Script of Navdeep Singh's NH10
Script of Navdeep Singh's film NH10. Written by Sudip Sharma...
Shooting Draft April, 2013
Writer: Sudip Sharma Director: Navdeep Singh
FADE IN: EXT. GURGAON - DUSK Gurgaon. Malls and nothingness. Slick highways and under-construction dust bowls. Modern yet, in the dusty haze, somehow ancient. Primordial even. OPENING TITLES over these breathing images. To the tune of a soft jazz number. Horns and trumpets. We catch a SUV as it glides along on the road. EXT. RANVEER’S SUV / GURGAON ROAD - DUSK A quaintly romantic medallion dangles from the rear view mirror. Possibly, a remnant of a European holiday. The jazz track playing on the stereo. RANVEER, 30. Meera, late 20s. Attractive. Successful. And quiet obviously - in love. They are talking. They are laughing. But all we hear is the smooth jazz number. The SUV exits the main road and makes its way towards the secured precincts of a gated highrise community. EXT. POSH TOWER, PARKING LOT - DUSK Ranveer pulls over in the parking lot. As he turns the ignition off, the music comes to an abrupt halt. RANVEER Now say that in Tamil. MEERA rolls her eyes. Ranveer pleads - with his eyes. Meera relents; leans in close to whisper -
MEERA (in Tamil; subtitled) Screw the party. Let’s go home and make mad love till the sun comes up. Ranveer’s face gives away that he finds it incredibly sexy. RANVEER Ooooh. Jaldi nikalenge. Promise. Can’t waste my lucky day. Meera giggles. The two kiss. Playful. Until - Ranveer stops. Parts. RANVEER Have you been smoking? Beat. Meera only just about manages to keep a straight face. MEERA Nope. EXT. / INT. POSH APARTMENT - BALCONY, LIVING ROOM - NIGHT A cigarette gets lit. The HOSTESS and Meera - mid conversation - in the balcony of the posh apartment. In front of them - the urbal sprawl of Gurgaon. Behind them - beyond the sliding glass doors - the party. Laughter. Conversations. A happy gang. They’re what you’d call ‘Urban professionals’. MEERA I knew you’d say that. HOSTESS Bangalore is too I-T I-T, yaar. And the bars close at eleven thirty. Chalo, conceded ki weather better hai... Meera starts to say something but changes her mind and smiles in surrender. The Hostess offers her the cigarette. Meera throws a glance inside.
Ranveer - in the middle of an animated story. Nah, he isn’t looking. She takes a couple of quick, stealthy puffs. HOSTESS Is he as much fun when sober? Meera smiles as she looks again at Ranveer. A fond smile. Yeah, she likes him. Her phone rings. Meera seems surprised as she answers it. MEERA Yeah, Vinay? INT. POSH APARTMENT, LIVING ROOM - NIGHT Ranveer finishes up a story and a round of laughter follows. He doesn’t notice Meera pull in behind him. Realises as she puts her arms around him from behind. He smiles. Until Meera whispers in his ears MEERA Listen. Gussa mat hona please. But... RANVEER No. No. No. You’re serious? This is the... Meera takes Ranveer’s arm and pulls him aside, apologising to the gang. MEERA Sorry, guys. Need him for a second. She steers him to a corner near the bar. MEERA Jaana hoga. Some fuck up with the test batch. Raaste mein bataati hoon. Ranveer’s about to say something but holds back. RANVEER Tell Vinay to handle it, na.
MEERA Usi ka phone tha. RANVEER Shruti ko bol. Why can’t she... Meera’s beginning to get annoyed. MEERA Can we just go? Please? RAJIV, a friend, swings by to fix a drink. RAJIV All ok, you guys? RANVEER Yeah. MEERA Office emergency. Have to go. Rajiv groans. RAJIV Tu fire brigade mein thodi kaam karti hai? MEERA Product launch, yaar. Can’t help it. Rajiv looks at Ranveer. RAJIV Toh tujhe main chodh dunga. Meera looks at Ranveer. She can see he wants to stay back but doesn’t want to say it. MEERA Great. Rajiv chodh dega. Ranveer looks confused. MEERA Coming now ya Rajiv ke saath? RAJIV Ruk jaa na yaar. Chodh doonga. We hardly meet these days.
INT. POSH APARTMENT, ELEVATOR - NIGHT Meera waits by the elevator. Ranveer’s just a little behind. RANVEER You sure? MEERA Yeah. Dus minute ka toh rasta hai. RANVEER Pakka, na? MEERA Stop repeating yourself. The elevator appears. Meera enters in. RANVEER Thought we had plans for the night. Chal, office pahonchte hi phone kar. The two look at each other. Until the door shuts between them. EXT. POSH TOWER, PARKING LOT - NIGHT Line of parked cars. No person in sight. Kinda urban-eerie. Meera walks up to their high-end SUV. EXT. GURGAON STREETS - NIGHT The SUV exits the busy highway and enters an unlit back-road. 8A
A traffic light up ahead.
Meera stops, even as a few others zip past honking. She’s the law abiding type. EXT. MEERA’S CAR / GURGAON STREETS - NIGHT A chirpy female RJ chirps about SOMETHING. Meera changes the channel. Another jabbering RJ. A bike slows down as it approaches the red light. It comes to a brief halt next to Meera’s car. The PILLION turns. His eyes fall on Meera.
