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Every time a film flops, industry folk go into shock and mourning.
Then, they find someone to pin the blame on. More often than not, it is the unprofessionalism of the star. (Right now, Govinda is getting the flack for the dismal showing of Kyo Kii... Main Jhuth Nahin Bolta.)
What's most surprising in the Hindi film industry is the fact that it actually functions despite the complete lack of professionalism.
In industry lingo, when you're praised for your 'professionalism', it usually means that you haven't asked for the money yet. Only unprofessional people ask to be paid.
A hero who walks in at 5 pm for a 9 am shift is 'highly professional' -- at least he turned up.
If a heroine arrives an hour late and takes longer than usual with her makeup, she's very unprofessional -- she wasted the entire unit's time!
If a character artiste is five minutes late, he/ she is irresponsible. Never mind if everybody is still twiddling their thumbs, waiting for the hero.
Everyone in our film industry prides himself on his 'high standards' of professionalism. How high?...is anybody guess. But it's hard to fathom these happy-go-lucky goons adhereing to any sort of standard.
Picture this, if you will.
It's just another day at the film studio. Workmen hammer away on the set. And our poor fifth assistant director is tearing his hair out.
Mr Art Director is busy with another project in Hyderabad. This delay is not his fault... What can he do if that goddamn unprofessional set decorator hasn't completed his job?
Director saheb is at another shoot, monitoring this one via cellular phone. That's the way professionals function, he boasts. He's currently directing four films... all by remote control with 25 assistants on their toes. He can't even remember their names; he uses numbers instead.
In the meanwhile, Number Paanch is rapidly losing hair. Seeing no possibilty of the shot being canned today, he lashes out at Number Six.
He can't bawl at the art director and if he cribs he's history. "Unprofessional, every one of you," he yells, clipping the tea-boy behind the ear. "You call this gutter-water chai?"
Today, Number Six is responsible for getting the scenes in place. After several trips from the writers house to studio and back, he's finally managed to make a clear copy of the lines so that the lead stars won't have struggle with the the writer's unholy scrawl.
"How can they call that writer a professional?" grumbles Number Six, under his breath, as he makes up words, when the handwriting gets illegible. In any case, he thinks he's a better writer than that overpaid hack. If only he could persuade a star to listen to his ideas!
It's almost lunchtime when commotion stirs. Heroine dear is here!
She sashays into the makeup room, and assistant director Number Seven materialises.
But the costume is not cut low enough and the padding is not right, so Tantrum No 1 begins. "It's a sexy song," she wails, "I can't look like a nun. I am a professional, I have to do what the scene requires. After all, people come to see my dances!"
Mummy, auntie, sister (an aspiring actress herself) chamchi cluck in sympathy. "Who understands professionalism these days?" Mummy says, as she dispatches the spot boy to fetch her favourite dishes from the most expensive restaurant in the neighbourhood.
The production in-charge who's haggling with the caterer, set decorator and electrician over his cut, reluctantly hands over the money for the feast. "Not a shot taken, and Madam is hungry already."
Assistant Number Five is about to let out another barrage of abuse, when with a bang and a flourish, the head carpenter declares the set complete and defies anyone to find fault with his work. He is a professional, after all.
"That's why you are so behind schedule," sneers production man, pulling out a loose nail. By the time Number Six is ready with the heroine's dialogues, there is a battle raging with the carpenter.
Outside the extra supplier is fighting with the caterer because all his "people" didn't get the glutinous sweet dish that comes after the end of an oily, over-spiced meal. "How can they shoot when they're hungry? This is no way for professionals to function," he rages.
Meanwhile in the air-conditioned comfort of the makeup room, biryani and mango milk-shake down the hatch, Mummyji frowns at the lines her daughter has been given, slowly draws a line across them and fills in her own words. She them imperiously hands them over to Number Six and settles down for a nap.
The heroine has a costume assistant kneeling before her, shortening her skirt; as the hairdresser fusses over a huge curly wig.
As the clock stikes three, the director sweeps in with four assistants, an aspiring writer (who's been trying to sell him a story) and two producers who want to sign him on for their next film.
As his last film, inspired by The Godfather (the professional he is, he's only inspired by the best!) was a hit, his price and the number of sycophants around him have sky-rocketed.
On his fingers gleam "lucky" stones in various hues; on his ear it's a diamond stud.
After a nod to Number Five and a quick survey of his kingdom, he scratches out lines from the pages, fills in the blanks and flings them back to the weary assistant who has to copy them down again.
That done, he's on the 'cell' again directing another a shoot in progress at a Madh Island bungalow.
At four-thirty, the hero's car screeches to a halt outside the studio floor. Hundreds of extras and hangers-on wilting in the heat, snap to attention. The director hastily disconnects. And after a lecture on professionalism to the assistant, he rushes over to the hero's makeup van.
Ten producers and six writers are parked here too, awaiting the hero's nod for films to be shot three years later. As he's such a professional, he keeps his dates in perfect order.
Hero's secretary ushers the director in. After a leghty narration of the day's scene, the hero takes the page, cancels out lines he doesn't approve of and finally declares he's now ready to shoot.
Hero and heroine meet on the set, glare at each other.
As soon as she sees the dialogue sheet, heroine screams. "These are not the lines I mugged up." She stamps her foot and runs back to the makeup room in tears. Three assistants are sent to pacify her.
Half an hour later, with the makeup touched up, she back. "I'm a professional, so I'll shoot, but it is very unprofessional what some people will do to hog the limelight," she announces to the director.
It's five now and the producer strolls in to see the shoot in progress.
The first shot of the day is complete. The hero rattles off his lines; he refuses to do a retake. He's a one-take-actor - the real professional.
The director, filled with false admiration, is overheard speaking to the producer. "Our hero comes late, but then he does a whole day's work in one hour. No one is more professional. Boss, you have a great team. The film has to be a hit... Take it from me."
The hero rushes out, followed by his secretary, entourage of producers, writers and chamchas.
"Pack-up," the director yells. He's off to another location to announce the pack- up there too.
It's all so organised and professional.
Now if only they don't demand money, says the producer to himself, the film will actually make some.
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