ungraciously pried out and splattered over tabloid pages decades ago.
I remember a particular episode a few years ago, one of those where she’d interviewed that fedoraesque superstar of yesteryear about the men in her life. Draped in a Kanjeevaram, tastefully bejewelled, the fedoraesque star spoke about the men in her life, from the superstar who had used and dumped her cruelly, and whom she still loved, to her relationship with her famous father, and the long conversations they’d had. Oh… wait a minute… conversations they’d had when he was… well… dead. It seemed manic. She seemed manic. But with her voice soft and gentle, the lady in white clucked like a mother hen guiding her brood across a crowded street, matching that of the superstar, extricating all that she could, matching her, intonation for intonation, while the star drawled on, her eyes distant, spaced-out, as though… and the camera pounced, lingering over those moments.
And then after five arduously long seasons of rendezvous’, or were there more… for it seemed to go on and on, with reruns and more reruns, we thought we’d seen the end of her and moved on to other things.
But now she’s back, with a new crop of young desirables, her trademark white now tinged with the hue of the evening, a subtle splash of fawn or mellow grey, hinging on silver. Her hair neatly in place, every strand accounted for, generously doused with enough hairspray to make the fire department send her a safety notice. In her late sixties nudging seventy, she looks the same as she did three decades ago, as she parries with those young enough to be her grandchildren… looking impeccable, youthful, as though she’s drunk of the fountain of eternal youth and will never change.
While in some dark attic somewhere lies a picture… shrouded.