The RIDER looks around and then zips ahead. The Pillion whispers something to the Rider. The bike slows down again on the other side of the traffic signal. And stops. The pillion’s eyes are on Meera’s car as he talks into his cellphone. The light turns green. Oblivious to what’s happening, Meera puts the car in motion. Crosses over. The bike now rides in front of her car. Slowly. Meera tries to get past it but the bike swerves accordingly. An irritated Meera honks. The bike stops. Right in front of her car. Meera is forced to stop too. She honks again. The Pillion gets down. The bike turns. Headlight glare in her eyes. She can’t see much. The expression on Meera’s face goes from irritation to worry. She sees the pillion moving towards her window. She puts the car in reverse gear. Thud! The car hits something. Meera checks in the rear-view. There’s a car right behind. Meera’s car is blocked between them. She panics as she sees two men get down from the car. She checks the locks. Locked. Meera alone inside. Four men outside. The medallion on the rearview - revolving. Slowly. Ominously. The only sound - the female RJ going... FEMALE RJ (O.S.) GIBBER GABBER GIBBER GABBER. And then The pillion hits the side window. It smashes - the glass shattering around her in a million pieces. She screams and presses on the accelerator.
The car heads straight for the bike. Meera can see the Rider’s face lighting up in fear. At the last moment - she swerves the car hard, avoiding him and his bike. An oncoming truck honks hard at Meera’s approaching car. The headlights from it - a sea of white light that engulfs us. FADE TO WHITE / FADE IN INT. INDOOR SWIMMING POOL - NIGHT The blue overhead lights reflect in the clear waters. A lone figure in the waters - swimming like she’s possessed. Meera. Strong, rhythmic movements. She reaches the end of the lap. She pulls herself out of the water and sits down on the edge of the pool. Breathless. She takes off her cap. A band-aid on her forehead. A face appears above her. A FEMALE ATTENDANT. ATTENDANT Theek ho, ma’m? Meera nods. ATTENDANT Baal baal bachi aap. Aajkal to dekho... Meera shuts her eyes tiredly, still breathing hard. INT. POLICE STATION - DAY Meera and Ranveer sit across the desk of the Station In-charge. Chai and biscuits in incongruously dainty crockery on the table. Meera’s sifting through photos of known criminals. Disturbingly ordinary faces. The O.S. screams of someone being beaten up in the next room aren’t helping her either.
SI BENIWAL Area mein poochh-taachh kar rahe hain. Kuchh habitual offenders ki questioning bhi chalu hai. Madam, aapne unka registration number note kiya hota toh matter kaafi simple hota. Meera finishes with the photos. Shakes her head. SI BENIWAL Nahin? Beniwal gathers the pictures. SI BENIWAL Yeh shaher badhta bachcha hai, Sir. Kood to lagaayega hee. Aapko inko aise raat mein akele travel nahi karne dena chahiye. Ranveer and Meera. And an uncomfortable silence. Dotted only with the fresh bout of O.S. screams. The cop senses it; changes gears. SI BENIWAL Aapki DIG saab se achchi pehchaan hai. Aap inke liye ek gun licence kyon nahi apply kar lete? Ranveer looks at Meera. She seems uncomfortable. MEERA Gun? INT. MEERA’S APARTMENT, LIVING ROOM - NIGHT Ranveer and Meera at the dining table. Eating in silence. Ranveer looks at her. She seems lost - twirling the spoon in her bowl of daal. He puts his hand over hers. Just then - the MAID appears with chappatis. Meera pulls her hand away. The maid leaves the chappatis on the table.
And it’s back to the uncomfortable silence on the dining table. EXT. / INT. MEERA’S APARTMENT - DAY The boundary wall of the building. On it - a kitten. Scared. The incessant O.S. barks of a pack of street dogs below making its life miserable. Title Card: 3 WEEKS LATER. A tired Meera stands by the window, sipping coffee, and watching the kitten carefully make its way across. Behind her on the table - the open laptop with a work-inprogress presentation. Ping! A mail arrives in her inbox. Meera moves in to check. It’s a mail from Ranveer. Subject - What do you think? She opens it. A travel website. One of those palace-hotels in the desert. INT. MEERA’S OFFICE, CONFERENCE ROOM - DAY On a big screen, slides with the proposed plan for the launch of an economy brand of sanitary napkins for the rural market. Bar graphs and all that marketing mumbo-jumbo. MEERA So even if assume a conservative five year time-frame to come to 50% of China’s per capita consumption of female hygiene products, we are talking about an annualized growth rate of 28% in this segment. Meera stands in front of her laptop giving a presentation. MEERA Moving on to the brand name. The key “insight” from our qualitative research was that in a majority of cases, the purchase of the product is conducted by the kids of the household. Surprised reactions from the team, including from THE BOSS.
Meera explains. MEERA Chemist shops in Tier-2 and rural markets are manned mostly by men. Women are too embarrassed to buy the product over the counter. And the men of the household find it... beneath their honour. So in most cases, it is the child who is sent to buy the product. A couple of amused sniggers. THE BOSS (sighs) Only in India. Meera’s phone vibrates silently on the desk. She throws a quick glance. “Ranveer calling”. A look at her watch. It’s 3. She hastens the pace of her presentation. MEERA Which means that our brand name has to be something which can be easily remembered by a child. And from the shortlisted names, the one with the maximum recall in a sample set of 800 kids was... She presses the ‘next’ key on the laptop. The word ‘Saathi’ appears on screen. THE BOSS frowns. Considering it. She presses next again. The “Thank you” slide. She looks at her watch and then at her boss. He gets it. THE BOSS Great job, Meera. Well done. Alright, everyone. ‘Saathi’. Let’s sleep over it. Meera needs to leave. The group begins to wrap up. VINAY, one of the executives, sports a cheeky grin. VINAY I got a key “insight” too.
