THE MASTER OF SCIENCE
Nothing should surprise one in film life. Especially so in India. Despite the obvious difficulties of the position, being General Manager of a Film Company is the most interesting of jobs, if one has an eye for the bizarre and the ludicrous in human nature.
The daily post bag of the General Manager contains some interesting material indeed. For instance, there are heaps of letters from young men - and sometimes from young women. Not having made good in any other walk of life, these optimists inevitably turn to the films. Most of them have obtained a degree from some university and many of them enclose stamps for a reply. Usually they are quite sanguine that they are just the persons the Producers have been waiting for.
Judging by the quarter plate or smaller snaps they enclose with their letters, most would not stand a chance of being selected even as "extras" by a discriminating Director. But the false glamour created by a sensational film-publicity and the purely fictional life of the "stars" lead them to suppose that they can make easy money by entering film life and be the darlings of millions into the bargain!
I remember, more vividly than the others, one letter from someone upcountry offering the services of his entire family - father, mother, sons, and daughters - as film actors! This super-optimist had enclosed a full-plate size formal group photograph of the family, with old-fashioned over-ornate background. Even the faces of the would-be stars were not visible, though the picture was gaudily tinted! But the most remarkable case in my experience is the one related below.
One morning I was sitting in my private office room, running through the heavy mail, when a card was brought in which said:
Mr. X Y Z - M.Sc.
The word 'URGENT' was scribbled across the card.
Now, however busy a Manager might be, he always has time for the out of the ordinary type of caller. An M.Sc., I thought, surely must have some important business, otherwise why should he call on the manager of a film company? I ordered that the caller may be sent in.
To my surprise a down-at-heel man in a torn dhoti and an old coat came in, clutching a dirty and much crumpled brown-paper parcel in his hands. Appearance did not matter - an M.Sc. was an M.Sc. I got up, shook hands with him and courteously pointed at the chair on the other side of the desk.
"Yes?", I began tentatively.
"You see, I am an M.Sc. of ------------ University", he began hesitatingly, naming a famous Indian university.
"Chemistry was my special subject and I have also done some research work in chemistry."
"Very good. What can I do for you?" I immediately had visions of some new method of processing or colouring films invented by this probably brilliant Master of Science in Chemistry. One has to be about for opportunities!
Disregarding my question, the M.Sc. continued: "I am the son of ------." He named a famous dramatist of almost half a century ago, now in his dotage.
I thought he was merely introducing himself. Being busy, I was somewhat impatient. "I know the work of your father, since I have seen most of his dramas when I was a youngster. But what can I do for you?"
His reply came as a surprise. "I have some film stories to sell."
I assumed he had probably some unpublished and un-produced work of his eminent father which he had come to offer. If so, it would be worth my while to look into it. "Have you brought the work?", I asked.
"Yes." He unfolded his dirty brown-paper parcel and, to my surprise, placed before me a number of moth-eaten printed pamphlets in English.
"What is this?" I asked, taken aback.
"I unearthed these from the rubbish in a second-hand bookshop!", was the jubilant reply.
I looked at the titles. These were all dramas by Victorian or early English authors, now quite forgotten. As t happened, I had read some of them.
"But these are old English dramas", I said, protesting.
"I know, I know, he said in a placating manner, but if you read through these you will find this is really good stuff. Even some of the most popular dramas of my father were adaptations either from old European dramas or from the old silent films. Just read through these and judge for yourself. These are out of print."
The poor man did not know that most of these old dramas had been re-printed quite recently in an anthology of Victorian drama, wherein I had read them.
"I have read most of these", I said.
"Read these! Impossible! Didn't I tell you that these were out of print?"
"All the same, I have read most of these old dramas. Now what is your proposition?"
"If you like any of these dramas I am prepared to write an Indian screen-play on any plot that your select out of these."
"Have you written anything before?"
"No - Yes, I have written a thesis on a subject dealing with chemistry."
"Then how I am to judge if you know film-writing? It is a specialised kind of work, like your thesis on chemistry, you know."
The man almost flared up. Sticking out his sunken chest he said with pride: "Am I not the son of --------, the famous dramatist and the famous author?"
"But that does not make you a dramatist or an author! Does it? Your being a scientist doesn't make your eminent father a scientist. Does it?"
Being in the state of mind he was in, even this simple argument went over his head. He felt almost insulted.
"But I can write! I'll show you that I can write!"
"Well, then show me some example of your film-writing."
"You see", he replied. "I am not prepared to write unless I am on the permanent staff of a good Film Company, like yours!"
"But how can give you a permanent - or even a temporary - job as a film-writer unless I know that you know film-writing?" I was losing my patience.
"Here is a suggestion", said the Master of Science. "Give me a job in any capacity. Once I have a job I'll show you that I can write!"
So the truth was out. This poor little man, M.Sc. of a famous university, who could not find a job in his own sphere of life, had ultimately turned to the films!
"Why do you want a job in this film line?", I asked in curiosity.
"Because I cannot find a job anywhere else", the poor man had to admit. This aroused my sympathy for the forlorn M.Sc. But what he added was truly flabbergasting.
"I have tried my hand at everything - everything", he said with feeling. "I have even tried American 'futures', race-course gambling, cards - everything! But I always lose. I really want to make money quickly. It is only in films that I can do it!"
That was the last proverbial straw on my poor "camel's back". "I am sorry I cannot do anything for you", I said sternly, adding a little more kindly, "I am busy now."
I rang the bell and as the redoubtable Master of Science was being shown out he once turned his wistful face towards me.
"May I leave my address, in case you change your mind?" he asked humbly.
"You may", I replied, not wising to hurt him.
With a heavy step, holding his crumpled brown-paper parcel, the Master of Science left my room.
Later I learnt from Managers of other film companies that this M.Sc. had made the round of practically all the studios, with the same result!
When even our men of education are taken in by the false glamour created by film publicity, why blame the smaller fry? In truth, only those who are in it, and so know every angle of this film-making game, know what a heart-break-house this filmdom is - for the film-makers.
And what a commentary this sad incident is on modern education and on the present day economic conditions!