Tuesday, 8 May 2012

CHASING THE SUN

I thought I would share the creative river running through me, which at this moment, is in the form of a screenplay... here are the first ten minutes of the film :) 

FADE IN.

Opening credits inked in by pen, against faded sepia postcards of British occupation in India; days of the Raj through a romantic lens. Sepia images turn to colour; cool blue of Himalayas, brick red of Vice Regal Lodge. Card reads: SIMLA 1947. Camera pans into a room in the Lodge. We see a young Englishman, beautifully neat in uniform, sitting at a desk, writing a letter. He looks up and we catch a glimpse of his striking face, dark hair, grim expression. As he begins to write again, we focus on his hand writing the film title. We pull back, and see the hand now belongs to a remarkably similar looking young man, but setting has changed. Card reads: CAMBRIDGE 2012.

INT. WATERSTONES BOOKSHOP, CAMBRIDGE - DAY.

HUGH TREVELYAN (33), tall, handsome, slightly scruffy, signs book with a flourish. Tables are piled high with his latest bestseller about the adventures of young time travelling hero, Casper Smart. TOBY (8), a fan, is recipient of this final signed copy.

TOBY
                                            When will you be writing the next one, Hugh?

HUGH
                                            Give me a chance, Toby! Read this one first.

TOBY
(smug)
                                            Already read it.

Hugh smiles, but appears slightly stressed by idea of next book. His mobile begins to ring; with quick waves all round to staff, grabs jacket, scarf, heads out of bookshop and onto quiet cobbled streets of CAMBRIDGE. Early spring day. Hugh wraps scarf round neck against brisk breeze as he answers.

HUGH (CONT’D)
                                            Hugh here.
MATCH CUT TO:

INT/INT. CAMELBOOKS OFFICE, MUMBAI/LIBRARY - EARLY EVENING/MORNING.

FEROZE CAMA (33), children’s editor at Camelbooks Publishing House, one-time university friend of Hugh’s is puckish, cheery sort. Comfortably ensconced behind desk, his eyes devour the cup of steaming chai being delivered by obsequious minion.

FEROZE
                                            Hugh? Where are you man?

Hugh moves phone slightly away from ear. Feroze, typically Indian, barks conversation as though from very far away.

HUGH
     Rosy? You old goat, it’s been a while. I just finished a book signing. Where are you?

FEROZE
                   Where else? Where the sun always shines and where no-one, I am glad to say, calls me Rosy. In fact, they call me Children’s Editor Sahib of Camelbooks.

HUGH
                    My new Indian editor is you? I don't know whether to congratulate you or cry.

FEROZE
                 Good one. Moving on. So, another book signing. All very well my friend, but have you started book 4 yet?

HUGH
                      Jesus. No! Maybe it’s time Casper got Smart and settled down.

FEROZE
                  Very good! You made another little joke! Now, get serious. There are 196 countries in the world - Casper’s been to 3.

HUGH
Ever heard of writer’s block?

FEROZE
                        Now you’re really joking, aren’t you? Hugh? Hugh!

Hugh is silent. Lost in thought. Two cyclists whiz past, laughing. A young man and woman, college students.

FEROZE (CONT’D)
                        Tell me what you need man. I am here for you. Anything. Name it.

HUGH
I need inspiration, my friend.

FEROZE
Inspiration for a time travelling hero... hmm, which country am I in again?

Hugh is walking along backs of Cambridge colleges - contrast with Mumbai outside Feroze’s office very striking.

HUGH
I’ll think about it.

FEROZE
Do more than think! West Road Library. Research. One million resources!

Hugh shakes his head and rings off. A road sign indicates he is in fact very close to West Road Library.

INT. CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY LIBRARY, WEST ROAD - DAY.

Hugh scribbles notes in moleskin journal. Scruffy as ever, but change of clothes indicates this is different day. Around him, heavy volumes of British-Indian history. He is in a quiet reading room, seemingly empty but for himself. His mobile phone begins to ring. Snatches it up, but not before hearing a shocked intake of breath. Looks around for owner of sound as he speaks.

HUGH
What?
MATCH CUT TO:

INT/INT. AN ART STUDIO/LIBRARY - DAY.

BESS
(hurt)
Well. Excuse me for calling to check that my little brother is alright. Excuse me for...