Everyone looks at him. VINAY Evidence would suggest that women tend to have it easy with their bosses. Just a hint of professional jealousy in that comment. MEERA Technically speaking, that’s an observation, Vinay. Not an insight. Thought they teach you all that at IIM. Everyone sniggers. Vinay musters a sheepish smile. Meera pockets her pen. INT. OFFICE WASHROOM - DAY The bathroom counter. On it - Meera’s compact and some random accessories. And next to them - a HANDGUN. A nifty little ‘point two two’. Meera, now dressed in comfortable weekend clothes, stuffs her office clothes into the hand bag, followed by the compact. Then puts the gun in. She looks at herself in the mirror. Devoid of the corporate power-wear, she suddenly looks different. Kinda vulnerable. Bereft of armor. INT. MEERA’S OFFICE, LOBBY - DAY Meera rushes down the long, sanitised corridor with the hand bag and the laptop bag slung across either shoulders. The cellphone pressed to her ear. It’s ringing. No response. The PERKY RECEPTIONIST shouts out to her receding figure. PERKY RECEPTIONIST Happy birthday in advance, Meera Ma’m. Have a nice trip. Meera waves back to her on her way out.
INT. OFFICE ELEVATOR - DAY Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. The pen in Meera’s hand. Her eyes - restless. On the floor indicator. She feels something. Notices The LIFT MAN checking out her reflection in the steel door. Her bra strap. She adjusts. Their eyes meet. He looks away sheepishly. EXT. OUTSIDE MEERA’S OFFICE COMPLEX - DAY Ranveer stands next to his SUV arguing with a TRAFFIC CONSTABLE. RANVEER Dikhaao kahaan hai ‘no parking’ sign. TRAFFIC CONSTABLE Aagey lagaa hai. RANVEER Toh maine aagey park kari hai? TRAFFIC CONSTABLE Sau meter ke andar hai. Chalaan toh katega. Glare match from both parties. Just then, Ranveer notices Meera come rushing out of the building; towards them. He waves her to the car. RANVEER You go sit inside. Meera stops short. Then goes to the car. She opens the boot. Two travel bags and a golf kit already there. Meera dumps the laptop bag in it. Then unzips her handbag. In it - the gun. She stops. Notices - The constable looking at her. She shuts the boot.
Then gets into the car with her handbag. In the rearview - she sees Ranveer pay up the constable who hands him a challan. As the constable walks away muttering angrily, Ranveer gets into the car. RANVEER Ridiculous, yaar. Koi ‘No Parking’ ka sign dikh raha hai? She’s more than a little irritated. MEERA Toh fine kyun diya? Ranveer looks at her. RANVEER Just trying to impress you. Meera lets out a half-smile. Picks up a map lying on the dashboard. Then smiles anyway. MEERA Nice try. They drive away. EXT. HIGHWAY / TOLL BOOTH / RANVEER’S SUV - DAY The SUV makes its way on the highway. 19A
Up ahead - a toll booth. With a long queue.
A few of the other lanes have been blocked off. Cops try hard to control the traffic. Honks. Lane-cuttings. They crawl up to the TOLL BOOTH. Ranveer hands over the cash to the CLERK. RANVEER Lanes kyun band kar rakhi hain? TOLL BOOTH CLERK Chaar laundey they Pajero mein. Attendant ne toll maanga. He stops. Ranveer looks at him in confusion.
RANVEER Toh? The toll booth guy looks straight at Ranveer as he hands him the slip and a couple of toffees for change. TOLL BOOTH CLERK Goli maar di. Ranveer is still trying to process it when the cars behind begin to honk. Still perplexed, he puts the car in motion. MEERA Kya hua? RANVEER Huh? MEERA Kya bol raha tha wo? Ranveer looks at her. Offers her the toffees. RANVEER Nah... nothing. Some random fight. He steps on the gas and they zip ahead. EXT. HIGHWAY / RANVEER’S SUV - DAY The highway has stretched out nice and wide. The SUV’s into cruise mode now. A signboard. Welcome to NH 10. Have a safe journey. A SONG plays on the radio. Nice & smooth. The perfect drive song. Meera reclines her seat. Puts her bare feet up on the dashboard. She’s beginning to look relaxed. MEERA I wanted a swim first thing. Par late pahonchenge na? Ranveer looks at her.
RANVEER I booked the private pool wali cottage - for us. Meera makes an ‘am impressed’ face. Ranveer smiles. Naughty. MEERA What? Haha. Wait. Wait. RANVEER What? MEERA Birthday mera. Lucky day tumhara? How does that work? Smiling - she slides down the window. Lets the wind blow in her hair. EXT. LIQUOR SHOP - DAY The car stops in front of an untidy cluster of shops. Ranveer walks towards what they call a ‘theka’. Rickety plastic tables on which grumpy looking men sip cheap whiskey in silence. Ranveer feels every single pair of eye on him as he walks up to the shop counter. RANVEER Do bottle Bisleri. The SHOP ATTENDANT goes off to get the bottles. Ranveer looks at the men sitting at a nearby table. RANVEER Tau, yeh Basantpura ka cut yehi hai? The men look at each other before one of them MAN AT THE THEKA Sa to yo hi. RANVEER Kitna, 3-4 ghante hoga yehan se? Raasta kaisa hai?
