[Story] Kaufman’s LIE
6th November 2028
Reporter – How did you get the idea of LIE ?
Nissim – It started as a nagging germ inside my brain. I wanted to stay connected to my great-grandfather…
Agastya Kaur was the biggest name in Indian Cinema and was renowned the world over. In a career spanning over 30 years, he had acted in 27 films and had directed 12 of the most path breaking films in Indian Cinema. Extremely talented and towering at over 1.96 meters, his presence commanded attention. With his unconventional looks and baritone voice, he had come as a breath of fresh air in the talent starved world of Hindi Films. After debuting in the commercial and critical blockbuster, AMAR in 1988, he went from strength to strength as an actor. Dissatisfied with the stories written for him, he decided to turn director and in 2000, came up with PRARAMBH, which became the first Indian film to win the prestigious Palm D’Or at the
Cannes Film Festival. He followed that with 11 brilliant films, acted in all of them and became a darling of the masses and the classes alike. The Media had christened him with the moniker – Eastwood Of The East. He loved to talk, never hid the fact that he craved attention and the Media loved him for that. That’s why it had come as a surprise when out of the blue, on the chilly morning of 30th December, 2021, Agastya called a press conference in his palatial apartment in New York, where he had been living since the past 11 months, and declared, with no valid reason, that he had decided to retire from public life completely. He would keep making films, but would never be seen in any public place. No film parties, no press conferences, no award shows. He said people would see him in his films only.
6th November 2028
Reporter – Nissim, you are a Cochin Jew. Tell me a little bit about your background.
Nissim – My great grandfather, Solomon Kaufman, used to live in Warsaw, Poland. He was a goldsmith by profession. In 1933, he became friends with a man after whom I’m named, Nissim Salem, who had come to Warsaw on a holiday. He was a goldsmith as well and was from Cochin. He convinced my great-grandfather, then a newly married man of 22, to come to Cochin with him and work there. My great grandfather was an explorer by heart, and had a habit of doing things on a whim. He packed his bags, took his young wife and came to India. And that’s an extremely important part of my story, as, had that not happened, I wouldn’t have even been born. The rest of my great-grandfather’s family, his parents, his siblings, his uncles, his aunts, his cousins were all killed during the Holocaust. He visited Poland after the war to give them a token burial. India was good to him. His business flourished. He had a large and a happy family. My grandfather, Itzhak, was born in 1935. He followed his father and became a goldsmith as well. My father, Samuel was born in 1960. He turned his back to the family business and joined the Indian Army. He married my mother, Ruby Jussey in 1988. My mother’s ancestry can be traced back to the first Jews who came to Cochin from Iberia. I am their second son and 28 years old now.
Agastya’s first film after his disappearance from Public life released in 26th February 2023. Titled SHATRANJ, the film was part autobiography and part tribute to Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal. It set the art house circuit on fire, and brought new laurels to his name. The film starred some of his closest friends from the industry and was promoted and presented by his long time cinematographer and partner, Anwesha Shukla. The media tried its best to get a word from him, but were only greeted with two video messages. One, before the release of the film and another, after its success. 2 years after that came LOBH, loosely based on Leo Tolstoy’s How Much Land Does A Man Need, the film starred had the same star cast as SHATRANJ, and was again presented by Anwesha, who answered questions and gave snippets. It did even better than SHATRANJ and was awarded The Golden Bear at the Berlinale. One day after the awards, Agastya released another video message thanking the jury for the award and announced his next project, NARI, to round up his greed trilogy. His reclusiveness had created an aura about him, and after much fanfare, on 30th July 2027, the film released. However, it failed to please the critics and the audience and turned out to be the biggest flop of his career. 16 months after that, at the age of 64, Agastya died of Cancer.
6th November 2028
Reporter – Tell me about your upbringing.
Nissim – My father, being in the Army, was a strict disciplinarian, but he never interfered with my choices. I was a meek child and stayed aloof in school. I hardly had any friends. But what I did have was an extremely fertile mind. Science was my lifeline. Technology enthralled me. I was quiet interested in Psychiatry as well. And school had become too restrictive for me. After completing high school, I decided to drop college, and my father supported me. By 19 I had started writing programmes for Microsoft. The money was good, I was living with relatives in Washington and I could spend it all on my secret project.
