‘Ryan, you are a master of these kinds of scenes, so we should be able to close this in one take,’ Paddy, the director, said.
He had just outlined the scene in which Ryan would be standing before a mirror and delivering an angst-ridden monologue on the pains and ironies of life.
‘Yes… yes… can we just get the shot done? My stomach ache seems to be getting worse.’ Ryan grimaced in pain. ‘At least emoting the scene won’t be a problem. It will be my most natural acting.’
The film shooting was taking place in the drawing room of a, sprawling bungalow in Darjeeling. The camera had been fixed to capture a drunken Bengali gentleman or bhodrolok, being played by Ryan Gomez, more popularly known as Dinesh Kumar. The female lead, Sheila Dhar was seated nearby, ready for the next shot which involved both of them. Jaya, Sheila’s mother, said, ‘Sheila, I have some Ayurvedic medicine which helped me when I had similar trouble a week back. Can’t we give him a bit of that?’
Sheila said, ‘Well, it can’t harm him…..’
Olivia, a character artist in the film, said to Ryan, ‘You should just take a Fumedil . It’s very effective.’
Jaya said, ‘No, no, this Ayurvedic medicine is very good, it works wonders for me.’
Ryan looked at Jaya and said politely, ‘Thanks… I’ll try it.’
Jaya hurried out of the room to get the medicine.
The shooting was about to begin by the time she came back, and Ryan had taken his place on the set. She put down the glass of medicine on a table beside Ryan’s empty chair. She said to Sheila in an undertone, ‘I am going to the curio shop. Make sure he drinks the medicine.’
Sheila nodded and Jaya left the set.
Ryan started to speak, and then stumbled and doubled over with a sudden spasm of pain. Paddy shouted, ‘Cut. Cut… Are you okay, Ryan?’
Ryan muttered, ‘Dear God, this pain is killing me.’
Sheila handed the glass of medicine to Ryan. ‘Drink this. You might feel better.’
Ryan drank the medicine in one gulp and grimaced. ‘Everything tastes so foul today!’
The producer, Rusty, called out to Ryan, ‘We can cancel the shoot if you are not up to it.’
‘No… it’s fine,’ Ryan said, irritably. ‘I will be okay after some rest. Can we just get this shot over with?’
The shooting resumed. This time the scene was approved. Ryan breathed a sigh of relief.
Paddy looked at his watch. ‘Oh, it’s already lunch time! Let’s do the second scene after lunch. Please hurry up, folks. We are already behind schedule.’
Ryan grunted his agreement. ‘I think I will skip lunch. I will rest for some time. Call me once you are ready for the second scene.’
Rusty said, ‘Sure Ryan. Do you want me to help you to your room?’
‘No, no, I am fine. Don’t treat me like some helpless old codger. You know I can’t stand fuss!’ Ryan snapped. He staggered towards his bedroom, with the film crew looking on in helpless silence.
After the lunch break, the cameras were checked. The same room would be used for the next scene. Sheila was in her chair, looking slightly annoyed, as she waited for the shooting to resume. Paddy sent the assistant director, Bala, to inform Ryan that the shooting was about to resume.
Bala came back looking nervous. He approached Paddy and said, hesitantly, ‘I knocked on the door, but Ryan sir is not responding.’
Concerned, Paddy, Sheila, Olivia and Rusty rushed to Ryan’s bedroom. As he still did not respond, they tried to open the door. It was not locked. They entered the room to find Ryan lying inert on the bed. Sheila rushed to the bed and shook the unresponsive figure, ‘Ryan, wake up. Please wake up.’ By this time some more crew members had entered the bedroom.
Rusty said tersely to the assistant director, ‘Bala, send for Dr. Gupta immediately! He lives right next door. All of you, clear out! Let the poor man get some air. Move…. move.’
All the crew members trooped out and Bala ran out to fetch the doctor. Only Sheila, Olivia, Paddy and Rusty remained.
Rusty glared at Sheila and said harshly, ‘What medicine did your mother give Ryan? Why is he not responding? And where is Jayadi?’
Sheila looked up from the bed, fear and confusion writ large on her face. ‘What are you saying? It was just some Ayurvedic medicine for stomach ailments. My mother takes it. Why would my mother cause him any harm?’
Dr. Gupta rushed in at that moment. Rusty turned towards him and said, ‘Ryan was unwell since the morning. Now he is not responding. Please do something!’
Dr. Gupta took Ryan’s pulse. After a moment, he shook his head. ‘I am afraid nothing can be done. He is dead.’
Sheila screamed. ‘No, Ryan! You can’t leave me. Please…, oh please, come back.’
As Rusty looked on confused and helpless, the doctor said sharply, ‘I know Ryan’s medical history. He had no major health problems. His death is certainly very sudden. I am afraid that I cannot issue a death certificate. The police should be called.’
Sheila wept, her head on Ryan’s chest. Nobody stepped up to comfort her. Instead, all eyes were fixed on her
Questioningly? Accusingly? Warningly?