MAN AT THE THEKA Bol toh godi kar chhod aayein? The men smirk. Ranveer smiles. Awkward. IN THE CAR: Meera ties up her hair in a bun when she sees a man wrapped in a blanket approach her. HITCH HIKER Kis taraf jaa rahe ho? Hisaar? Meera. Awkward. MEERA Sorry. She slides up the window. The man stays there, looking at her from the other side of the glass. Meera’s relieved when she sees Ranveer reappear and get into the car. Ranveer looks at her. RANVEER You ok? MEERA Huh... Yeah. As Ranveer drives off Meera’s disturbed eyes are on the sideview mirror - On the receding figure of the blanket-man. EXT. RANVEER’S SUV / ROAD - DAY They drive into what’s beginning to look more and more like the hinterland. Arid farmlands. A little habitation pops up every now and then and then we are back to the arid landscape. 22A
The radio playing in the car tries hard to catch frequency. 22A Ranveer changes the channels. Still no good. Only that disturbing screeching. Meera switches it off.
Sudden silence in the car. EXT. ROADSIDE DHABA, PARKING LOT / RANVEER’S SUV - DAY A mid-sized eating joint. With a dozen or so vehicles parked outside. Ranveer turns his SUV into the Dhaba parking. A police jeep exiting the dhaba crosses them. And then, out of nowhere, a girl and a guy come running and appear bang in front of their vehicle. Ranveer brakes hard and honks harder in protest. The girl turns to look at them for a moment. She looks lost. And then she is gone. Pulled away by the guy. They seem to be chasing the jeep. Ranveer grumbles as he watches them disappear. He parks the car. They step out. Stretch a bit. MEERA Dickey kholna, please. Ranveer opens the boot. Meera walks to the back of the car. She unzips her handbag. The gun peeps out. Meera takes it out and puts it away into her travel bag. Ranveer appears behind her. RANVEER Tune promise kiya tha hamesha handbag main rakhegi. MEERA Par aaj toh tum ho na saath mein. Ranveer looks at her. Hurt in his eyes.
MEERA Sorry. I... I didn’t mean it that way. Just that... bahot heavy hai yaar... She searches for more words. Can’t find them. Her phone begins to ring - filling in the silence between them. Meera looks at it. Amma calling... She answers it and walks away. MEERA (in Tamil) Yes, Amma... I’m fine... Ranveer shuts the boot. And stands there for a while. Alone. INT. ROADSIDE DHABA, TOILET - DAY Meera walks into the dimly lit, depressing ladies’ room. MEERA (on the phone) No, they haven’t found anyone yet... I don’t think they will. Listen, Amma... Low battery... Talk to you tomorrow... yeah, yeah, bye. She cuts the phone. Sighs. Sudden silence. Meera looks at a stall with disgust. Then pushes the door open gingerly. She seems relieved it doesn’t look as dirty as she had expected. INSIDE THE TOILET: Meera sits on the commode. She takes out a cigarette. Lights it up. Ah! Been a while. In front of her - on the bathroom door - graffiti. A sketch of female anatomy with accentuated private parts. And the choicest of abuses in Hindi.
EXT. ROADSIDE DHABA - DAY A cup of tea. Going by the creamy layer on top of it Untouched. Ranveer. At a corner table. Disturbed. A waiter appears. WAITER Kya lenge? INT. ROADSIDE DHABA, TOILET - DAY The sound of the flush. The door opens and Meera walks out. She walks up to the wash-basin. Her eyes go to the mirror. The door behind her. With the graffiti on it. She tries to ignore it. But can’t. Takes out a tissue from the bag. Wets it. And heads for the door. She tries to scrub the graffiti off. The damn thing’s sticky. But she goes for it with all seriousness. Scrub. Scrub. Scrub. Her concentration - almost manic. And just then PINKY (O.S.) Didi? A startled Meera turns. Pinky stands there, the same young small-town girl who had almost bumped into their car. Nervous. Edgy. Looking over her shoulder.
PINKY Didi, please... please hamaari help karo... Hum log bahot problem mein hain... Meera’s taken aback. Doesn’t know how to react. She side-steps her and heads out. Pinky follows her. PINKY Please, Didi. Main aur mera huaband... Hamein saath le chalo... MEERA (mutters) Sorry. Pinky steps in front of her. PINKY Didi, please, Didi... She grabs Meera’s hand. Meera doesn’t like it. Snaps. MEERA Side hato. Pinky looks at her with defeat. Steps aside. Meera storms out of there. EXT. ROADSIDE DHABA - DAY Meera looks pre-occupied as she joins Ranveer at the table. RANVEER Butter chicken, roti and daal ok, na? MEERA Huh? She sits down and busies herself with the hand-sanitizer. Ranveer looks at her as she rubs her hands furiously. RANVEER You ok? Meera’s about to say something. But just then - shouts and screams.
They look around. So does the rest of the dhaba. There’s a little commotion by the parking lot outside. And then, a SCREAM. A distinct female scream. Meera’s face loses colour as a thought comes to her mind. Ranveer looks at Meera. Then gets up and walks towards the scene. MEERA Ranveer... Meera follows in concern. EXT. ROADSIDE DHABA, PARKING LOT - DAY A little crowd of curious onlookers has gathered around but no one seems willing to jump into the scene. The Scene A group of men. Rough. Mean. Shouting. A young couple. Scared. Screaming. The men are pulling the two out of the dhaba towards the parking lot. Mukesh, the young guy, clutches on to a parked scooter for support. The scooter tumbles over. Mukesh still doesn’t let go of it. FAUJI and OMI drag him along with the scooter now. MUKESH (screams) Pinky... Pinky... SATBIR, the leader of the pack, has the screaming girl by the arm. She throws herself on the ground in desperation but he drags her along nevertheless. ASHOK and RAMOTAR now jump in to help Omi pull the boy along. They finally manage to wrestle the scooter out of his grip and hoist him in the air. Ranveer pushes through the crowd. Meera right behind. Meera notices Pinky looking at her - I told you so!
