Panchagni: ( Scenes 8-9)

 

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Scene 8:

Jail exit- the gate.

The height is very low, one has to bend down to enter it.

Indira exits, wearing a very old sari and a faded blouse.

She starts her journey.

The Titles of the movie begin.

Indira walking.

Indira sitting in a bus.

Indira deep in thought as the scenery flashes past her, when the bus moves.

The Family House ( Tharavadu)- Exterior.

Evening.

A village desperate to turn into a town.

Indira outside an almost decrepit family house.

The entrance to the house, the covering over the steps at the threshold( Padippura), is in shambles.

She steps inside the compound. The house is wrapped in the dim darkness of the twilight time.

As she moves into the verandah, a girl, 14-15, comes out with a lighted lamp.

She is startled to see Indira, standing silent as a shadow in the darkness.

From Indira’s face, it is clear that she is not familiar with the young girl either.

Then, Sekharettan(60yrs) comes out from the house.

A torn shirt of khadi, a dhoti of khadi.

He recognises her and then wonderingly:

Oh My God! I never really believed that you could come…Even when I reassured your mother that you would be coming….I did not have any confidence!

As Indira enters the house, accompanied by Sekharettan, the  young girl looks on in bewilderment.

Scene 9:

The family home.

Mother’s room.

There is a dim light from a bulb.

Mother is asleep on her bed.

Although enervated by disease, there are traces of dignified elegance on her face.

Indira enters and then stands by the cot, towards her mother’s feet.

Sekharettan: When the pain gets insufferable, there is a pill…Then she dozes for a while. I will wake her.

As he moves forward, Indira raises her hand, negating it. He stops.

Indira gazes at her sleeping mother. Slowly, her gaze travels over the room. On the wall, dusty pictures: Gandhi, Nehru, Tagore,Rajendra Prasad.

In one picture, her Amma, wearing a Gandhi cap of the volunteers.

From the background comes the rhythmic sound of marching:

Bharat Mata Ki Jai!

A group photograph of volunteers.

Marching. At the end of marching,  long police whistle.

CHARR..GE

Indira’s eyes on another picture. On a stage from which the Tricolour Flag flies, a few leaders are seated.

Her Amma is giving a speech. She wears a big badge.

‘My mother…my beloved mother land,  hellishly suffering in slavery, despite giving birth to crores of brave children!..Bharat Mata Ki Jai!’

Thundering applause.

Another photograph.

Amma standing with a baby on her hip. She is in the middle of a reception function. Many garlands around her neck. Loud applause.

Indira’s eyes move back to her mother’s face. Amma opens her eyes slowly.

Her gaze falls on Indira, standing slightly away, near her feet. Expressions change from astonishment…to happiness…then her eyes fill as many emotions battle within.

Sekharan( moves near): The petitions were fruitful! Indira has come. Are you crying now? That is not done!

Amma smiles through her tears.

( Scene continues…)

*

 

 

 

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Panchagni: The Five Fires(Scenes 4-7)

Panchagni screenplay continued:

Scene 4:

Day

The Jail Superintendent’s room

The room is in the first floor of the office block in the Jail Complex.

The Superintendent is past fifty years of age. When he raises his head, after signing some papers,  the Matron, a forty five year old woman, salutes him.

Matron: Indira refuses to have food. It is the fourth day today.

Assistant Jailor and the Jail Doctor at the door.

Asst.Jailor salutes.

The Doctor pays respect in the normal way.

The Supdt is pondering deeply.

Asst.Jailor: Sir, we can charge under Section 45…

The Supdt motions with his head, negating the suggestion.

Doctor: She is very weak

Matron: If we manage to hold her for you, can you not give her glucose or some stuff?

Supdt: No, we can’t do it.

Asst.Jailor: Is her mother’s condition truly serious,  Sir? Has the verification report arrived?

The Supdt nods.

‘I have referred the matter to the IG. Let the decision be from there.’

An orderly arrives,( dressed in the Jail inmate’s dress), with tea for them on a tray

While serving, he comments sycophantically: ‘Too much freedom in the Jail nowadays! This is the result of that!  It was totally wrong to banish whipping.’

The phone rings. The Supdt picks it up,  says, ‘Yes’ , and then his face expression changes to obsequiousness.

‘Superintendent here, Sir! Yes, yes..but Sir! Yes, yes..the Doctor is observing her Sir! Ok Sir!’

He keeps the phone down.

‘The IG has referred the matter to the minister. But  it seems that some journalist has reported about the fasting incident in the Jail ! Hell!’

Scene 5

Jail. Indira’s Cell

The mercury rises in the BP apparatus.

The Doctor examines her as she lies on a bed.

The Matron and a nurse along side.

Scene 5A

Office of the IG Prisons

The IG throws a file to the police official standing in front of him.

‘Refer the matter to the Parole Board.’

Scene 6

Day

The courtyard of the Jail

Women inmates working.

A female inmate: If you get out on parole, do you have to report to the police station daily?

An ‘Expert’:

Hey, no! When I went, it was a good guy- as Inspector! He asked me to come just once a week.