HUGH
(whispering)
Am in the library. Trying to work!

BESS (35), attractive, dark hair pinned haphazardly, carries on pottering around her studio. Her paintings are rather flamboyant, in the style of Georgia O’Keefe.

BESS
Have you given any more thought to what I said?

HUGH
(still looking around, but no longer whispering)
                   I am not in need of therapy, Bess. It’s been almost two years for God’s sake. I am, as my lovely niece would say, ‘over it’.

A distinct ‘hmmf’ heard in the reading room. HUGH whips head round but sees no-one.

BESS
                  But have you started seeing other women? No. Clearly you haven’t forgiven Olivia, and clearly you need help. That’s all I’m saying.

The reading room is a hushed, hallowed altar to books and quite dimly lit. Hugh gets up and starts to prowl around. The desks have private screens to block off prying eyes.

HUGH
                                And all I’m saying is she isn’t here to say she’s sorry for having an affair and then    dying! I  mean, who does that? Who goes and dies in the middle of a steamy affair? It’s so - so - counterproductive!

Peering round a screen, Hugh finds his quarry. She is LARA MISTRY (22), pretty, petite, a student. She is of Indian origin, a Parsi. Blue-grey eyes and soft curls belie the sanctimonious expression on her face. She points to the little sign on her desk: PLEASE SWITCH OFF ALL MOBILE PHONES.
Hugh narrows his eyes, embarrassed and annoyed.

BESS
Hello? Hello Hugh? Are you still there?

HUGH
Yes, still here Bess. But the mobile phone police are out in force. Must go.

Hugh ostentatiously switches off phone. Lara smiles sweetly, mimes a little clap. Hugh returns to own desk, looking harried, mussing his hair in frustration. We notice he still wears his wedding band. Tugs at it, in a natural familiar way, but makes no move to remove it. His mobile comes alive, again. Sounds shockingly loud. He hears Lara’s ‘shhh’ even as he snatches phone up again.

HUGH (CONT’D)
(almost hissing)
Yes-s-s?

MATCH CUT TO:

INT/INT. CAMELBOOKS, MUMBAI/LIBRARY, CAMBRIDGE - MORNING/EVENING

FEROZE
Easy tiger. Where are you?

HUGH
(as though biting the words off)
West Road Library.

FEROZE
I could kiss you! Progress?

HUGH
Not even close, Feroze. I feel stifled.

Lara, making a terrific show, begins to gather together all her books and papers, preparing to hustle out of the reading room.

HUGH (CONT’D)
How can I write about India when conditions here are so... unfavourable.

Lara stops, widens eyes at mention of ‘India’. Hugh smirks. She catches herself, and nose in air, stalks off, determined not to be interested.

HUGH (CONT’D)
Like I said. Unfavourable.

Feroze takes sip of chai. Heavenly. Looks out of office window to chaos of Mumbai. Chasm between modern and ancient evoked by bullock cart slowly trundling down street. Behind it, a Ferrari inches along, driver honking madly. Feroze opens window and is assaulted by sounds of human traffic.

FEROZE
(shouting)
                          You hear that? Just come here! Write here, man! The juices will flow, deadlines will be met - win win!

HUGH
You seem to be forgetting a small problem.

FEROZE
(batting away fly, and also problem)
                       If you mean James, bring him along! You’ll stay with us of course. My three can’t wait to meet him. Win win!

A rather stern looking gentleman makes his way towards Hugh, who ducks his head down.

HUGH
Got to go, Feroze. Phone police.

He rings off. The man seats himself. Only another reader. In Mumbai, point made, Feroze swiftly shuts window. Peace reigns in his office again. Relaxes once more with cup of chai.

INT. RECEPTION DESK, LIBRARY - LATER.

LARA
                               Look, could you please check again? I don’t really care about the other volumes. That’s the one I need.

LIBRARY RECEPTIONIST
See that man? I’m afraid he just checked out all three volumes.

LARA
(turning, calling to retreating figure)
Wait!

Hugh turns obediently, but when he sees who the speaker is, points to nearest sign that reads QUIET PLEASE and puts finger to lips.

HUGH
Sh-h-h.

EXT. LIBRARY STEPS - DAY.

