The book “Scare Me If You Can” by Sid Kapdi is a thrilling rollercoaster which promises a screamy ride.
At a spooky themed resort in Mahabaleshwar, best-selling author Sivan Singh conducts a workshop on advanced horror-writing. On its final day, the nine participants, influenced by their eerie experiences during their stay, along with an enigmatic writer, go all out for the story narration competition ‘Scare Me If You Can’.
In these fast-paced Indian stories based in different cities, the horror quotient keeps rising with each story.
Read an excerpt from the book below.
It was a cold and breezy full-moon evening on the 21st of January 2019. The atmosphere at the Filmstar awards ceremony in BKC in Mumbai was electrifying. Jio Stadium provided a rare opportunity for star-gazing – in the sky as well on the ground. The who’s who of Bollywood, television stars, cricketers, politicians, industrialists, and other Page-3 regulars were in attendance.
“Good Evening, ladies and gentlemen. The award for Best Screenwriting goes to… well, no surprises here… Sivan Singh and team for Scare Me If You Can!” the gorgeous heart-throb Apsara Khanna announced from the podium. Sivan kissed his wife and sprang to his feet, as a powerful beam of light from a drone above followed him. Sivan watched his nine other co-writers jump in triumph, hugging each other on the way, as they marched in unison behind him, on to the stage.
“Thank you, God, for being so kind to us,” Sivan beamed in his speech. It was not his tall, muscular frame with a tight-fitting suit and neatly maintained beard but his genuine smile and humility that made him stand out. “It has been an unbelievable journey; it is a conquest of teamwork. On behalf of our team, I would like to thank all those who kept faith in us including our families and friends, the producers and director for bringing our writing to life on such a phenomenal scale, and all the actors who enacted the characters passionately. Thanks to the readers and our agent Sunil Mehta for making our book a blockbuster, which prompted the production houses to approach us, and finally Filmstar for choosing us.”
“I also need to thank my good friend Jugal Wadhwani, the owner of Spooky End, the scariest resort in India. It was his invitation which started it all, about two years back. I accepted it and then met these gems – the nav ratnas, if you will. And the rest, as they say, is history.” The thunderous cheer was followed by tears, as the big screen flashed glimpses of the nine co-writers celebrating the book launch and completion of the script, followed by visuals of news coverage on their untimely death. Sivan wiped his tears and was about to leave when the host Kapil Kapoor stopped him.
“Sivan, we can imagine how painful it must be for you, how much do you miss your co-writers today?”
“I don’t miss them at all. They are here, right next to me. All dressed in their finest and rejoicing. In fact, they are the reason I am here, on this stage today. All our souls are connected, I still see them and can talk to them,” Sivan mumbled, getting a bit emotional.
“Wow, Sivan. Just one last question. We understand that you wrote the tenth story in the anthology, which the audience found extremely fearsome and disturbing. Tell us something about Ajgar, the deadliest character in the movie. How did you come up with such an idea?”
This was the exact topic that Sivan did not want to discuss, and he dished out his well-rehearsed reply. “When I wrote that story, there was a local folk tale about Ajgar and his misdeeds. Taking a cue from there, I made up some events about his past and added a bit of horror masala to it, making it the spiciest item on the menu. And full marks to Roshan Puri who brought Ajgar to life, the way no one could have,” Sivan stuttered and left the stage, his hands shivering and sweat beads growing on his face and neck.
“Hey Sivu, what’s the matter? Are you ok?” his wife Shruti enquired, as Sivan slumped into his chair.
“Yes dear, nothing to worry. Let me wash my face and be back in five,” Sivan whispered and rushed towards the rear door. Shruti had begun worrying ever since his talks with the dead co-writers had become more frequent and many-a-times he appeared lost. She knew how involved Sivan had become with the nav ratnas, whose lives had ended horrifically, right in front of them. Unfortunately, Sivan considered himself responsible for their deaths and had never come to terms with life without them.
The mention of Ajgar’s name on stage had disturbed Sivan immensely. He had started to see the face of the real Ajgar – the man he feared the most – in whomsoever he was coming across. Be it the singer who entered as he exited the door, or the assistant director of a suspense movie in the passage, or even the director of Scare Me If You Can, who hugged him as he passed by. Sivan pushed the restroom door with so much force that it almost hit the nose of an actor on the other side. Apologizing, he slowly moved towards the urinals. A short sardarji with a long white beard, dressed in a loose blue-coloured kurta-pyjama walked in front of him and moved towards the third urinal. Sivan took the second one. The sardarji stood more than a foot behind the fixture and was relieving himself as if trying to avoid getting closer. Once done, he suddenly came forward, turned his head towards Sivan, and flashed a smile which Sivan returned. When their eyes locked momentarily, Sivan saw glimpses of Ajgar in his face and immediately looked the other way. After quickly washing his face and hands, Sivan began to sprint back towards his seat via the dimly-lit hallway, avoiding eye contact with anyone. As he joined a few others entering the door that led to his seating area, he felt someone’s hand in his coat pocket. He swung around, but could only see a shadowy figure rushing in the direction opposite to the washroom. He instinctively felt his pocket and confirmed that his mobile was still in its place.
Settling down on his chair, Sivan drowned himself in his thoughts and stayed that way for almost an hour. He forced a smile and exchanged a high-five with his wife Shruti and a couple of others when he heard superstar Mickey Khan announce, “… and the best movie of the year is – the five-hour-long Hinglish movie – Scare Me If You Can!” The audience sprang back on its feet, and there were shouts, cheers, whistles, and hugs. They felt as if it was their victory. The movie had universal appeal and the unique concept had triggered ‘Scare Me If You Can’ contests all over – colleges, offices, public places, picnics, and even in homes. It was a hit, both on and off the screen. No one had imagined that it would become so popular.
Sivan’s mind flashed back over two years in time when it had all started.
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