It’s a constellation out there…

Harpreet Kaur lives for Hindi cin­ema. She loves Amitabh Bachchan (in a pla­tonic sort of way) and can’t imag­ine life with­out her daily dose of Lata. Harpreet is about a year into her Master’s in Com­puter Sci­ence at the Uni­ver­sity of Alaska. Her dad, back in Lud­hi­ana and prone to hyper­bole, never tires of telling peo­ple about how the Amer­i­cans were bedaz­zled by his daughter’s intel­li­gence and gave her “full aid” at the “best uni­ver­sity in the world.” Harpreet did get finan­cial aid, but she can’t get Com­puter Sci­ence for the life of her.

Srini­vasa is the tall guy that sits with her in the Data Struc­tures class. He hails from Nel­lore and has only a vague idea of how big Amitabh Bachchan is up north, but he gets Data Struc­tures really well. He used to look down upon Harpreet because she sucked at Com­puter Sci­ence, but every time he did , he ended up star­ing at the pret­ti­est pair of boobs in the world. And so, he fell in love with her.

Harpreet, on the other hand, liked the guy — espe­cially on days he did her home­work for her — but she wasn’t in love with him or any­thing. It didn’t help that he kept mix­ing up Lata and M.S.Subbulakhmi all the time. “I always have trou­ble dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing between old women singing in alien tongues,” he told her when con­fronted. She wasn’t impressed at all by that answer…

Harpreet didn’t know it then, but change was in the air.

A few days later, Harpreet came down with a nasty flu that brought the mean­est headache along. She took a Tylenol, and asked her room­mate Aparna Shah if she could bring her a bowl of Camp­bell soup, but Aparna refused because the Camp­bell soup in the refrig­er­a­tor was pur­chased from her share of the gro­cery fund.

Unable to counter her roomate’s sound logic, Harpreet went hun­gry that after­noon, and was deliri­ous by the time Srini­vasa came to visit her. He had stopped by to find out if she had really bunked classes to “be with her boyfriend,” like his friend Raviki­ran had speculated.

Moved by her plight (and by the sight a pretty girl coiled vul­ner­a­bly on a used Sealy Mat­tress), he made her some soup, and then sat by her bed and said com­fort­ing things to her until she fell asleep. He then watched the Tonight Show and spent the night on the couch in her apart­ment. He could’ve walked to his place, but it was his turn to cook today.

The next day, he woke up, used Aparna’s Lis­ter­ine, made some cof­fee and drank it together with Harpreet. He expe­ri­enced bliss, or some­thing like it.

This pat­tern con­tin­ued for a few days, and Harpreet no longer had the flu, though she was still not attend­ing classes because she felt weak. Sri wasn’t going to classes either, “to pro­vide her some com­pany.” He was now a reg­u­lar in Harpreet’s apart­ment, reg­u­lar enough that his tooth­brush was in her bath­room, and reg­u­lar enough for Aparna Shah to demand that he pay 14% of the rent that month. Things were going very well indeed…

What do you like? ” he asked her that after­noon, act­ing on advice from Raviki­ran “to find out her likes and dislikes.”

My favorite thing in the world is Amitabh Bachchan”

My favorite thing would be my iPod. But I do like Amitabh Bachchan. He is a great actor.”

Really? Thats so sweet. What’s your favorite movie of his? ”

Err…I thought Sha­hen­shah was great. So was Giraftar ”

Sha­hen­shah? Even I couldn’t stand that one. Tell me the truth now — how many Bachchan movies have you watched?”

Only those two on the video coach bus from Madras to Ban­ga­lore. Nel­lore the­aters only play Tel­ugu and Tamil movies. But there was a lot of poten­tial in his angry eyes.. I could see it very clearly.”

Oh you poor thing. That’s such a sad story… I need to show you how much you are missing.”

So she said, and put in a copy of Black into their Apex DVD player. A few min­utes into the movie, and Sri hits the pause button.

So you say Amitabh Bachchan is a big star in Bol­ly­wood, right? ”

Of course, he is a superstar. ”

If that is so, how come the title card doesn’t say Super­Star Amitabh Bachchan. If I call him a Megas­tar, would that be ok?”

Yes, he is a megas­tar, a super­star, a huge star. The biggest there is.”

He can only be one star. Tell me which one. ”

I don’t think I under­stand where this is going. ”

Sri takes her hand, and holds it against his chest.

Baby, before you explain Amitabh Bachchan to me, let me explain the South­ern movie indus­try to you. ”

I am all ears. ”

And thus the les­son begins.

Down south, we tell peo­ple exactly what kind of star every actor is right in the title card. ”

How so? ”

Super­Star!

Like Rajinikanth is the Super­star. Every movie of his, right at the begin­ning, will have a pow­er­point ani­ma­tion that shows the let­ters SUPER STAR fly­ing into the screen, with an awful cover ver­sion of the James Bond Theme play­ing in the back­ground. He owns the title, it belongs to him. If some­one else uses it, his fans will enforce copy­right laws by doing nasty things to him. ”

I see. ”

But the domi­cile of the copy­right only extends to the state. ”

Is domi­cile a Tel­ugu word? ”

Super­Star, Mark Two

No.. err, what­ever. I meant to say that Rajinikanth is the Super­Star only in Tamil­Nadu. In Andhra Pradesh, Krishna is the SuperStar.”