Ranveer looks at the crowd as it murmurs protests but stays on the periphery. He steps in. Walks up to Satbir. RANVEER Kya problem hai? Satbir turns to give him a glare. SATBIR Behen hai meri. The pleadings of Pinky seem to verify that. PINKY Bhai... chhod de bhai... bhai jaane de... Ranveer now looks at the crowd for some support but they seem to be losing interest. ONLOOKERS AT DHABA (murmurs) Family matter hai... The group pull the couple up to a parked Scorpio. They try to open the doors but they seem to be locked. FAUJI Chaabi kiske paas hai? They look around for the key. Confusion. Curses. Until Omi notices someone already sitting in the car. The youngest of them all - CHHOTEY. OMI Chhotey... khol baawle. Chhotey fiddles with the locks with the daftness of a ‘special’ child. More curses. Finally he manages to open the locks. Omi pushes Chhotey aside and jumps into the driver’s seat. As they are pushed into the vehicle, Mukesh and Pinky scream even louder now. Almost like wails. Ranveer looks at Meera. In her eyes - concern for the girl. And fear.
Ranveer steps up. Puts a firm hand on Satbir’s shoulder. RANVEER Boss... Beat. In one motion, Satbir turns and slaps Ranveer hard. SATBIR Bhosadi ke, bola na behen hai. Ranveer is stunned into silence. The group jumps into the vehicle and drives away, along with the young couple. Suddenly - all quiet. Ranveer can sense all eyes on him as he stands there. Meera touches his arm gently. He looks at her. Rage and humiliation in his eyes. EXT. RANVEER’S SUV / ROAD - DAY Ranveer’s SUV hurtles down a lonely stretch of the road. Tense silence in the car. Just the nervous tick-tocking of Meera’s pen. Meera throws a quick glance at the speedometer. It’s beyond hundred. She looks at Ranveer with concern. He has his eyes fixed on the road. MEERA Slow down, RV. He doesn’t respond. MEERA You did the right thing. You stood up for... RANVEER (cuts her) Drop it. MEERA I mean it. Itne saare log the wahaan, kisi ne...
RANVEER I said shut the fuck up, Meera. She looks at him. Suddenly angry. MEERA Listen, if this is how it’s gonna be, I don’t even wanna go. Ranveer’s silent again - as the car hurtles through the wilderness. Ranveer’s eyes veer towards something off the road. A moment of distraction. And BAM! The car hits something. Meera lets out a startled cry as the car swerves. Ranveer brakes hard. The car screeches to a noisy halt. He steps out to see A dead lamb. Or the messy remains of it. Meera pulls down the window and peeps out nervously. MEERA What is it? No response from Ranveer. His eyes have gone back to what he had originally spotted off the road that led to the accident. MEERA Ranveer? Still no response. Intrigued - she follows his gaze. Towards the patch of wilderness off the road. The Scorpio. Going down a side road in a cloud of dust. She senses what’s going on in his head. Panics. MEERA Ranveer... no... Ranveer looks at her.
Before Meera can do much, Ranveer unlocks the boot and walks up to it. Takes something from the bag. She just knows what it is. The gun. MEERA RV... just let it go... please RV... He gets back in the car. He puts the car in motion, taking it off the main road, and on to the kachcha road that leads to the Scorpio. EXT. KACHCHA ROAD / RANVEER’S SUV - DAY Meera protests incessantly as Ranveer approaches the Scorpio. He stops a little distance away from the Scorpio. MEERA RV, don’t do this. Please. I’ll never talk to you again. RANVEER Relax. Aaj toh main hoon na. MEERA No. RV, don’t be stupid. I didn’t mean it that way. I swear. Ranveer looks at her. Not quite believing it. MEERA Please, RV. Please... Ranveer shushes her. RANVEER Relax. Idiot gaon waale hain. I’m just gonna scare them a bit. Teach them not to fuck around, ok? He gets out of the car. RANVEER Stay right here. And lock the doors. She watches in despair as Ranveer shuts the door and walks away.
EXT. WILDERNESS OFF THE ROAD - DAY It’s eerily quiet. Ranveer strides up to the Scorpio. It’s empty. Nobody around. He peeps in for a better view. POV: Someone watches from a distance. Ranveer trying to look inside the Scorpio - the gun stuffed in the back of his jeans. Back with Ranveer: He can hardly see much behind the tinted windows. He checks the door. It’s locked. Ranveer looks around. Foliage. And a little pathway that cuts through it. Ranveer takes it. EXT. WILDERNESS / RANVEER’S SUV - DAY Meera in the car. Tense. Restless. Tick-tocking her pen. She looks at her watch. Then looks out. Quiet. Too quiet. The medallion on the rearview. Still. Ominously still. EXT. WILDERNESS OFF THE ROAD - DAY The foliage seems to be getting thicker as Ranveer goes further in. The pathway too seems to have disappeared. Ranveer’s tensing up a bit now. He stops. Thinks. Then pulls the gun out from behind. And moves ahead.