Hugh whistles as he makes his way down the stairs, laden with books. His mood much improved. Almost collides into a young man rushing up the stairs. Tall, very precisely dressed, natty in tweeds; fresh faced HARRY VERNON (22), apologises profusely.

HARRY
Sorry, sorry! Tearing hurry! Late! Lara!

This last directed at Lara, who has emerged out of the revolving doors, still looking cross. Harry dashes up the stairs and embraces Lara. Hugh looks on, less amused now, then whistles louder on his way down the steps. Resolutely does not look back at young love behind him.
CUT TO:

MONTAGE:
River running through Grantchester - The Orchard Tea Garden, green deck chairs below early blossoming trees; darker tones of Byron’s Pool, Rupert Brooke statue on front lawn of J. Archer’s house. A peaceful writer’s haven.


INT. KITCHEN, HUGH’S COTTAGE, GRANTCHESTER - EARLY EVENING.

Hugh, frowning, taps away at computer, deleting lines as soon as he writes them. Coffee cups half drunk, slice of toast curling, hard. JAMES TREVELYAN (9) pokes his head round the kitchen door.

JAMES

Dad? D’you want a game? 

No answer. James enters, dragging cricket bat and pads inside, propping them up against the Aga.  

JAMES (CONT’D)
Da-ad? 

HUGH
What?
Tearing away from screen, Hugh’s eyes still glazed with concentration.

JAMES
Never mind. 

He skulks away. We follow his small slumped shoulders outside.

EXT. GRANTCHESTER VILLAGE - EARLY EVENING.

A figure already leaning over bridge when James arrives. We only see her back, and a mop of curly hair. She is crumbling bread into the river. James hooks arms over the parapet mirroring her. She shares the bread with him. They watch the swans for a while. She turns and we see her profile.

LARA
Hello.

JAMES
Hullo. D’you live here?

LARA
Sort of. In town. This is much prettier. I come here for inspiration. You?

JAMES
I live here. S‘kind of boring. Can you play cricket?

LARA
I think so, but I’ve no-one to play with. 

JAMES
Oh. Don’t you have brothers and sisters?

LARA
Nope. And no parents either. Or even a dog!

JAMES
I’m an orphan too. Well, sort of. A half orphan. 

LARA
Sorry to hear that. I was only 3 when mine died. 

JAMES
Then who looks after you?

LARA
                          Well, I’m quite old now, so I suppose, no-one. My grandmother’s still in India. I just study a lot. I’ve been to a lot of schools. I’m really clever now.

This last said a little tragically. A sudden shower of rain. They laugh and start to run towards shelter of bus stop. Lara unlocks her bicycle.
JAMES
Can you come tomorrow?

LARA
Can’t, I’m sorry. I’ve tons of work but it was nice to meet you.

JAMES
How about day after?

LARA
There’s an old Indian saying my grandmother loves. If it’s meant to be, it will be. 

JAMES
My Grampa says that too!

LARA
See? Then it must be true. I’m Lara by the way.

JAMES
James.

They shake hands solemnly. James watches Lara cycle off into the distance, then turns towards home. Both cut slightly lonely figures, in their own way.

image prompt at the mag

9 comments:

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Oh my goodness, this is brilliant and now I want to read MORE!!!!!! I so love it and would love to see it in film, the contrast between Cambridge and Mumbai, the library, the bookstore......you have set in place everything to make it both visually and emotionally intriguing.........I already love all your characters and want to see how the young lass polishes off the hero's rough grumpy edges:) Such good writing, kiddo!

Mahesh said...

This is beautiful, Shaista! I got so engrossed in the vivid picture that you have painted of each and every scene! I am waiting eagerly for the rest of the screenplay to emerge! :-)

Cheers,
Mahesh

Jinksy said...

I found that an intriguing interpretation for this prompt. I too, would like to read (see) more!

Tess Kincaid said...

Beautiful! You are so creative Shaista...

A Cuban In London said...

Well, well, well... you certainly left craving for more. I like Hugh, by the way. As for writer's bloc... (whispers) don't mention it to the editor! :-)

Greetings from London.

Brian Miller said...

oh heck...well played and a very fresh take on the prompt...would def not mind seeing more of this....

Jeanne-ming said...

More More More......

Trellissimo said...

This could be the start of something big.

Ruth said...

Mmmmmm...

In the words of another orphan, "May I have more please?"

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