Sunday, 13 May 2012

CHASING THE SUN - Second Installment


For all your lovely comments on my screenplay - thank you! And since you asked for more, here it is :) The next ten minutes hot off the press. Well... alright, the only next ten minutes that exist.. I haven't actually written any more than this!

INT. BEDROOM, HUGH’S COTTAGE - NIGHT.

World maps on wall, children’s movie posters, packed bookshelves. Hugh, on unmade bed, looks like he is working but close-up reveals him rifling through digital photographs of Olivia - with Hugh on graduation day, with James at the beach, with girlfriends in Venice, with Hugh at parties, dressed formally - a handsome couple. In contrast now, Hugh unshaven, dark hair askew, books, papers, strewn untidily across bed. Suddenly alerted to a sound, listens for it again. Thrusting laptop away, walks quickly out of room, down the stairs, fills glass of water at kitchen sink and rushes back up, into James’ bedroom.

JUMP CUT TO:

Fire. Riot being ‘controlled’ by British forces. Chaos. Screams. We see the rioters closely now. Young students, bearing Indian flags, hastily crafted signs - some protesting for peace rather than partition, some promising equal violence in return. 1947 made visible via newspaper cuttings pasted onto signs. Focus on a beautiful 1940’s version of Lara. Clear blue-grey eyes swimming with tears. She has been shot. She is disbelieving at first, and then, heartbroken. Looks up into the eyes of a British officer, the 1940’s version of Hugh, watching her, helpless. As she closes her eyes, he reaches out for her, shakes her shoulders.

BACK TO:

Hugh shaking James awake. Switches on bedside lamp to reveal James, struggling out of duvet, slightly sweaty; he reaches out automatically for the glass of water, gulps it down.

HUGH
Was it the accident again?

James shakes his head violently. 
HUGH (CONT’D)
Do you want to talk about it?

JAMES
It was scary. There was a lady. Someone I... She got shot. There was blood and everything. 

HUGH
Did she look like...?

Nudges the edge of a photograph on the bedside table. Beautiful Olivia, her arms around a younger James. James doesn’t look, merely shakes his head again. Camera pans around James’ room. A strong interest in India goes some way towards explaining nightmare: map of India on wall, small Persian carpet, cricket gear, posters of Tendulkar and Khan. A tidy room for a little boy. Perhaps unnaturally so.

JAMES
Dad? You know Emma?

HUGH
                              Yes, I know Emma. She’s 12 and knows everything. Just like your Aunty Bess was at her age. Why? What’s she said now?

JAMES
                            She said... she said Mummy had... She said that Mummy was having an affair before she died. With the Hungarian.

HUGH
                             Christ! What does she know about the Hungarian? I mean... I mean, no! I mean, look, James...

JAMES
 I remember him. He was in the car with her when she... when they...

HUGH
(desperately)
You know book 4? 

James looks confused.

HUGH (CONT’D)
(slowly)
I was thinking about a trip... for research. I was thinking of going... to India.
(at James’ expression)
Just thinking about it.

JAMES
Dad. Please. I have to come with you. I have to!

HUGH
What about these nightmares?

JAMES
Maybe they’ll get better? Please? You always go without me.

HUGH
(taken aback at accusation, but rallies)
                            Look, we need to really think about this. Sort stuff out. Visas. Immunisations. Let’s talk about it with Granny Grampa this weekend, alright? 

JAMES
Dad, seriously, please? For my birthday?

HUGH
The clincher! Come on, try and get some sleep again. 

JAMES
Can I read a bit first? 

Hugh stretches out and reaches for a book lying on the floor, part of a neatly stacked pile. An Adrian Mole story. James, safe and yawning now, snuggles back with book. Close on Hugh’s face, creased with concern.

CUT TO:

EXT. GROUNDS OF LARGE MANOR HOUSE, GLOUCESTER - DAY.

On a bench, Hugh and niece EMMA (12) are cheering on a cricket match between James, his cousins RICHARD (7) and THOMAS (5) and grandfather PETER (63). Hugh and Emma are mid-conversation.

HUGH
He’s nine years old!

EMMA
Nearly ten.

HUGH
                                          He’s too young to understand! You’re too young! How do you know anyway?

