Awtar-2 (What might have happened on Apr 19 & 20, 1974)

On Apr 20, 1974, news of Awtar Kaul’s dramatic death had spread in the film and art circles like a wild fire. Especially owners and staff of Samovar and Gaylord were badly shocked, since they knew Awtar, as a bright new filmmaker and as their regular visitor. Everyone had something to talk about him. Conversations heard on ‘Apr 19’ became the backbone of the story ‘what might have happened.’ After these ‘snippets of conversations’ of his friends and people from these establishments were pieced together, there emerged a believable story line, with a time line of, not more than 12-14 hours.

First piece from Arab Bungalow (Patel family home):
Apr 19, 1974, morning. No one can have any idea exactly what time Awtar left home. Getting out could not be seen as an unusual activity for paying guests of the Patel family. Arun, his roommate too was a busy person by then. He may or may not have noticed him leaving. People go out for work, for fun, for a date or meetings… So his leaving home that day could not be seen as anything special – except that, that late morning Awtar went out for the last time.

Second piece provided by conversations at Samovar:
It is early afternoon, may be just before lunch, when Awtar got there. As Samovar staff knows their regular customers very well. Awtar would be talking about his film, its production, actors, future plans, his frustrations… to his friend Butani, a young independent journalist. She must have been scribbling all the details on her writing pad for press. It would be understood that they spend too much time at that restaurant or at some stage, may have gone away somewhere else. Their relationship was understood to be more than interviewer and interviewee. They met quite often and were together for long hours.

Third piece from a bar:
This is the most important piece of conversation that comes from a painter who narrated it to the cinematographer, Bir. This painter was a part of the group of at least three people, he himself, Awtar and the lady journalist Butani, who were carrying on from their lunch date at the Samovar. They were at the Ritz bar for a drink… after a while as they loosened up, the lady got too emotionally aggressive towards Awtar and let out steam. Due to this loud display of frustration from the woman, the painter now becomes familiar with the tangle between the two. Not only the painter; but ‘memory water marks’ of the scene are left on the staff of the bar too. Later these marks will turn into conversations for completing the story line…
In the end things become a bit calm. The group finishes wine and dine. They pay up. Awtar and the lady offer to drop their painter friend at his residence. He accepts. They take a taxi and head towards ‘White House’ at Walkeshwar via Marine drive.

Closing conversation from Walkeshwar:
Geography: The painter lived right down where the sea touches the wall of the apartment building. Situated on the right, at the lowest edge of White House, from a distance it looked like a studio apartment or even a garage. But for a painter like him, it must be a beautiful place to live, having unrestricted view of queen’s necklace, the sea and its proximity.
Painter: “After not so comfortable evening at the Ritz, Awtar and Butani came to drop me. They walked me right down till the last point. Nice of them. As I started a short walk to my house, they waited looking at me. They were being really very kind to me. It was a dark, no-moon night. Sea too was extremely noisy and rough due to peak of high tide. Tall waves were banging on the boundary wall of the building. I went inside my house but decided to keep the door open until they went away. I could see both of them talking to each other. Their actions were a bit heated now. I knew they had been having very bad emotional tiffs. I was changing and doing my usual chores. I thought they may be wanting to spend some more time with each other to thrash things out. I went in the toilet. When I came out, they were still there, but now the girl was standing on the parapet, screaming and gesturing towards Awtar and sea. She was throwing her arms all over! She seemed very very agitated. I was alarmed. Thinking of the neighbors getting disturbed, I decided to go out and cool them down. As I turned back after picking my keys, I saw Awtar standing on the parapet, in place of the woman! He was screaming his lungs out looking towards the sea with outstretched arms. I knew worst had happened! She had jumped in the swollen sea. As I got closer, I could see her being tossed up and down by the waves. Fearing for him, I moved towards Awtar to pull him down to safety. Due to the din, quite a few neighbors had woken up and were standing in their balconies. One of them threw down a nylon rope. I advanced towards Awtar to grab his shirt to bring him down. Just then the waves tossed the woman closer to the wall… and he too jumped down! He caught hold of her. In desperation we threw the rope for them. The girl had stopped trying to save herself. She had lost strength and was floating helplessly. Awtar was holding the rope; but he too was no match for the power of the sea. The waves banged him on the wall many times. They had separated now. Rope was of no use. Someone called up the fire brigade. Waves were now carrying them away from the wall and perhaps towards Chowpati beach. They seemed to have lost consciousness…
It may be a little before midnight, when I lost sight of them due to darkness and growing distance.”

Waves crashing at Marine Drive (Image for representation only)