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Exclusive Extract from ‘Garbage Beat’ by Richa Lakhera:

‘M

ay I remind you that this is not a tits and butts channel!’

‘What are you talking about?’ I said. ‘You need to tone down your stories,’ Bunny said. ‘Excuse me?’ ‘No nudes, no arses, no tits, no crotch shots, no chest heaving, no kissing, no bikinis, no raunchiness.’ Apparently there was a huge problem with my stories. They had been pronounced by some senior editors as unwatchable with the family. Bunny had to slash the content. Bunny was furious—A senior editor, after seeing the footage and stories filed for the item special series, was horrified at the ‘alleged’ pornification of a news channel in the name of entertainment and had complained to H. Raami. ‘…sleazy stuff bahut ho raha hai…’ ‘…but look at the TRP…’ ‘…we have too much naach gana.’ ‘…you know the advertisers are happy.’ ‘…we want to restore the channel’s dignified image…’ I was on my last assignment for the item number special. I had to interview the self-proclaimed Marilyn Monroe of Bollywood, Shabnoor Sheikh. It was obvious that ‘sexy Shabby’, as she was called by her fans, had started believing her own PR machine. Shabby had opted out of Bollywood after the debacle of three of her Hindi films, but she did not head south to Tollywood like most Bollywood rejects did. Shabby headed westward to Hollywood, where she had milkshakes named after her, and had led Republic Day parades as a marshal. She even starred in a B-grade Hollywood film but it only managed a DVD release. She gave loud bytes in a bizarre American drawl on how she hung out at parties with ‘Salmaah Haayek’ and how she loved with ‘Jawwnny Depp’. And now after, three years, Shabby had returned to give Bollywood another try. She was all Twitter-savvy and with a smart new blog space, and her Facebook account was full of pictures of herself with Hollywood stars. The problem was that Bollywood did not give a damn. Shabby was pissed as hell that not only was Bollywood ungracious enough not to wait for her with bated breath, it had also cheated her. The object of her ire was Shyamu Sharma. Shabby was spitting fire and venom at Shyamu, whom she had accused of attempting to molest her. Shabby had held a presser in every city. Today it was Delhi’s turn. Bunny thought it would make a nice story for the item number special. Her real name was Salima Banu; she was a local beauty queen from a small tehsil in Ahmedabad, the only daughter of a lower middle-class conservative Muslim family. Salima, who had her heart set on escaping her middle-class dal-roti existence and a mundane marriage to a kirana shop owner, had come a long way. A new name, a new pair of breasts and a new nose had given her a head start. Today, Shabnoor had erased all traces of her origin—her hair was dyed to a beautiful two-shade


auburn, teeth capped though a bit toothy, big breasts and lips to match, a tiny waist and shapely legs. Men came on to her in hordes. On the net, Shabnoor’s leaked item number video that showed her gyrating seductively on the bonnet of a car had become a rage. Many said that Shabby had leaked it herself for the publicity. Intriguingly, the audience had accepted Shabby with all her unsophisticated, almost rustic utterings. Late by several hours for her own presser, she finally appeared, a vision of lust. Shabby’s voluptuous body had been fit into a crotch-skimming yellow dress, a barely there yellow top, and five-inch-high shiny hooker heels. It was common knowledge that Shabby had been excited about shooting an item number for Shyamu Sharma’s new film. But Shyamu was reportedly unhappy with the shots and was re-shooting the entire song with a new and much younger girl. Sources claimed that Shyamu’s production had convinced him that an ageing Shabby did not fit the bill. Shabby had a massive face-off with Shyamu when she got to know of his plan to replace her with someone younger. ‘He called me to his room… he was looking here… here! ’ She pointed at her breasts. The cameramen zoomed in. ‘He said, take off your shirt. I want to see your waist…I told him what rubbish—main aakhir bharatiya naari hoon,’ Shabnoor informed us self-righteously. ‘He did not like my refusing him one bit. And then suddenly I found that I had been dropped from my own item number “Baby Shabby”. I had worked so hard—I left my Hollywood commitments to do this—as a favour to Shyamu! Doodh mein makkhi ki tarah nikaal diya. But because I am from Hollywood, now I know girls don’t have to be scared of these film-makers.’ She ranted and raved and threatened to take Shyamu Verma to court. The media had a field day, the cameramen feasted on a visual orgy and did not let Shabby out of their focus for even a second. ‘I am a bharatiya naari… apni izzat ke liye main murder kar doongi!’ Shabnoor wailed. Shabby was not satisfied with just tearing Shyamu apart—now her attention had turned to the ‘sort of girl’ who would do anything for an item number! ‘He told me he is keeping some new girl for this item! Everyone knows who she is … why should I name her! Sab maaya hai! Sab maaya ki kaaya ka kamaal hai. These young girls… let me tell you, he will use you and throw you. I have fans all over the world—Shyamu can abuse these desperate girls, but not me—I am a star’. Watching Shabnoor doing her interviews was nothing short of an elaborate theatrical. She was every TV channel’s dream come true. ‘Shyamu, tum naamard ho, you are impotent,’ thundered Shabnoor. She was beeped and morphed, but she was in all the channels live. I was distracted by a call from Latika. ‘Are you interviewing that slut Shabby?’ Latika asked in a matter-of-fact toneset. ‘Yes, Lattoo—er, Maya!’ ‘Did that whore say anything about me?’ ‘You are doing it—the famous item number?’ ‘You are surprised? Babe, you should see my moves!’ ‘I can imagine. She called you Shyamu’s keep.’ ‘You will edit it?’ She was unfazed. ‘Well, I will beep out the gaalis. ‘Laila, I am just starting my career. I respect Shyamuji, but I don’t want people to see me as Shyamu’s property—you know what I mean. I have just auditioned for Vicky. But if it can be worked out, the gaalis and all are so tacky, ya! But how is Bunny?’ Lattoo asked. ‘Holding on. How’s Chiki? She is in your city…’ ‘I know. Tell her mom to call her back. Chiki is making a fool of herself mooning over Amar Dutta. She had totally psyched him, ya—he says agar kuch kar legi toh badnaam ho jaaoonga—Amar does not want negative publicity.’


‘Can’t you help her?’ I asked. ‘Babe, it’s a different world here. How’s Rehan?’ ‘He is okay,’ I said in a small voice. ‘Don’t let go of him. Be a good girl, ya!’ Bunny was mighty pleased with the story. Of course, she did not let me edit out the part where Shabby was crudely abusing Maya. In fact, she wanted me to add my personal conversation with Latika nee Maya post Shabby’s accusations. ‘Add graphics—a huge pic of Maya—and let the conversation text roll.’ ‘But it was privileged info, Bunny,’ I said. ‘Believe me, she will thank you. Publicity is good for these item girls! Just do it.’

An Extract from Garbage Beat by Richa Lakhera  

Exclusive Extract from Garbage Beat by Richa Lakhera

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