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A Simple Story

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Sam reached the bus stop exactly at 8:50. He always comes ten minutes earlier than his bus timing to read the newspaper. He is on time today as well. It is a perfect sunny day. Like every other morning, people are going to their work. Sam sat in his usual place and took the newspaper into his hands. Everything in the news seemed pretty normal. Rise and fall of the stocks, winning and losing in sports, politics and accidents. He read the headlines till 9 am and then the bus came exactly on time. He entered into it and took a window seat. He knows how much a ticket costs from there to every other place in the city. Why wouldn’t he? He has been living here since his childhood. He took out the exact amount and bought a ticket to a cine-complex. Sam loves watching movies in a way that there isn’t a movie which Sam hadn’t seen that played in that cine-complex. He got down after ten minutes and looked up to the posters. His eyes were quickly drawn to the new picture that was released today, ‘Water House’. He walked towards the ticket counter and,

“Bruce, is this the story you came up with?” asked Alfred.

“Yes. Is something wrong?” asked Bruce. Bruce just finished his graduation and decided to follow his passion. Passion of script writing. He never knew how the seed of interest for stories and movies has grown inside of him, but he is swirling in the world of stories now. He has submitted his stories to many short film channels but all in vain. Now, a youtube channel who are filming stories of young writers had considered him and asked him to narrate his best story. 

“This is so boring Bruce.”

“Sir, this is just the introduction into the character arc. We haven’t entered into the main script yet.”

“But people won’t wait for you. They need something to hook up to. We do one thing. We will add things on the go.”

“Sir?” Bruce asked with a pinch of confusion on his face.

“I’ll chip in some ideas and you can modify them and improvise your story now. Is that okay?”

“Sir, but I have developed a role for the character and if we add situations and conversations just like that, it might jeopardise the character.” said Bruce. Alfred dragged his seat close to Bruce and said, “Listen son, trust me. You’ll get a good story. I know the pulse of the audience.” Bruce never made any changes to his script no matter how much the producers offered. But how long can he go like this? He thought of trying their way once. Bruce finally bent his head down and gave a node thinking, ‘Let me see how this goes.’

“Listen Bruce, so far your story is boring and simple. You know people need something special or funny. Let’s put a conversation with Sam and the employee at the ticket counter. Let it be a lady so that we can even add a love track if we want to.” Bruce can’t understand his way of approach to the story. He thought, ‘What does he mean, adding a love track if needed? Does he think it’s a railway track or something?’ Still, he wanted to take it as a challenge to build a story right there with the inputs though he doesn’t like the approach. He said, “Okay sir.”

“You can call me Alfred. Let me give you the first line of the conversation. He’ll ask for corner seats and invites her to join him for the picture.” Bruce pasted a question mark on his face and said, “Alfred, she is working there. How can she join him for the picture?”

“That’s what she’s gonna tell him. See you are already building the conversation. Great. Go on.” With a surprising face, Bruce continued.

Sam asked for the timings of the picture and while doing so, he looked at the person sitting inside the counter. The entire world freezed in front of his eyes and all he could see is a beautiful woman sitting in front of him. Even the actress in the posters are no match for the charm she is carrying. She asked him, “Sir which movie do you want the ticket for?”

Sam lost in the world of her spark and with a timid voice he said, “Beautiful.”

“Excuse me sir?”

Sam came back to the world and said, “Sorry. Water House.”

“How many tickets sir?”

“Two. One for you and one for me.” She was surprised by his line. He asked, “Will you join me for the movie?”

“Sir I am working here. How can I?”

“You should work for movies as an actress. I don’t know why you are working for a movie theatre.” She blushed and said, “So now you need one ticket.”

“So you are not coming?”

“Maybe some other time.” Saying so, she printed the ticket and wrote her mobile number on the back of it. He took it and winked at her. She blushed with all the beauty in this world.

