September 3, 1972
‘Oh, Delgatto! Dr. Gottleib’s here,’ Lab-coat opened the cell door and sauntered in. Alarm bells started ringing in his head as he found Delgatto unconscious, lying face down, in a puddle of his own blood and vomit.
‘Guards, guards!’ Dr. Gottleib screamed, ‘I need some help here!’
The two burly guards marched in.
‘He’s unconscious! He’s vomited blood. Didn’t anyone notice?’ Dr. Gottleib was furious.
‘No, Doctor!’ One of the guards stammered, ‘He was fine an hour back.’
‘Gentlemen, we don’t have much time. I need to shock him to consciousness. Prepare the Electroshock setup immediately.’
While the two guards busied themselves in setting up the ECT apparatus, Dr. Gottleib turned Delgatto around and pried his mouth open. He was relieved to find that Delgatto hadn’t choked on his own vomit. He took out a syringe and injected a shot of epinephrine to jump-start Delgatto’s system.
They strapped Delgatto on the chair and Dr.Gottleib placed the electrodes on either side of the strapped man’s head.
Dr. Gottleib looked at Delgatto, ‘He doesn’t have too much to look ahead to. Fuck it! Dial it to the maximum.’
The voltage was set and Dr. Gottleib applied the electric shock to Delgatto. ‘Oh point five seconds, now!’
A second shot was given and Delgatto sputtered into consciousness. Dr. Gottleib immediately administered a concoction of Sodium Pentothol through an IV line.
‘Delgatto! Delgatto! Wake up!’ He slapped the strapped man across his cheeks.
Yellow eyes looked back at Dr. Gottleib and then he knew. He pulled the IV line out and unstrapped Delgatto, who slumped to the floor and lay there thrashing.
‘Gentlemen! Our friend is of no use to us anymore. Please send him away with my best regards.’
They loaded Delgatto into a van and dumped him outside a hippie settlement. The guards joked that Delgatto would at least have free access to drugs now as they drove away.
September 3, 2017
Malolan sat dumbfounded as he saw the ticker scrolling across on his MacBook screen. CineMafia was releasing Mayur Pednekar’s lost movie as a Pay-Per-View exclusive on their website in exactly twenty three hours and forty five minutes.
Being one of the very few in the world who knew what the film could potentially do to its viewers, he knew he had to prevent the release somehow. But he was stumped. He had no access to Pednekar and the pig headed Police Inspector who was handling the case had no interest in hearing his theories. He dumped his MacBook into his rucksack and headed to the Police Station. If a confrontation was what required to make Inspector Jayakumar listen to him, he was absolutely fine with it.
At almost the exact moment, Casey Teo regained her consciousness. She pressed the call button on her bedside to call an orderly. A young guy barely out of college ambled in, clearly displeased at being disturbed from whatever he was doing. Casey tried to speak, but her throat hurt too much and instead she signalled him to bring her a pen and a paper.
Through words, she made him bring his laptop, for a hefty bribe obviously, and logged into her CineMafia profile page. The advertisement about Pednekar’s movie was prominently displayed on the website.
Casey cursed and keyed in her admin codes to access their server in Somalia. An error message was displayed on the screen saying that her username was not recognized. She tried accessing their servers in Estonia, Nigeria, Belize, Cocos Islands with the same result. It dawned on Casey that her administrator privileges had been revoked by her other partners.
But, why? Taneja was dead and she had been ousted. That left only Delgatto and MissyB as the partners and decision makers of CineMafia.com. And, they were planning to release Pednekar’s movie online without knowing what it did to those who watched it.
Or, did they know?
The more she thought about it, the more it made sense. Delgatto and MissyB knew about the effect of the movie and had decided to go ahead and release it. Casey estimated that income through PPV and donations from torrent hosting sites would earn CineMafia anywhere between a million and 1.5 million US dollars. Was a million dollars enough to justify the potential deaths of thousands? Or, was their end game completely different? That made them extremely dangerous and they had to be stopped.
As she was contemplating, the duty doctor came in and administered a sedative. Casey wanted to scream but she slowly sunk into a deep sleep.
Kannappa ambled to the kitchen and made himself a sandwich. He usually stayed awake until Malolan returned home for the night. Kannappa was quite fond of his young master. He always treated him like family.