How sweet. I love Krishna … my whole fam­ily wor­ships him. ”

I wor­ship Krishna too. No one looks bet­ter in an orange jumpsuit.”

Yes, yes. Go on though — let’s not talk about Gods now.”

Gods? Oh I see now. For a sec­ond I thought Super­Star Krishna was famous in Punjab.”

You know, I like Kamal­has­san a lot. What type of star is he? ”

You like Kamal­has­san? Wait till you watch Hey Ram. And just for the record, he used to call him­self the Uni­ver­sal Hero, but now he prefers PadmaShree. ”

Oh! ”

Yeah, one of the rea­sons he is not as pop­u­lar as Rajinikanth is that he doesn’t have a fixed name for him­self. How will peo­ple know if the Uni­ver­sal Hero is act­ing in this movie or if it is the Padmashree. ”

Quite true. This is so inter­est­ing. Let’s munch on a paratha while you tell me more.”

Merely a rev­o­lu­tion­ary Actor.

The Tamils are obsessed with rev­o­lu­tions. And stars. MGR started off call­ing him­self the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Leader, and then Vijaykanth became the Cap­tain for­merly known as the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Artist and Sath­yaraj became the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Tamil.

Rajinikanth is the Super­Star, Ajit Kumar is the Ulti­mate Star and to top it all off, S.J. Surya is the Mul­ti­ple Star. Oh, and one must not ignore Sarathku­mar, who even signs his own let­ters Supreme Star and Murali, who is the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Actor.?

Great. I can’t say I’ve heard of all these peo­ple. I never knew that peo­ple named their kids Merely.”

Merely? No, he is actually…”

Before you move on, I have a ques­tion. Is Ulti­mate big­ger than Super? Is Mul­ti­ple greater than Rev­o­lu­tion? Is Supreme bet­ter than Multiple?”

Mul­ti­ple.

The hier­ar­chi­cal rules are very com­plex. Lets just say there is Super, and then there is the rest. Let me also add that Mul­ti­ple is less than every­thing else.”

By the way, who gives them these names?”

Give? What do you mean give?”

Well.. some­one has to name you, right?”

Usu­ally, they just wait for a movie or two. If some­one doesn’t call them by an epi­thet, they just pick one they like.”

This is so fas­ci­nat­ing. Another paratha?”

Sure. Now if Tamil fas­ci­nates, Tel­ugu megafascinates.”

You got a great vocabulary.”

Thank you. You got a great… never mind.. so, the Tel­ugu field is replete with star-sons. To account for this phe­nom­e­non, they pass epi­thets down from one gen­er­a­tion to another with slight modifications.”

The­ory flies over my head. Give me examples.”

I should’ve known that my hon­ey­bun. Chi­ran­jeevi, the most pop­u­lar star in Tel­ugu, is the Mega Star. So when his brother made his act­ing debut, he chose to call him­self the Power Star. Chiranjeevi’s father-in-law is the Ace Pro­ducer. He has another brother, and nat­u­rally enough, this brother is the Mega Brother.”

Ok…”

When Chiranjeevi’s nephew made his debut, he became the Mega Power Star. And when his son does make his debut, he will be the Yuva Mega Star”

Mega, Power, MegaPower. All Stars.

Oh, what a sim­ple algo­rithm. So if the another nephew debuts, he could be the Power Mega Star. Yet another could be the Mega Brother Power Star. And then Ace Power Brother Star Mega Yuva. This could go on for sev­eral generations.”

Real Star. Real Scary.

Exactly! Ok, let me ask you some­thing. There is a scary dude called Sri­hari — the Real Star. His wife is Disco Shanti, the ex-vamp. Now … ”

Their son could be the Ex Star. Their daugh­ter the Ex Vamp. Or Vam­pEx. Finally an algo­rithm I get. ”

Eh, maybe. I shouldn’t for­get Tarun — who sounds like a girl and claims that his proud­est achieve­ment is his shoe col­lec­tion — he calls him­self the Lover Boy. Pos­i­tive Rein­force­ment, sort of.”

One of these is the Lover Boy.

Hmm… ”

No such wor­ries in the case of the Crazy Star: Ravi Teja. Prab­has is the Young Rebel Star, coz some­one else took Rebel Star by the time he came on board.”

Umm…”

Any­ways, mov­ing on…”

Can we stop here? I’ve been bored now for the last twenty lines. You don’t know where to stop”

Ok, what­ever you say, my Princess.”

Princess? Aww. You are my Tera Star.”

Our kid would be the PrinTer Star. Ha Ha Ha.”

Eww. Pathetic. I am hun­gry now.”

I am always hun­gry. For your love.”

Stop it.”

And we will.