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.
TOBYWhen will you be writing the next one, Hugh?
HUGHGive me a chance, Toby! Read this one first.
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.
FEROZEHugh? Where are you man?
Hugh moves phone slightly away from ear. Feroze, typically Indian, barks conversation as though from very far away.
Rosy? You old goat, it’s been a while. I just finished a book signing. Where are you?
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.
HUGHMy new Indian editor is you? I don't know whether to congratulate you or cry.
Good one. Moving on. So, another book signing. All very well my friend, but have you started book 4 yet?
HUGHJesus. No! Maybe it’s time Casper got Smart and settled down.
Very good! You made another little joke! Now, get serious. There are 196 countries in the world - Casper’s been to 3.
Ever heard of writer’s block?
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.
I need inspiration, my friend.
Inspiration for a time travelling hero... hmm, which country am I in again?
I’ll think about it.
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.
MATCH CUT TO:
INT/INT. AN ART STUDIO/LIBRARY - DAY.
Well. Excuse me for calling to check that my little brother is alright. Excuse me for...
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.
Have you given any more thought to what I said?
(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.
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.
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!
Hugh narrows his eyes, embarrassed and annoyed.
Hello? Hello Hugh? Are you still there?
Yes, still here Bess. But the mobile phone police are out in force. Must go.
MATCH CUT TO:
INT/INT. CAMELBOOKS, MUMBAI/LIBRARY, CAMBRIDGE - MORNING/EVENING
Easy tiger. Where are you?
(as though biting the words off)
West Road Library.
I could kiss you! Progress?
Not even close, Feroze. I feel stifled.
How can I write about India when conditions here are so... unfavourable.
Like I said. Unfavourable.
You hear that? Just come here! Write here, man! The juices will flow, deadlines will be met - win win!
You seem to be forgetting a small problem.
(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.
Got to go, Feroze. Phone police.
INT. RECEPTION DESK, LIBRARY - LATER.
Look, could you please check again? I don’t really care about the other volumes. That’s the one I need.
See that man? I’m afraid he just checked out all three volumes.
(turning, calling to retreating figure)
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.
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.
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.
Dad? D’you want a game?
No answer. James enters, dragging cricket bat and pads inside, propping them up against the Aga.
What?Tearing away from screen, Hugh’s eyes still glazed with concentration.
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.
Hullo. D’you live here?
Sort of. In town. This is much prettier. I come here for inspiration. You?
I live here. S‘kind of boring. Can you play cricket?
I think so, but I’ve no-one to play with.
Oh. Don’t you have brothers and sisters?
Nope. And no parents either. Or even a dog!
I’m an orphan too. Well, sort of. A half orphan.
Sorry to hear that. I was only 3 when mine died.
Then who looks after you?
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.
Can you come tomorrow?
Can’t, I’m sorry. I’ve tons of work but it was nice to meet you.
How about day after?
There’s an old Indian saying my grandmother loves. If it’s meant to be, it will be.
My Grampa says that too!
See? Then it must be true. I’m Lara by the way.
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.