Malolan’s father Dr. Pratap was the one who took him in when he walked into his clinic one day some forty odd years ago with an advanced case of vitiligo. Not only did the kind doctor treat him for his disease, he actually treated him as a human being. Kannappa had initially struggled with all the kindness shown to him, but he did warm up to the Prataps. He had become a part of their household.
The landline phone rang, bringing Kannappa out of his torpor. It was Malolan.
‘Kannappa! I’ll most probably be working all night. If Dad calls in the morning, just tell him that I’m asleep.’
‘Ok! Are you ok? You sound agitated.’
‘I’m fine, Kannappa! Just tired and cranky. It’s the killer film case. You don’t worry. I’ll take care of myself.’
‘Alright! Shall I go to sleep?’
Malolan laughed, ‘Please do! Why do you think I called you at this ungodly hour? Go to sleep, Kannappa. Good night!’
Kannappa replaced the phone receiver and smiled. He had to make one more call before he went to sleep.
He moved to his room and pulled out an old shoebox from underneath his cot. He shuffled through its contents and pulled out a Thuraya Satellite Phone. He dialled the number he’d written on a piece of paper many years ago.
The phone rang for a long time before it was answered.
‘Pednekar! Who is this?’
Kannappa grinned, ‘Mayur, my friend! This is Sidney Gottleib. Do you have an answer?’
‘Inspector, please understand!’ Malolan pleaded, ‘We have to do something about this film. Otherwise, lots of people are going to get injured or worse.’
Inspector Jayakumar growled in frustration, ‘Can you shut up with this insane theory of yours?’ He lighted himself a cigarette, ‘that’s the most fantastic and far-fetched crap I’ve ever heard in my thirty years of service.’
Malolan stood up and placed his hands on the Inspector’s table, ‘Can’t you see the connection. In June 1973, the film ‘Anthapura Azhagi’ directed by a young Mayur Pednekar is sent for Censor certification. Two people die after seeing the movie. Last week, the movie resurfaces after forty four years. The person who restored the movie dies in a similar fashion after watching it – self mutilation, eye-ball clawed out, the works. Three days ago, the main guy behind one of the most notorious movie piracy websites dies in the same way. And just few hours back, CineMafia has advertised that they are releasing aforementioned film by Mayur Pednekar on a PPV basis. The logic is very simple, Inspector. That film has been the cause of the deaths of at least four people and if we don’t do something fast, more will join the list.’ He started pacing the room, ‘Already, social media is abuzz with excitement. Mayur Pednekar, Anthapura Azhagi and Lost Film are the most trending topics on twitter right now.’
Malolan opened his MacBook, logged into his twitter account and placed it in front of the Inspector. The older man stared at the screen for a while and then looked up and nodded.
‘Alright, let’s assume that there is merit to what you say. How do we stop them? These online pirates are notoriously hard to trace. We came to know about Taneja only after his death.’
‘That is the hard part, Inspector!’
‘Do we call for a press conference and put the word out in open?’
Malolan shook his head, ‘Absolutely not! All it would do is create more buzz for the movie and pique the interest those who haven’t heard the news as well. We’ll end up giving a massive publicity for the movie.’
‘Then, what?’ Inspector Jayakumar was tired and annoyed. He had only few months of service before his retirement and this was exactly the type of cases he didn’t want to handle at that particular point of his life.
‘We have to talk to Mayur Pednekar,’ Malolan declared with conviction. ‘We need to understand what the significance of this film is.’
‘The man is in USA and is notoriously reclusive!’ Jayakumar grunted, ‘How do we get in touch with him?’
‘I have an idea. Please contact the Indian Ambassador to the United States and initiate some noises about wanting to bring Pednekar back to India.’
Jayakumar shook his head in exasperation, ‘How will that help?’
‘Please do this for me, Inspector. Start making noises through the right channels. If my assumptions are right, Pednekar himself would be contacting us within six to eight hours.’
Jayakumar had a strange look on his face, ‘What are you gambling with, Malolan?’
Malolan’s face was blank, ‘Just few thousand lives, Inspector. Let’s hope that I draw the winning hand.’
To be concluded…
Note: The last part ended up being a little too long. So, I have just aped Hollywood in splitting into two parts. The conclusion to this story will be uploaded in few hours. Tick! Tock!!