“Fantastic!” said Alfred. “I know Sam. I know you can write such beautiful and lovely conversations.” Bruce gave a smile to his applause but he can feel something itching inside of him. He said, “But Alfred, I built the character arc for Sam as being less talkative and more passionate about movies. I don’t know why but the Sam who flirted with the woman is not the Sam I wrote.”

“Bruce, building the character first and then the story is an old formula. Now people want stories not the characters. This conversation will seriously bring a smile on the audience’s face. Trust me you are doing good. Go on.”

Bruce can feel that what he is doing is out of his heart. He believes that the stories should be character driven and not the other way. He lost a bit of interest now and felt low for how it’s going. He thought of walking out but, he wanted to give it a try. He continued.

Sam went into the theatre. Movie started to play. He was so deeply immersed into the movie that he didn’t even notice that the movie finished. He came back to reality and stepped out of the theatre. He usually goes to a coffee shop every day. He decided to go today as well. He sat at the bus stop and is waiting for the bus.

“Bruce! Why are you rushing?”

“I don’t know Alfred. I am going in the direction of wind. I am going with the flow.” said Bruce in an almost depressed and disappointed tone.

“Bruce, you know what? People don’t want things to be usual and simple in the stories. You are saying, ‘He usually comes ten minutes early. He usually goes to a coffee shop.” People want something unique and beyond what they know. That’s when we can get a hit.”

“Are we writing a script to get a hit?”

“Of course. Now take it slow and let the audience feel something special.” Bruce was fed up with all the shit from Alfred. But he wanted to give it one last try. He continued.

Sam looked into the sky and could see birds flying in a distance. He looked at the road where people are crowded with vehicles and the sounds of horns. He looked up again and noticed how freely the birds are flying in the sky. Freedom. He has been searching for that for a very long time. He was stuffed with the pre-existing methodology of the society. He wanted to be on his own. Like how the birds are flying in the sky. He wants to be an actor. Living the characters of stories, exploring fantasies of stories. A person can live only one life but an actor lives in every story with a new life. While he drifted away with the thoughts, he heard the bus horn he was waiting for and boarded it quickly. He recalled the woman he saw in the ticket counter and thought of why he was so much into her. She doesn’t look like someone waiting to die a simple life, instead she wanted to live the life. She has hope. That’s what made her stand out amidst the crowd. Suddenly he heard a huge sound and the bus stopped immediately. He realised that the bus had hit some vehicle. He quickly got down to help. There he saw the woman from the ticket counter lying on the road beside a motorbike with blood all over her face.

“Brilliant.” said Alfred and stood up. Bruce can see the excitement on his face. But this is not what Bruce had in his mind. He changed the plot as per Alfred’s words. He can no longer feel any excitement for this but as he thought he decided to try this way. He built the entire plot while he was narrating. Sam will save the woman and they both together will make a movie together crossing all the hurdles and challenges. He felt a bit of satisfaction with the new plot he came up with amidst the chaos and smiled looking at Alfred.

Alfred sat back on his chair and said, “Let’s kill the woman.” Bruce’s face turned pale. He continued, “She dies in the hands of Sam and from then we can do it in two ways. One is, he can feel heart broken for her loss and turns into a playboy fucking every girl he meets. Other, we can create a crime track here. She was involved in some kind of robbery and..’

“ENOUGH!” Bruce shouted and stood up. He turned red and anger started to burst out through his eyes. “Do you think it is some kind of a project or a story? How can you add something just because it attracts the audience. We are writing a story for god’s sake. Character adds soul and spark to the story. Not those situations you create. Characters should drive the plot and situations to help us connect the audience to the character.”

Bruce expected Alfred to yell at him for arguing with him in his own studio. But Alfred said, “I can see myself in you Bruce. I used to be like you. Passionate about stories and characters but the world has changed Bruce. They don’t want simple stories. They are cheering for stories like, people going to space, walking cars, dinosaurs and king kongs. Audiences are expecting something new. They want to see what they can’t see in their real life. If you write a story about a man living an ordinary life, people won’t give a shit about it, because they are seeing it every day. The world of stories has changed. Even if you write a story that has the least possibility to happen in real life, people are not satisfying. If you don’t even write scenes like killing and sex, you can’t even make it to the sets. They are expecting wonders and magic. You cannot write a simple story and get a hit.”