EXT. WILDERNESS / RANVEER’S SUV - DAY Meera looks at her watch again. It’s been a while since Ranveer left. She flips out her phone. Dials. A phone rings in the car. Ranveer’s phone. Lying on the dashboard. She cuts it. Curses. Thinks. Makes a decision. Turns to open the car door to step out. BOO! A weird face stuck to the window trying to peep in. Meera screams as she recoils in surprise. EXT. WILDERNESS OFF THE ROAD - DAY The foliage seems to be giving way to a clearing. Ranveer approaches it tentatively - the gun held tight in his hands. He removes the bushes from in front. To see The men huddled around the young couple who are on the ground. Only a few yards away from Ranveer. Something not quite right about the scene. Ranveer holds himself back, trying to figure out what’s going on. And then, all of a sudden, Fauji swings the iron rod that he had been holding. It lands on Mukesh’s knee. Crack. Scream. A heartwrenching scream. Ranveer is left stunned by the brutality of it. Until - Omi feels a presence and turns.
Ranveer presses back into the shadows. Breathing hard. Suddenly not feeling so confident any more. Not finding anything untoward, Omi turns away. Ranveer sighs in relief. In the clearing - Pinky tries to crawl up to Mukesh. But Satbir grabs her hair and starts to drag her away. She resists - throwing her legs about in violent protest. Satbir kicks her in the gut with his boot. She doubles over. Spits out some blood. Ranveer watches it all with stunned disbelief. We notice - the hand holding the gun is shaking. EXT. WILDERNESS / RANVEER’S SUV - DAY Meera inside the SUV. Chhotey outside the SUV. There seems to be something weird about him. But in an innocent sort of a way. Chhotey runs up to the other side - the driver’s window. Looking at the steering with fascination. Meera too realises now that he is probably just a ‘special’ kid. She relaxes a bit. Pulls down the driver window just a little. MEERA Tumne kisi ko dekha yehaan? CHHOTEY Gaadi. Teri hai? Kiski hai? MEERA Lamba sa. Blue shirt. CHHOTEY Gaadi chalaaun? Meera realises Chhotey’s mind is completely on the car.
MEERA Pehle bataa blue shirt waala kahaan hai. Chhotey looks at her gravely. Makes a gun with his fingers. Shoots at Meera. Meera looks at him. Alarm bells. She grabs the keys out of the ignition and jumps out. She runs over to Chhotey’s side. MEERA Kis taraf gaya wo? Chhotey’s eyes are on the keys in her hands. Meera shakes him up rather fiercely. MEERA Kis taraf? Chhotey’s taken aback. He nervously points in the direction Ranveer had gone. Meera switches on the auto lock as she heads in that direction. Chhotey watches her go. Then tries to get into the car. Realises it’s locked. CHHOTEY Kutti. He notices - the slit of the slightly opened window. He puts his hand in. Tries to get to the door lock inside. But it’s a very small opening. And his arm gets stuck. Chhotey panics. Struggles. But finally manages to wriggle out. EXT. WILDERNESS OFF THE ROAD - DAY Ranveer, still crouched behind the bush, watches as Satbir tries to force-feed something to Pinky from a bottle. She writhes and contorts in agony. Two men move in to pin her down.
Satbir forces the liquid in her mouth. Some of it goes in, some of it spills out. RANVEER Fuck. He has seen enough. Ranveer begins to slowly back away from there. And just then, he hears a voice. Like a distant shout. Ranveer freezes. No. It can’t be. Is that...? MEERA (O.S.) (still faint) Ranveer! Yes, it is Meera. Getting closer to him. To them. Have they heard her? He doesn’t know. But at this rate, they soon will. Ranveer scampers away from there in the direction of her voice. BACK WITH MEERA: Meera looks tense as she walks further into the jungle. MEERA (mutters) What the fuck have you done? (shouts) Ranveer! She freezes as she notices a figure come running towards her. As it gets closer, she realises it’s Ranveer. Meera lets out a huge sigh as she spots him. MEERA Ranveer, you ok? Ranveer shushes her up. RANVEER Let’s just get out of here. MEERA Kya hua? I thought... Ranveer looks at her. Meera can sense he’s disturbed.
RANVEER Chal. He takes her hand and they run towards their car. They have only gone ahead a hundred meters or so when Chhotey appears before them. He’s blocking their path. Ranveer points the gun at him in panic. MEERA It’s ok. He’s ok. RANVEER No, he’s not. They’re fucking butchers. Meera - they... MEERA He’s like a kid, Ranveer. Ranveer gestures to Chhotey. RANVEER Side Hatt. Chhotey looks confused. RANVEER Bhenchod side hatt. Nahi toh goli maar doonga. Meera feels a presence. Turns. Her face goes white. MEERA (screams) Ranveer! Ranveer turns. Too late. Whack! An iron rod lands on his head. FADE TO BLACK / FADE IN EXT. WILDERNESS, CLEARING - DUSK The fading sunlight. A man covered in sweat. A pickaxe in his hands. He raises it. It comes down with full force.
It’s Omi - digging the ground, along with Ashok, Ramotar and Fauji. Chhotey fools around, jumping between the flying shovels. Omi reprimands him, not unaffectionately. OMI Laarey ho ley beera. Haath godey fudwayega. A little away from them - a tree. Tied to it are Meera and a barely conscious Ranveer. Meera sobs and whimpers in fear. Ranveer’s face and shirt are matted with blood. She stops as she notices Satbir’s eyes on them. He sits on his haunches only a little away from them. Ranveer’s gun lies next to him on the ground. He’s looking at photos on Meera’s smart-phone. Holidays. Parties. Smoking a cigarette by himself, he seems calm. Unnaturally calm. RANVEER Maine Dilli phone kar diya tha. DIG ko. Anant Sahai. Check kar le. Dost hai mera. Aur dhaabe pe sab ne ladaayi dekhi hai. Koi na koi to bata dega. Police aati hogi. Satbir looks at him. SATBIR Thaara phone kathey sa? Gaaddi mein? RANVEER Dekh bhai. Galti kar raha hai tu. Bola na hum koi reporter sheporter nahi hain. SATBIR Toh Chaudhri sa? Paachha kyaa ne aaya? Oore ke swaang ho rya tha? RANVEER Tune haath uthaaya. Toh mujhe bhi gussa aa gaya. Dono se galti ho gayi. Baat khatam karte hain.