Reporter – Why did you call it LIE ?
Nissim – It’s an acronym for Life Imitating Entity.
Agastya was a man of impeccable health. Despite indulging in chain smoking and alcohol abuse, his aquiline features stayed intact. That’s why his sudden death had come as a huge shock. Many said he turned reclusive because of the cancer, but his films showed no signs of him having gone through any treatment. He looked as healthy as ever. His fans, while paying rich tributes to him, also thanked his partner Anwesha for being with him in his last moments. Which was also an anomaly, as Agastya had always been quiet vocal about his philandering ways. He didn’t get married because, in his own words, he could never promise fidelity. Before Anwesha, his longest partner was the starlet Zoya and that had lasted for around 8 months only. But Anwesha, a self confessed die-hard fan of Agastya, and 20 years his junior, stayed with him for over 9 years till his death. Agastya had always sworn by her talent and quiet publicly had acknowledged his love for her. But as usual, at the question of marriage, he vehemently denied having any such plans. Anwesha’s dedication to a man whom she could never singularly possess was commendable.
6th November 2028
Reporter – How did you meet Agastya Kaur ?
Nissim – Many don’t know it, but I’m related to him. We were cousins. He is my aunt, my father’s older sister’s, son. And he was the reason I had started watching films. The truth is, I’d been meeting him since I was a kid. I was quiet close to him.
Reporter – How did you get the idea of LIE ?
Nissim – It started as a nagging germ inside my brain. I wanted to stay connected to my great-grandfather. He died when I was 11. And he was the only one who had been in touch with my real roots. I used to love listening to his stories from Poland and his dramatic recitation of the Siddur. He was an extremely intelligent man as well and I missed him a lot. My grandfather had died before my birth, so my great-grandfather was the only old man in the house and meant a lot to me. A few years after his death, I had created the software Voice-Trick, it became quiet famous. You had to install a person’s voice, anything, just a single line would have sufficed and the programme would talk back to you in the person’s voice. But you still had to type words for it to say. I wanted to keep listening to my great grandfather talk and the programme did that for me. But I wasn’t satisfied. I wanted to hold a conversation with it. I wanted spontaneous replies. That’s how the plan to make LIE started. By the time I was 18, I had the basic theory in place. I just needed money, and in large amounts, to be able to execute them. The job in Microsoft became a blessing. I became friends with people in Hollywood and their performance capture technology became a great help. I advanced it further and could simulate an exact replica of a person digitally. What it needed now, was a mind. For that, I formulated an IQ test, a psychiatric test and an emotional bonding test, which the subject had to take while being attached to an Emograph, a machine I invented that would capture all the information and pass it on to the simulated digital body. With that, a digital clone of the person would be created. And I was surprised by my own creation. Because the digital clone didn’t just talk and behave like the real person, its intelligence, its emotional responses, even its vices, were exactly similar as well. The first digital clone I created was my own. I had great fun conversing with it. I added new attachments to the software. It could surf the internet and keep adding to its own growth as a person. But to give it the much needed free will, I decided to keep the software command free once turned on. So, you could request it to talk to you, or dance for you, but it would only do it if it wanted to do so itself. You still had the power to switch it off though. Further, I made it self aware, as in, it never had any conflict about its identity. It knew it was a digital entity and wouldn’t try to question its non-physical existence. But I still wasn’t sure if it would mean anything more than being just a piece of entertainment. With my creation in place, I was ready to take it to Microsoft, when Agastya got diagnosed with stage IV Cancer of the Lungs.
Reporter – When did Agastya learn about LIE ?
