By Nisha Susan
Why did she have a number in her name? Who knows.
All I know was that as a teenager I was gobsmacked by the scooter-riding, apple-crunching, weirdo-kid-mothering vigilante.
Her black-and-white gorgeousness was from the same incredibly fecund period of Channel V’s history that gave us Quick Gun Murugun, the Kaurs, the grumpy couple on the sofa who loved/hated ‘those young heroines’, Jhumri Telaiya Ka Majnu and Udham Singh. She is the one I always remembered though. What a fantastic, supercharged version she was of both of the rage and kookiness of the heroine I loved the most: Sridevi. For years I tickled myself by muttering dialogue from the three Aunty 303 videos under my breath. Mummy-papa-kab-aayega-Honolulu-se, I’d squeak to myself and giggle. It was my own private joke, like the dim memory of a Pepsi ad on TV that no one else seems to remember with Kajol in it — it had the lines, Pritam Kaun, Pandey Kaun, Pritam Pandey. Did such an ad exist? I don’t know.
I have frequent occasion to realise how, to use a period phrase, Clueless in Colaba I am. Rarely more so than a couple of years ago when I asked a new friend “Do you remember this old Channel V ad called Aunty 303?” My new friend looked at me like I was 100 percent cuckoo. “Yes, of course,” she said. “I was Aunty 303.”
I had to sit down. I squinted at her and squinted into my dim, giggly memory and thought “W-o-t? Could it be?” And so it was. My new friend Paromita Vohra was the brilliant, big-eyed heroine of those miniscule revenge dramas I’d loved in 1996.
After this shock passed I asked her whether those old promo videos were online somewhere I hadn’t spotted them. Nope, she said cheerfully. And that was that. It was gone, I told myself, in the way that I read in an Ammu Joseph book that Doordarshan taped over (!) its archives of its oldest shows.
A couple of months ago through a long, complicated sequence of events Paromita found the videos (and some other footage I suspect we will be hearing more about soon.) I watched them again and how satisfying it was to discover they were still perfect.
I am super pleased by this chance pe dance to share The Aunty with a whole new audience. And with perhaps some old lovers of hers.