Bruce said, “You are right Alfred. I know that simple stories are dying. But I won’t let them die. You can carry the feel and drama through any story. Titanic has as much impact as Avatar. I’ll show you how to do it with a simple story. How to connect the audience and how to make them laugh and cry with the character. I’ll show you how to write a story. I’ll be back tomorrow with a story with no talking cars or building size lizards but it’ll melt your heart and will take you into a trance.” Saying that he left the office banging the door close. He halted for a second and turned his head towards Alfed and said, “I am not writing stories to get a hit, I am writing stories to give life to the characters.” Alfred gave a faint smile. He admired Bruce. He really did.

Bruce came back to his home and opened his laptop. He never experienced the rage he got today. He knows that every author has a unique perception and vision for story writing but he couldn’t agree with Alfred today. No matter whether it’s a simple story or a sci-fi story, if people get connected to the characters then that’s all that matters. We can write a simple story closer to reality and can even get the spark. He decided to write the story of Sam how he imagined it to be. He started typing.

Sam woke up from his bed. It took a couple of minutes for him to get off the drowsiness. The moment he became active, he stood up beside his bed and stood in front of the mirror. His eyebrows are curved down and he started to cry. He opened his mouth and tears started to drop along his cheeks. He said, “I know it Riya. I know it long back. Imagine me living with you all the way knowing that you are going to die next year. I was lost. Broken and shattered. I wanted to make your every fantasy come true. I tried my best Riya. I love you.” Saying that he cried hard and collapsed to the ground. He stayed there crying for a minute and after that, he quickly stood with a normal drowsy face. He combed his hair with his fingers and cleaned his face. He stepped into the bathroom to get ready for the day. 

Sam is an acting freak. He lived his life dreaming to be the best actor and receiving thunders of applause from the crowd. He is desperate to be a part of a role play. He auditioned for many but couldn’t pass them. He dreams everyday to act infront of the crowd when every eye in the room is watching him. He doesn’t know why but it always itches him to be on that stage one day. He waited enough time to become an actor and finally he got a chance to be a part of a role play that’s happening today in front of 3000 people. It is a role play competition. Every team performs their play and the winner will get an opportunity to make their play as a movie. Sam was recruited by a team and he is the lead role. He is playing the character of Tony. Plot of the story is simple yet has tons of scope to prove his acting skills. In the plot, Tony marries Riya after ten years of dating and unfortunately the very next day of their marriage he comes to know that Riya is suffering from cancer and won’t live more than a year. From then he acts as if everything is normal in front of Riya but he has the pain inside. And finally he confesses to Riya that he knows about cancer the moments before her death. He practised every dialogue and every scene hundreds of times and he is completely ready. 

Sam came out of his room and put on a t-shirt and trouser. He dreamed about this day for years and finally he got his gig. He went to the theatre and saw people buying tickets standing in a queue. He imagined that they all noticed him and rushed towards him for autographs. He came back to reality and can no longer wait to win the competition and be a part of the movie. He went into the theatre and met his crew. They are all busy making the arrangements for the play. Costumes, set and everything is going as per plan. Sam sat in front of the mirror to get the makeup done. He closed his eyes and lost in thoughts about how he played the role of Jack in Titanic when he was ten years old. He smiled reminiscing about those moments. He never wished for anything else in his life but this. This day. When the make up was done, he put up his costume and started to take a look at the dialogues for one last time. Their time has arrived and the curtain opened for Sam to step onto the stage. He sneaked his head a bit and looked at the crowd. The entire theatre is filled and they are all eagerly waiting for him. They are waiting for Sam. They are waiting for Tony. Sam took his step off the room and Tony stepped onto the stage.