Satbir’s hardly interested. RANVEER Dekh. Ranveer’s bluff ain’t working. He tries another approach. RANVEER Paise chahiye? Bol. Satbir looks insulted. Grabs Ranveer’s throat in a flash. Meera panics. MEERA Bhaiyya please jaane do. Kisi ko kuchh nahi bataayenge bhaiyya. Satbir looks at her. Lets out a smile. Sad, almost selfmocking. SATBIR Rehen de. Bhaanan ke dinmaan theek naa sa aaj. (It’s not a great day to be a sister) He lets go of Ranveer and turns his face away. In front of him, the tortured bodies of the young couple on the ground. No movement. Are they dead? Nope. Pinky spurts to life and retches. Barf and blood. Meera notices Satbir looking at Pinky with a weird concoction of pain, anger and love. Pinky tries to drag herself up to Mukesh. Her fingers trying to inch closer to his. Hatred rises on Satbir’s face. He picks up the gun and walks up to Pinky. Pinky stops as she sees him. Their eyes meet. A long moment passes. Bang. Bang. Little chunks of flesh splatter out of two holes in Pinky’s head. Ranveer and Meera are left stunned.
MEERA (frantic) Fuck. He shot her. He shot her, Ranveer. The other men too come running up. Silence. Omi points to Mukesh’s battered body. OMI Baaki isme ghaal de. FAUJI Goli hi maarni thi to gaaon bhela karne ki ke jaroot thi? They look at him. Fauji offers Satbir his shovel. Satbir feels just a tad unsure. But he can sense Fauji’s eyes are on him. Are you man enough? He shoves the gun in the back of his pants and takes the shovel. He pulls himself. And swings. Crunch! It lands on Mukesh’s knee. Mukesh lets out a wail. Almost inhuman. FAUJI Jey baat... Chhet... Chhet bhaanchod na. Goaded by Fauji, Satbir swings again. And again. And again. Maniacal. The gun falls off from behind his pants. He doesn’t care. He continues to swing. BY THE TREE: Meera and Ranveer. Horror writ large on their faces. Even though they have shut their eyes tight. But they can hear. Mukesh’s wails. Then his whimpers. Then his silence. Slowly Meera opens her eyes.
She notices the men talking. Then turning to look at them. She can’t hear them but can sense the discussion is about them. Meera can see Fauji’s eyes are on her. And then they travel down her body. Slowly. Ominously. A chill runs down her spine. The men seem to have agreed upon something. Fauji leads the men as they head back to the digging. Chhotey looks disappointed with what he has heard. He doesn’t follow the men. Instead - comes towards the tree. Ranveer applies all his strength and manoeuvres in trying to wriggle out of the tied rope. He stops when he sees Chhotey appear before them. CHHOTEY Gaaddi. Bech denge. Ranveer looks at him unintelligibly. CHHOTEY Thaari gaaddi. Bech denge. Bhaadargarh mein jaankaar hai. MEERA (frustrated) What the fuck is he talking about? RANVEER They’re going to kill us. He loses it. Gives his rope several desperate tugs. RANVEER Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. The tugs don’t work. Ranveer gives up. Meera’s eyes are on Chhotey though. She senses an opening. MEERA Tumko chahiye? Gaadi? Chhotey looks at her - you serious? MEERA Bolo. Chahiye?
CHHOTEY Paise? Ranveer too notices Chhotey’s interest with surprise. Pitches in his bit RANVEER Haan, paise bhi denge. Chhotey seems confused. Begins to lose interest. Meera cleans up. MEERA Nahi paise waise nahi chahiye. Bas rassi khol do. Gaadi tumhaari. CHHOTEY Pakke se? Meera nods vigorously. MEERA Chaabi... chaabi le lo. Pocket mein hai. Chhotey tentatively moves closer to Meera. Leans in. His face, his body - so close to her. His hand goes into the pocket of her jeans. Searches. Ranveer looks at Meera. She signals to him to relax. Chhotey finally plucks the keys out. He seems ecstatic. MEERA Ab tumhaari baari. Chhotey throws a quick glance back at the men. They seem to be still digging. He turns back to look at Meera’s face. She manages to conjure a desperately friendly smile. Chhotey goes behind the tree and starts to untie her knot. Meera. Tense. Hoping. Chhotey. Struggling with the tough knot. Back with the men:
Omi stops digging and looks. They have dug up a four feet deep grave. OMI Ho gaya ke? A tired Fauji throws his shovel away. FAUJI Hor ke tel kaadna sa? He jumps out of the grave. His eyes go to the tree. Meera and Ranveer. Still tied. Chhotey is not visible from behind the tree. He sits down to catch his breath. The other men too come out of the grave. Throw themselves on the ground tiredly. FAUJI Soki... kiraasni le aa. ASHOK Saans to le lene de khasam. Back at the tree: Chhotey finally manages to untie the knot. Meera quickly frees herself. Ranveer’s eyes light up with renewed hope. RANVEER Meera. Quick. She starts working on Ranveer’s knot. Ranveer’s eyes are on the men. One of them gets up. Starts walking towards them. RANVEER Quick. They’re coming. Meera finally manages to untie the knot. Ranveer gets up. Takes Meera’s hand. They start to run.