EMMA
I hear things.

Hugh gives his niece a look, rises from bench, shaking head in disbelief, and starts walking towards house, Emma in tow.

EMMA (CONT’D)
                                The point is, Uncle Hugh, that you need to move on. Find your destiny.

HUGH
Where do you get this stuff?

EMMA
Oprah. Duh.

HUGH
                                        The point is, we were doing fine until you decided to educate your nine year old cousin.

EMMA
               Nearly ten. And the point is he’s still having nightmares...

Her voice fades away as they enter the house, and head for the kitchen.

INT. KITCHEN, LARGE MANOR HOUSE - DAY.

Inside, Indian theme continues, with various objet d’arts, antique miniature paintings of British horsemen, forts, temples. Connection to Raj via ancestors firmly established. Hugh’s mother VERA (61), sister Bess, and brother-in-law TONY (37) are in the kitchen. Vera is making tea for everyone. Hugh moodily watches his son play through the kitchen window.

VERA
                      All I’m saying darling, is that it isn’t the end of the world, him knowing. Children are resilient. Look at the two of you, and you too, Tony darling - you all turned out just fine.

HUGH
                     Yes, because you weren’t busy having affairs through our childhood! 

BESS
(sotto voce)
And you’re still alive.

VERA
                                       I heard that - terribly insensitive of you, to both Hugh and your dear old Mum - and in the presence of your child! 
(to Emma)
Darling, could you run upstairs and find my glasses?

EMMA
(severely)
You’re trying to get rid of me.

VERA
Only for a little while, I promise.

Emma reluctantly obeys, dragging feet. 

VERA (CONT’D)
                                       Anyway, how do you know I wasn’t playing around? In fact, I’ve been meaning to tell you..

HUGH
Not funny, Mother.

VERA
                             Oh don’t be so po faced, my love - affairs happen all the time! Tell him, Tony. Enlighten my poor deluded boy as to the ways of the world.

BESS
Yes. Do tell us, Tony.

TONY
Cheers, Mother. In Law. 
(turning to Bess)
I know nothing! Nothing! 
(to Hugh)
I’ll tell you everything you need to know, later.

BESS
Rat.
(pinching the first cup of tea)
                                 But speaking of les affaires de la famille, wasn’t there one in ours? On Dad’s side? I   remember Granny mentioning it once... you remember her way... Je sais des choses... Je connaître les secrets du passé...

She waves her hands about, like a gypsy fortune teller. Emma, who has rushed back, breathless, hands Vera her glasses. She is in time to hear this latest enthralling snippet; it is clear from where her source of information derives.

VERA
Oh yes, must have been a very interesting time in old Ashton’s life, pre your grandmother. Adrienne was always dying to talk to me about it. But she was very respectful to your grandfather. Ahh. Those were the days... 
(opening the door and yelling to her husband Peter)
YOUR TEA’S GOING COLD! COME AND GET IT!

PETER
(faint voice from garden)
Am keeping score, my angel, can you bring it out here please?

VERA
NO!
(shutting door)
Now, where was I?

HUGH
Respectful wives.

VERA
                              Ah yes. India. Well I wish I could tell you more, my darling, but Peter never asked his mother what she meant and...

Peter and the boys tumble in, riotous flinging off of pads, gloves and discussion of cricket scores. Peter rescues the last mug of tea.

PETER
Did I hear my name? 

VERA
We were talking about Ashton darling, and his mysterious Indian affair.

JAMES
What affair? In India? 

PETER
Really my love, you can be so terribly indiscreet. 
(whispers to James)
Granny’s losing her marbles.

VERA
I am not! 
(but taking the hint)
Alright my lovely ones, off you go, wash your hands. And feet!

THOM
Our feet aren’t dirty!!

EMMA
(supercilious)
Granny’s joking, Thom.

THOM
But...

Bess gathers the boys together, hustles them out of the room. James gives Hugh a searching look before he leaves. 

VERA
(before Peter can say anything)
            Yes alright, alright. Completely thoughtless of me. Sorry, Hugh.  

HUGH
                         No, it’s pretty fascinating actually. Quite relevant in a way. Am thinking of sending Casper off to India for one of his travels. So, heading out there myself. And maybe taking James with me. What do you think?

