She walked into the producer’s office, exuding the vibe of a consummate actress from every pore of her being. She had spent hours on achieving this look, but he did not have to know that. The final effect was one that made her look effortlessly stunning. It also helped to have curves and ripples of flesh in all the right places. Legs that just went on and on, a neck that accentuated her natural elegance and eyes that spoke their own language.

Today she wore a raw silk saree which was a medley of soft pastel shades. In contrast, her blouse, if you could call it that, was a bright rich colour and held up by two knots, one at the nape of her neck and one at the middle of her back, leaving that creamy expanse of her back bare, with that one dark beauty spot visible just below her bare right shoulder. She turned around slowly and deliberately with an intention to close the door of his office, ensuring he saw her from all angles and assessed her physical characteristics for the role she was here to audition for. Looking straight into his eyes, her kohl-lined eyes blazed with an intensity that took his breath away.

She was gazing at one of the ugliest specimens humanity had produced but the actress in her took it as a challenge to not let her emotions get the better of her. And so her eyes blazed with eagerness rather than angry revulsion at the yellowing teeth. Her lips smiled rather than sneered. Her nose was calm and shapely rather than scrunched up in disgust at the clearly unwashed, unclean, and unsightly excuse of a human being sitting in front of her. He reeked of cigarette smoke and stale spices. His skin was hanging on him like an afterthought rather than a necessity that covered his body. His cheeks wobbled as he licked his lips in eager anticipation. His multiple layers of chin gave him the look of a gargoyle. He was truly disgusting inside out.

On the inside she wanted to march down straight to his chair, slap him for what she knew he was about to suggest, and simply walk out. On the outside, she was the perfect picture of a newbie on the scene, someone who just wanted one chance to show off her talent, to make a name for herself in the entertainment industry.

She knew she wouldn’t last too long with just her looks, although that was step one in the game. She upped the ante now. And spoke. Her husky, hypnotic voice consumed the little pudgy man and he just had to have her in his new movie. But her need was far greater than his. The fact that he knew that put him in a position of advantage.

He saw how the saree was precariously balanced on her left shoulder, threatening to slip away and reveal some more of this delectable dessert standing in front of him. He remembered himself then, and quickly took her hand in his  and drawled “Why so formal Vaidehi? We have a lot to… talk about. Why don’t we sit on that comfortable couch by that side.”

Revulsion and hate threatened to consume Vaidehi but she controlled herself and let him lead her to the couch. At first he sat at one edge while turning to speak to her, while she sat at the other edge of the couch. He looked at her clinically like a doctor examining body parts for any medical issues. Inspiration then struck him and he asked her to turn around and sit with her back to him. There was a scene in the movie exactly like what he was describing and he wanted to see how she would look.

Momentarily relieved at this unexpected turn of events, Vaidehi turned, conscious of the effect of her bare back and shoulder. She had done up her hair in a way that it didn’t interfere with that view and at the same time gave her hair this naturally tossed-up look that was simply indescribable. She turned as he asked and sat in the pose he demanded.

He could not take it any more. One view of that back had been enough. Two drove him mad with lust. He slowly inched closer to her and removed the knots that held her blouse. She was glad he couldn’t see her just then. She closed her eyes for a second, fighting for composure. Just for a second. And then went back to actress mode.

He ran his sweaty, grimy hands on her back, muttering and grunting incoherently. He pushed the saree away from her left shoulder and gently turned her. She turned, smiling coyly, eyes facing downwards as his bad breath hit her senses. But she still kept up the charade, she needed the role. She needed the money.

Slowly and deliberately he pulled her hand away, trying to let the blouse fall away and reveal the wonders beneath. His hands approached her to fondle, to play, to demand his pound of flesh.

Suddenly, it was all too much for her. Nothing was worth this, she decided. She reared back like a cobra poised to strike, and putting her entire strength behind her hand, gave him a resounding slap on his face. “How dare you? HOW DARE YOU?” she shouted, quivering with indignation and anger.

She tried to get her saree and blouse back to normalcy while he calmly looked on and said “We agreed on this. You agreed on this. I’m not doing anything that wasn’t already spoken about.”

Vaidehi looked at him coldly. “I mean, how did you dare to think that a woman is an object, that you can set such disgusting terms just to take advantage of someone’s situation? I am leaving now. I don’t want any part of this!”

She opened the door of his cabin, banged the door loudly and left, looking beautiful even in her anger.

“Cutttttt” came a shout from the other side of the door. She opened it again to applause. The director gushed, “Good scene Sitara, superb shot. Get ready for the naked shower scene next.”

Sitara looked at the director. Their eyes locked. No words were needed just then.

Yes, she would perform the next scene also as immaculately as this one. After all, both were scenes that had been part of her audition. Only, the ending had been different. The director had finished the scene on the couch quite differently, after which they moved on to take a shower together. After which they moved on to his bedroom where yet again, he had his way with her, all the while explaining that his movie was about how women were being taken advantage of, just so they could get a role in a movie.

It was her first lesson in the art of drama. That night, she learnt the true meaning of – irony.