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The Curse of the Roti

October 4, 2010

On 10.10.10 I will be releasing Sasti Masti online. As part of the pre-release hype, I will be posting new blogs, pictures and assorted goodies (just about) every day till then. So here it is, the first installment of the Sasti Masti festival!

Ashiq and i are sitting in a small, blue room in Atta’s equipment rental store. the gathering aandhi outside means that i can’t shoot my credit sequence – but to be honest, Ashiq bhai’s rapid joint rolling has an influential say in this decision. and after all, we’re done with the main shooting, which had lasted for four hellish days. so i am relaxing now, and Ashiq is rolling.

slowly, he turns to me and asks me through his walrus mustache, in his gruff baritone voice, “do you know why this industry failed?”

do i? who doesn’t?

the question has been filling column spaces and the occasional dissertation for over two decades now. people blame Zia, Islamization, falling standards, social apathy, the crumbling economy, VCRs, Indian influences, television, the death of culture, vulgarity, sultan rahi’s murder, sultan rahi’s career, commercialization, a lack of commercialization – basically just about anything and everything.

so i asked “why?”

“iss industry ko roti ki la’ant ne tabah kiya hai”

(this industry was destroyed because of a curse from a bread”)


Ashiq and i stare at each other for a few seconds. outside, Atta is feverishly setting up his prized possession – a 30 feet jig with automatic controls – excited that it might appear in the credit sequence of a obscure student film. various dogs that have lived inside shahnoor studios for as long as these men laze about around him. it looks like it would rain any moment now.

“roti ki la’anat?” i ask him, wondering if he is in the mood to add more to this wondrous statement.

he is.

Ashiq tells me a story of how they once went to a shoot in Kashmir. like Liaqat, my dress master Ashiq had run away from home many decades ago to join the film industry. it took him 30 years before he became a cameraman, who worked on several Sultan Rahi films, including one of the five he was shooting when he was murdered. Ashiq mentioned Rahi saab’s murder often, and ruefully noted how it had ended everything. but this story was not about the late Rahi saab.

they went to the location in kashmir, and met the man who was in charge there. he was very excited to have them all over. around one pm, he arrived to tell them that he had brought over lunch for the whole crew. this was no mean feat – there were over 60 people there.

Ashiq gets visibly animated when he tells me about the feast that man had laid out for them. he repeatedly swears to every god he can remember, promising me that he had never seen better food in his life – roasted quails, aromatic biryanis, kebabs, handis, kulchays, parathays…

but they couldn’t eat then. the star, who was only free for a few hours, had not yet arrived.

they were waiting. and it was hot. much hotter there than in the plains, Ashiq promises me, with the sun beating down on them relentlessly. the food lay there, in the heat, and the director kept assuring everyone the star was arriving. he couldn’t and wouldn’t let them eat, because he wanted to make sure the crew wasn’t busy feasting when the star showed up.

and the food lay there in the heat.

eventually, the star showed up sometime in the evening. by then, all that food had rotted in the heat. the chickens, whose smell continues to haunt Ashiq to this day, were now festering carcasses swamped with flies.

“You see, we all have to wait for people in this life. But roti, roti waits for no one. unfortunately, our blasted industry didn’t respect that. so when we made the roti wait, it cursed us…

… and you can be spared of many terrible curses in this life, but no one, NO ONE, can survive the curse of the roti!”

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Shahid permalink
    October 4, 2010 21:24

    So he meant that the downfall was absolutely inevitable since, “jo rizq ki izzat nahin karta, khuda us se rizq cheen leta hai”

    Nice chap.

  2. SMN permalink
    October 5, 2010 07:20

    Wow that is one deep dude.

  3. October 6, 2010 06:32

    hahahhaha. love it. Looking forward to 10.10.10! best of luck.

  4. Masuud Qazi permalink
    October 8, 2010 00:07

    Quality. Apparently, time and roti wait for no one.

  5. marzie permalink
    October 9, 2010 11:22

    Wow!!! quite an intense person with intense logic…well done ashiq mian.U have got us thinking on the profound thought.Love the way u shared it with everyone,ahmer.

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