The woman who had spoken on attacking her husband:

When I went on parole, I was  only apprehensive on whether I would end up before that son of a bitch!  I might have grabbed the cleaver again, forgetting  that the punishment could  get doubled  !

The Expert: No doubling ! All that is nonsense. It is not  there in the law.

A long whistle. The women stop work and return to their Cells.

Scene 7

The office of the Jail Supdt

The Supdt takes a typed sheet of  Official paper and pushes it forward

Indira stands in front of him, dressed in the convict’s uniform.

She is totally exhausted.

She signs on the paper.

Supdt: Fourteen days. Please read it.

She looks at him.

The Supdt checks the accounts and the voucher placed in front of him by a clerk.

‘You have some money as savings. You can take that. Also get your dress.’

He rings the bell.

He looks at Indira- she stands silent, emotionless. He thinks for a moment and then with great soberness:

‘ If you start acting as if the revolution has reached the next street…! Hmm..The Government can cancel the parole any time. Up to you’

It is a warning, also an advice.

*

Panchagni/ Five Fires: Classic Movie(Scenes 1-3)

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One of the best movies that I have seen till date is M.T.Vasudevan Nair’s “Panchagni”. It was released in 1986, and I was a school student then.

If you google for the best screenplays, lots of Oscar winning film scripts become available online  for the reader. I have enjoyed Fargo, China Town, Out of Africa, All about Eve and lots more in this manner. However, we lack a database of similar scripts in English, for classic movies made in other human languages, all across the world.

It struck me forcefully, when I was trying to explain the Malayalam conversations in Panchagni, to a  non Keralite film aficionado. It was not possible for my friend to relish the classic movie- so dignified and gracious-because the beauty of the language and the depths of meaning got lost due to lack of subtitles.

There are so many of us,  decently well versed in multiple tongues, who pursue careers having nothing to do with literature; but with an abiding love for movies. If a few of us make an effort, can we not easily make available a treasure house of such scripts for the non native speaker? If I get to read a screenplay of a  classic Telugu movie in English, I’d be able to relish the scenes  to a reasonable degree, without any subtitle.

**

The catch in the script is that M.T.’s screenplay  has been changed drastically in the final scenes of the movie. They changed the victim to suit the sensibilities of a 1980 audience.

*

Panchagni ( The Five Fires)

Total scenes 68

Scene 1 ( Day)

Women’s Jail

Women inmates sentenced to life time imprisonment, are seen engaged in various works. The female wardens are supervising them.

Different types of prisoners. Those who have travelled through life’s darkest alleys.

From somewhere in the background, the toll of a bell is heard. The women stop working and queue up for food.

Scene 2 ( Day)

Jail

Indira’s Cell

A warden walks to a locked cell. She stands there.

If you gaze through the bars, one cannot completely see the lady prisoner who sits in a corner of the room.

The warden opens the door and steps inside.

Indira, totally exhausted , sits leaning against the wall.

Age 27-28

She is not inclined to look at the warden.

Warden:  Are you not tired of starving yourself?

Indira lifts her head and looks at her. Though her body is fatigued, her eyes have a spark in them; they are rebellious.

Warden: Get up now, and lick up what is given!

Indira , unaffected.

Warden is non-plussed for a few moments.

Then, softly mutters : Fasting! Break her bones- that is what is needed…

She goes outside.

Warden locks the cell.

Scene Three

Day

Jail. The area where prisoners eat their food.

The female prisoners are eating. Three inmates are talking.

First One: Her mother is very sick. She wrote that she wanted to see her daughter, but the parole has not been issued.

The second one(relishing the food): Those who strike by denying themselves food, must be totally nuts!Nowadays the food in the jails is so good! No one can find fault with it. Twice a week, mutton!

Third One:Go ahead,  pitch camp here forever then!

Second One: What’s wrong over here, I ask you! If one acts a bit humble, there is no issue at all!

First One: That is true for those who suck up to the wardens.

Second One( flaring up): You …..don’t you dare to play with me! Did you not murder a child to grab a mere half sovereign worth gold chain?

(She tries to find an ally in the third one.) There won’t be any one else among us, who must have committed that sort of dastardly crime, eh?

First One: Oh, as if you were specially invited by the Government, to come and reside here! Let me not start!

Second One: I did what any red blooded woman would do! Hacked them both! Trusting that son of a bitch, I had left everyone at home…and ditching me, he dared to take up with that bloody whore…!

The Supervising Warden: Silence! Who the hell is raising her voice?

The one who had started narrating the tale of slashing her husband becomes silent.

Scene 3A

Jail verandah

Outside the cell, a warden who resembles a man more than a woman, and two lady orderlies, are in a dilemma over whether to force feed Indira or not.

One can see Indira lying on the ground of the cell.

She looks at them, standing just beyond the bars, and then closes her eyes.

Lady Warden: If you two can hold her, I will show you the way to make the food go down!

One orderly: Two? To hold her, one of us is enough!

They salute as the Jail Superintendent and the Assistant Jailor walks through the courtyard.

The Supdt takes a look.

Lady Warden: Shall I force feed her, sir?

Supdt: Thinking..then negating the suggestion…Hmm

As he walks away, the orderly peeks inside the cell.