Bess comes back in trailed by James.

BESS
Sorry, Hugh. I’ve settled the others in front of Pirates, but this one.. 

She shrugs helplessly.

JAMES
What did Great Grandpa Ashton do?

EMMA
(simultaneously to James)
You’re going to India!

The cousins look at each other excitedly.

HUGH
                                No idea. No one seems to know anything, which is absolutely typical of the Trevelyans.
(pointedly to Emma)
                                 Plenty of gossip, no substance. Right. Now what about that delicious looking spongey cakey thing..

JAMES
Grampa’s got substance - he’ll tell me!

PETER
(visibly moved)
                                  Oh. Dear boy. But I must disappoint. Father loved India, but never spoke to me about a lady friend.

BESS
(sniggering)
‘Lady friend’?

EMMA
                                       Uncle Hugh! This is perfect! You can find the lady friend and your destiny! Two birds, one stone!

TONY
Yes, Hugh. Go find that lady friend. 

HUGH
So, the general consensus, positive?

BESS
Completely mad...

TONY
But brilliant.

VERA
             And it’s your birthday soon - a tenth birthday is no small matter.

JAMES
That’s what I said!

PETER
Wish I could come too.

EMMA
Let’s all go!

Hugh is alarmed at suggestion of whole family traipsing off to India, but smiles at their enthusiasm. He exchanges a look with James. The stirring of adventure lights their eyes, uniting them properly for the first time.

CUT TO:

INT. AIRPLANE - NIGHT.

James in the window seat, fast asleep. Hugh, in seat beside him, watches him sleep. In Hugh’s hands, a thin sheaf of letters, slightly yellowed with age. He opens one and begins to read.

DISSOLVE TO:

INT. CORRIDOR, MANOR HOUSE, GLOUCESTER - NIGHT.

Hugh, standing in doorway of bedroom, watching James sleep. PETER comes down the corridor.

PETER
(whispering)
Is he asleep?

HUGH
Exhausted with all that excitement. What’s up?

PETER
Got something to show you.

Hugh gives James a last look. There is vulnerability, a grief still alive, in Hugh’s eyes. He follows his father down the corridor to a study, densely populated with bookshelves, photographs. A portrait of ASHTON TREVELYAN, familiar figure now, takes up space on one of the walls. Peter unlocks a drawer and removes the yellowed sheaf of letters. 

PETER (CONT’D)
Told a small lie earlier.

He hands the letters to Hugh.

PETER (CONT’D)
                                    Father’s letters - to someone who didn’t want them. He sent the first in 1947, and the last in 1950.  

The letters are all stamped ‘Return to Sender’. The recipient is D. SHROFF; the address, BOMBAY, INDIA. Hugh unfolds the first and begins to read aloud.

HUGH
                                 'Dearest DD, now that I am about to leave the mountains for the fenlands of the ‘shire, I suppose I shall spend the rest of my life chasing the sun...' Quite the poet, wasn’t he? Who was DD? 

PETER
                                 Well, I’ve always wondered. I thought... since you mentioned going to India... maybe you could trace this D. Shroff?

HUGH
Do you think this was her? The one that got away?

PETER
        Well, it was him that got away. Those were terrible times. Maybe she...

The word ‘died’ weighs heavy in the air. Peter moves toward the door, ready for bed now. 

HUGH
         It’s all a bloody business, isn’t it? I mean, what’s the point of any of it? 

Peter makes no response.

HUGH (CONT’D)
(as though compelled)
                                    Do you think we’ll be alright? James, I mean. Do you think James will be alright?

PETER
                                  I think you’ll both be alright. Nothing like an adventure and a bit of mystery to solve. Good night, Hugh.

HUGH
                              If Olivia hadn’t - died - I wouldn’t have taken her back. Not if she’d begged.

PETER
Well, she’s gone now. Time to take a leap of faith, Hugh.

He speaks gently, and coming back into the room, gives Hugh’s shoulder a light squeeze. He leaves. Hugh turns to the portrait.

HUGH
Well, I wouldn’t. Not if she begged.