Nissim – He had a bad habit of not going for his medical checkups. He didn’t go to a doctor even after he had started coughing blood. He was shooting for an Ad in New York in early 2021, when he suddenly collapsed. Anwesha immediately took him to a doctor, where he got diagnosed with Cancer and immediate Chemo was prescribed. But Agastya being Agastya, asked for a little more time. I flew down to New York from Redmond. And there he was, engrossed in an animated discussion with Anwesha about his Greed trilogy. He used to respect my opinion and always shared his scripts with me. Anwesha went on and on about the need to start the treatment, and Agastya was busy describing new scenes to her. Anwesha got angry and left. He looked at me and said – “ Just these three films and then I can die in peace”. He said he wanted to start working immediately. He didn’t want to waste time in Chemotherapy and then end up dead, without making these films. Now, Agastya was a genius. His artistry was unparalleled, and I could relate to his need to contribute to his art more than his desire to live. But I loved him and with all my heart, wanted him to live. That’s when I mentioned LIE to him. I told him I can create a digital replica of him and he can act and direct exactly like him, maybe do even better. He can have his Chemo, while the Digital version does all the work for him. He looked at me in disbelief. Agastya, as we all know, was an auteur and he would move heaven and earth to be in total control of his films. The fact that I had even suggested something like that made him angry. But when faced with mortality, even the toughest people turn soft. His pain had made it extremely difficult for him to write anything. Within 2 days, LIE was on. With his digital replica ready, Agastya, with full secrecy, started his Chemo. But the Chemo failed. Doctors gave him 6-8 months to live. The News was devastating for all of us. But Agastya was unfazed. He wanted me to work further on LIE and make it even better. This was April 2021. We moved to Alaska, Agastya had a summer cottage there. And I kept on retouching the programme till Agastya was finally satisfied. Anwesha was with him all along, like a pillar. He invited a few of his closest friends from the industry, actors, technicians, music directors and made them swear to maintain complete secrecy. And these people were his biggest fans, they readily agreed. Satisfied with all the arrangements, he called a press conference on December 2021, 30th I think it was, and amazingly like a phoenix, rose from his haggard self and looked at his healthiest best and declared to go underground. He went back to India and on 12th February 2022, breathed his last.
5th November 2028
Agastya Kaur’s Last Video Message
Hello Friends!! I have a surprise for you. And you have every right to be angry after listening to it. Or you can choose to laugh at it or ignore it. What I’m about to say might sound like a blatant lie to you. But it’s the most honest truth, if there ever was one. I am not Agastya. I am his digital replica. Created by a brilliant invention called LIE or Life Imitating Entity, by my brilliant cousin Nissim Kaufman. You’ll hear a lot from him in the coming days. 9 years ago, I, or rather my flesh and bone version, was diagnosed with Cancer. One year after that, on 2022 I died. The news of my death that you got 2 days back was a charade. A charade which took place on my orders. It was the megalomania of my real self, that made me want to see the outpouring of your grief and love one last time, more so because of the snob you guys gave me for my last film. If Anwesha had her way, you would have just seen a press conference with her and Nissim divulging the truth to you, but, digitally yours, wanted a little fun. And my fellow culprits loved me a bit too much to deny me this last pleasure. Speaking of Anwesha, I can’t thank her enough. I have a consciousness. Using all that, I can safely say that very few people are capable of giving as much self less love as her. She chose to stay single during this entire charade, just so no one ever saw her with another man. She was also the one who persuaded the real Agastya to get digitally replicated. Anwesha also wanted me to delay this Video message for a few more months, because she felt, so much so soon, first the death and then this whole charade, would be too much for you all to digest. But, Nissim had already delayed the public release of his software and his device for my sake. I couldn’t delay that any further. And mind you friends, it’s not a software. It’s a soulware. I am every bit the artist that the real Agastya was. Knowing this might make you see my last 3 films in a different light, but apart from superimposing my digital performance with the real performances of the real actors, nothing different happened. In fact, the brilliance of the invention is proven by the successful release of my last 3 films. Was I any different? No. Were my abilities enhanced? No. I still felt tired after working continuously for 16 hours. I had asked Anwesha to shut me down for good after the release of my last film, but I’m having second thoughts now. If you, the audience, are ready to accept my digital self, I shall be happy to oblige you for eternity. But it’s not something that I’ll decide on my own. I am tired of my own megalomania as well. It’s all in your hands. And it’s not just about me, other artists, important scientists, can keep working even after their deaths, because of this beautiful invention. Imagine, Stephen Hawking having the opportunity to have a debate with Einstein, or Michelangelo designing a new mural. This software can make the future generation stay in constant touch with people from older generations. I hope and pray that you accept it with open arms. Infuriating as it may sound, I would like to thank the many doctors, politicians, bureaucrats and my closest friends who helped me and my real self in pulling this charade. And to you my audience, thanks from the bottom of my heart ! Thanks a lot for your constant love and support. Extremely sorry for the lies. And now, enjoy The LIE. Over to Nissim.