Indira, apparently in a serene sleep.

*

 

 

Beneath the Veil

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The  wise and wonderful typically grace my life through words and images. It has been  both a fortuitous  and propitious fairy god mother till date.

Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, had come to me in three forms: because Lizzie Bennet sang it in Pride and Prejudice, and because it was the song played by Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption, and of course,  from the movie Amadeus. ( My daughters remind me that there is a Tom and Jerry special on Figaro too! Oh, yesss!)

There is something intriguingly interconnected herein- music and words and images.

Octavo Paz in his essay on Baudelaire as art critic, speaks on Analogy as the highest form of imagination, since it fuses analysis and synthesis, translation and creation..’It transforms communication into creation: what painting says without telling, turns into what music paints without painting, and what- without ever expressly mentioning it- the poetic word enunciates..’

He goes to explain what Baudelaire felt on listening to Wagner, specifically to the overture to Lohengrin. “.. Released from the fetters of gravity…in a solitude with an  immense horizon and a diffuse light; immensity with no integrity other than itself….then I conceived clearly the idea of a soul moving in a luminous atmosphere, an ecstasy composed of voluptuousness and knowledge.”

***

I get to explore two classic screenplays: Chinatown by Robert Towne and Kurt Luedtke’s Out of Africa. The latter  also gives me Mozart back.

‘ A woman can veil her face with a smile,’ is a quote attributed to Khalil Gibran.I imagine  the beautiful and tragic Evelyn  Cross in Chinatown and the luminous  and indomitable Baroness Blixen in Out of Africa . How very true in both the women.

What is it that Paz wrote? “The painter translates the word into visual images; the critic is a poet who translates lines and colours into words. The artist is the universal translator. True, that translation is transmutation…”

The dots get interconnected. I am awed by the Grace.

***

Snippets from ScreenPlays : M.T.Vasudevan Nair(Translated from Malayalam)

Mannj ( Snow : Screenplay, 1983)

( Snow, for a word that encompasses everything from fog, snow, blizzard, smog from a land that has never seen winter.)

Scene 83:

The Sardar waits for her by the verandah downstairs.Near the steps. Through his eyes, Vimala descending. She stands apart, no emotions on her face.

Sardar: How was yesterday’s boat ride?

Vimala looks at him with intense anger.

Sardar: Can I not guess it? I can read your whole mind like a book. Madam, the loss is mine.(Pauses for a while.) Shall I tell you a joke?

Vimala: Yes?

Sardar: I like you.

Vimala perplexed.

Sardar: Do not feel perturbed. Will not stop you on the way. Will not offer a love letter. Just like that…a liking..

Slightly Irritated, Vimala : For what?

Sardar: For..nothing!

Vimala struggling for words..Smiles with bitterness..

Vimala :  Even before establishing an acquaintance..good!

Sardar: I could have investigated a hundred little things.Then the picture would be filled with branches, leaves, roots. You are but a dot.

Vimala: Utter nonsense!

Sardar: Exactly! Life is also utter nonsense, is it not?

Vimala walks in the opposite direction. Sardar catches up with her.

Sardar :Just one more thing, madam!

Vimala stops.

Sardar: It is a request!

Vimala turns a little.

Sardar: Smile occasionally. Else you might  totally forget  that divine gift. That is not just my request- it is nature’s request!

He smiles and walks off. Vimala stands astounded, then stares at an unseen picture puzzle that she cannot solve. Tired, she sits down .

**********End of Scene

Vaishali: 1988

Scene 15: The Raja Lomapada is looking troubled…He can see the Queen coming near him, but ignores her. His mind is elsewhere.

Queen ( With a hardly disguised glee): No use even when the Raj Guru has arrived, is there?

Raja listens, and turns his face away.

With a sigh,  the Queen: My favourite Satapatra have dried in my garden!

Angrily, the Raja :  At least you have drinking water in the palace! In the whole of the kingdom of  Anga, the houses are without that!

With mockery, the Queen: Could you not have send a missive to your intimate friend in Ayodhya? Is not Dasrath, the greatly learned King who gives advice for every problem?

The Raja realises the deep meaning hidden within her words. He stares at her.

Then calmly, Raja : The King of Ayodhya cannot make the Sarayu river change her course, can he?

Queen: He gave up his daughter in adoption to his best friend..

She stops.

Raja, in seriousness : Yes, complete your sentence.Unless you remind me often, I might forget that Santha is my adopted daughter, right?

Queen, smiles but with bitterness.

Queen :No, not that.I bring her up, as if she is the gift I received, without going through the pain of labour.But there are those who say that she was given in adoption because  the land where she lives, will always be troubled by disasters. False story, I do not believe in it…

The Raja gets up and looks at the Queen with contemptuous anger.

Raja : There are also those who say that disasters started the day when a Queen who could not give birth came into the land, as Lomapada’s wife! False story, I do not believe in it either.

He moves out from the chamber like a furious cyclone.

The dust storm enters the room through the windows and envelops the Queen. She tries to escape from the dust, by hiding her face.She is crying aloud in anger and unhappiness..

**************End of Scene