Tony proposed to Riya after ten years of their relationship and Riya accepted it with a jump. They married in a church in front of three thousand people. The very next day, they met with an accident but there’s nothing to worry about the accident. But the doctor came up with unexpected news. Riya has cancer and she won’t live more than a year. That shook Tony away. His entire world turned upside down. He felt hopeless and couldn’t think of his life without Riya. He finally decided not to tell her about this. Tony did everything that made Riya happy and sound. One day she broke down. She reached her last days of life and it’s the time when Riya has only a few minutes of life left. Tony sat beside Riya’s bed. 

She said, “Do you know this Honey?”

Tony replied, “I know it Riya. I know it long back. Imagine me living with you all the way knowing that you are going to die next year. I was lost. Broken and shattered. I wanted to make your every fantasy come true. I tried my best Riya. I love you.” saying that Tony broke down into tears and tried to stop them realising that he cannot spoil her last moments of life. Riya said, “Cry honey. I know how sensitive you are and I know you cannot hold your tears. I don’t know how you managed all these days but now be yourself and love me the way you do. Let me see your true self.” Saying that Riya started to cry and Tony couldn’t stop himself from bursting out with tears all over his face. After a few seconds, she lost her pulse and died. Tony couldn’t believe it. Even though he knew about this day since an year, it felt like a sudden event for him. He collapsed to the ground and cannot stop his tears. 

After two minutes the music faded away and the role play ended. The entire crowd stood on their feet and started clapping loud. Everyone who has been a part of the team started coming on to the stage to receive the applause. Tony is still lying on the ground heart broken and shattered. All his mates kept calling his, “Sam.. Sam, stand up.” Tony heard nothing. He couldn’t take Riya’s loss and the emptiness started to crawl inside of him. Sam’s director came to him and said, “Tony, wake up.” Now Tony looked up and realised what’s happening. Sam looked into the crowd where everyone is applauding their performance. Slowly he gained consciousness that it was all a play. He came back to the makeup room and still he has this emptiness in his heart. He lost Riya. He couldn’t get away from the character. He got his answer for his question, ‘Why did he want to do acting?’ Answer to that question is beyond words and the way he lived the last one hour as Tony is the best moment of his life.

After a couple of hours, they announced the result for the competition. Sam’s team lost it. They are the runner ups. Sam didn’t even give a shit about it. He started to dream for the next day when he could step up and give life to a character. After a couple of minutes, the chairperson of the theatre, Rose who announced the result, came to the makeup rooms. She is an elderly woman who has spent her entire life in film making. Rose asked for Sam specifically in the team and when she saw him, she came close to his ears and said, “That was the best acting I have ever seen in my life Tony. I am offering you a character in my next movie.” Sam couldn’t withhold the emotions in his mind. He started to cry. He questioned himself, ‘Why am I crying?’ He got the answer from his heart and it said, ‘You don’t have Riya by your side.’

Bruce had written many stories till date but this story made him special. He couldn’t sleep all night. The next day he went straight into Alfred’s room and gave him the typed script. He said, “I’ll wait outside. Call me when you are done.” After half an hour, Alfred called him in. Bruce can see Alfred’s eyes filled with tears. He said, “Bruce, I never read a story twice. But I read this three times in a row. This story crossed the paper and touched my heart like never before.”

“So, Are you saying that we can make simple stories a hit?”

“Bruce, what you said is true. There is nothing like a simple or complex story, it’s all the connection between the audience and the characters. We are filming this story for sure and I am sure that this will be the best short film in our channel. I am not saying on a scale of views, I am saying it by my heart.”

Bruce couldn’t withhold his emotions. He waited for years to get his story accepted and finally it did. He almost shed happy tears and can feel a mixture of happiness and depression in his heart. He questioned himself, ‘Why am I happy?’ He got the answer from his heart and it said, ‘Rose gave you an opportunity to act in her next movie.’

Alfred suddenly turned towards Bruce and asked him, “I forgot to ask you. What’s the title of this story?’

Sam replied, “A simple story.”

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