The portrait’s piercing eyes give nothing away. They become more brightly lit and against a growing sound-track of Indian music, merge into the bright heat of a merciless Indian sun.

EXT. SAHAR INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, MUMBAI - LATE MORNING.

Morning sun beats down on Hugh and James as they stand, almost shell shocked, outside Sahar International Airport. Feroze, wreathed in smiles, sorts out their luggage. Jostled by fast moving bodies, Hugh thinks he sees a girl, with a pair of blue-grey eyes and a mop of soft curls, amid the chaos. Tries to place her. But there are too many people and he is too tired. Passes hand across eyes.

EXT. MUMBAI HIGHWAY - NOON.

Car travelling full pelt down connecting highway from airport to inner city. Mumbai flashes past. Huge advertisements. Colonies of slum dwellers. Cows meandering. Sudden downpour of seasonal rain. Hugh, in the front seat, looks back at James, who is quite shattered, overwhelmed by everything.

CUT TO:

MONTAGE:
Hugh and James in a holiday sequence of exotic and banal discoveries. Imprint of the Raj obvious in names, architecture, linguistic play on signs and posters. James ecstatically playing cricket with Feroze’s sons; finally - the real thing. Hugh exploring libraries, museums, old British clubs. Discovering the city by himself. Taking notes.

INT/EXT. FEROZE’S FLAT, MUMBAI - NIGHT.

James asleep, sharing a room with Feroze’s sons. Camera tours flat briefly, pausing by Feroze near drinks cabinet, pouring hefty whiskies. Strains of sitar accompany us as we focus on Hugh leaning against balcony railing, looking out at Queen’s Necklace - Mumbai’s skyline lit at night. Lost in perusal of one of his grandfather’s letters, as Feroze approaches.

FEROZE
Well?

HUGH
Pinching myself. 

FEROZE
A toast, then. To inspiration. Of every kind.

HUGH
                                   What’s that supposed to mean? You aren’t going to introduce me to someone, are you? Look where your last introduction got me. Widowed, heartbroken and becoming crustier by the day. Probably the world’s worst father too.

FEROZE
                                 Desist with the violins, Hugh. Not one of my kids looks at me the way James looks at you. The boy hero worships you. Now, let’s have a gander at that address again.

Hugh hands him the letter. 

FEROZE (CONT’D)
                               Churchgate. Close enough. Will take you tomorrow, no problem. Once you’ve sorted out these family affairs, no more procrastination. Then, once the book is on its way, we can get to the real business.

HUGH
Which is...

FEROZE
Finding your destiny, man.

HUGH
If I hear that phrase one more...

FEROZE
                             Drink up, drink up yaar. This is India, baby. If you can’t find your fate here, there’s really no hope. Cheers!

EXT. DEVONSHIRE HOUSE, MUMBAI - DAY.

Feroze, nursing hangover, drops Hugh and James outside a beautifully maintained building. Turns car round and peels off in cloud of dust. Leafy residential area. Many-storeyed houses have names like Somerset and Sandringham Villa. An old-worldly feel, in contrast to the usual Mumbai mania. They enter building. An ancient lift-man escorts them inside a rickety lift.

INT. OUTSIDE CLOSED FRONT DOOR, DEVONSHIRE HOUSE - DAY.

Plaque beside front doorbell reads D. SHROFF. James looks nervous, but Hugh, taking a deep breath, rings doorbell. Door is opened by Lara. A moment of stunned surprise. Then

JAMES
Lara!

HUGH
You!
(to James)
What? How do you...?

LARA
But how did you...?

Amid the confusion, an elderly woman appears behind Lara. She is DINA SHROFF (80). She wears a sari, the old fashioned Parsi way, eyes alight with intelligence and humour. Humour that dims on closer sight of Hugh, replaced by fear and the beginnings of tears.

DINA
Ashton?

She reaches out an arm, unsteady on her feet. Hugh rushes forward to catch her.

3 comments:

Ruth said...

Oh I want to keep exploring India with Hugh and James. And what a delightful connection with Lara's simultaneous return to India. Mmmmm. You are glorious with the details, just delicious. I feel the richness around me and melt.

Thank you for more. :-)

Yin said...

I love it! I also want more! Too cruel to stop there! :)

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