Ashok notices them. He SHOUTS. It gets the attention of the other men. They too get up and run in the direction of Ranveer and Meera. Ranveer panics. He looks about. The gun. Lying on the ground. Ranveer makes a dash for it. He is actually running towards the men now. The men notice what he is going for. They too head for it. Ranveer manages to pick up the gun with the men only a few yards away. The men screech to a halt. Ranveer takes them on gunpoint. Standoff. Tentative movements. Silent threats. Heavy breathing. Ranveer backs up towards Meera. Points the gun at Chhotey. RANVEER Chaabi de. Chhotey doesn’t budge. RANVEER (shouts) Chhabi de. Chhotey looks betrayed. Shakes his head. RANVEER (screams) Goli maar dunga saaley paagal. Looks like he means it. A worried Omi jumps in. OMI De de Chhotey. CHHOTEY Meri gaaddi hai. OMI Hor ghani lyaa dunga.
CHHOTEY Baawla bana rahe ho saare. Naa deta main. The moment - almost funny. But for the gun. Ranveer has had enough. He moves towards Chhotey to grab the key from him. Chhotey resists. Holds on to it like it’s life. Tug of war with the key. Chhotey screams. So does Ranveer. So does Omi. Confusion. Chaos. BANG. A moment passes before Chhotey goes down. On his shirt, right where the heart is, a splotch of blood. Everyone’s stunned. Not least - Ranveer. Meera snaps out first. MEERA Ranveer. Run. She takes Ranveer’s hand and they scamper out of there. The group rushes to Chhotey. Omi shakes his body vigorously. OMI Chhotey... uth re... uth laala. Satbir puts a hand over Omi’s shoulder. Omi looks at him. Satbir shakes his head. He’s gone. Omi slumps down on the ground. OMI Baalak tha yaar yo. Fauji seems to be getting impatient. FAUJI Nikal jaange dono. No response.
FAUJI Karo maatam inghe aalthi paalthi laga ke. He signals to Ashok and Ramotar. The three pick up whatever weapons they can find and run in the direction in which Ranveer and Meera had gone. Omi notices - the car keys still wrenched tightly in Chhotey’s fist. He tugs at it. He still won’t let go. OMI (curses) Cheechad saala. He puts some more effort. And then some more. The anger on his face rising with every second. He lets out a scream. EXT. WILDERNESS OFF THE ROAD - DUSK Night is finally descending. Ranveer and Meera. On the run. Ranveer seems overwhelmed with what just happened back there. RANVEER Did he die? MEERA We... we need to find help. RANVEER You think he died? MEERA Let’s get to the cops. RANVEER Fuck. Fuck. They reach the Scorpio first. Ranveer checks the door - just in case. It’s locked. He curses. Meera holds his face in her palms like to make him focus. MEERA Ranveer. We need to get to the cops. Somehow.
Ranveer takes a deep breath. Composes himself. RANVEER Yes. We... we just need to get out of here. Sahai hai na. Sab sort out ho jaayega. He runs towards their car. She follows. As they get closer, Ranveer stops. He can hear something. It’s a phone ringing. RANVEER My phone. He runs up to the car and pulls at the door in vain. RANVEER I need my fucking phone. The phone lies on the dashboard. Ringing a soothing tune. The only thing glowing in the darkness around. Hope. Tantalising. RANVEER Find a rock. I’ll break the window. Meera scrambles in the dark for something big enough. Ranveer notices - the little slit in the window. He puts his hand in. Tries to reach up to the phone on the dashboard. It’s just out of reach. He tries to dig further. The arm gets stuck in the slit. RANVEER Shit! Meera hears something. Feet. Shouts. MEERA Shit! They’re coming. Let’s go, Ranveer. Ranveer panics. Tries harder. The damned arm won’t come out. And The men are getting closer.
Panic. Tension. And then From behind a bush - the men emerge out. Fauji, Ashok & Ramotar - knives and rods in their hands. They look at the car. Ranveer and Meera are not there. The men go running towards the car. Look all around it. Except for where they actually are. Under the car. Meera and Ranveer. On their stomachs. Their tense faces within kicking distance of Fauji’s feet. Heck, they can even see that the laces on one of his shoes are untied. The men give up - having not found them. They run away in another direction, away from the car. In the scampering Fauji stumbles. Almost falls. He recovers. Looks down angrily. Damn, those fucking shoelaces. Or in Fauji’s words FAUJI Bhaanchod! He bends over to tie them. Only to find himself looking straight at two crouching bodies under the car body. RANVEER RUN! As the men run towards them The two struggle to get out from under the car. The men are almost there. Meera screams. And just then, Ranveer remembers something. The gun in his hand.
He brings it up and points it at the men. They stop in their steps. Ranveer and Meera make a dash again. RANVEER (calming himself) We have the gun. We still have the gun. He notices the kachcha road that brought them there and the one that leads back to the road from where they diverted. RANVEER This way. They run towards it. Fauji, Ashok and Ramotar chase them, but maintain a safe distance. 39A
As they get closer, the darkness and the quietness of the 39A wilderness make way for The sights and sounds of the road. Vehicles. Headlights. Honkings. Civilization. Or something like it. Hope. Renewed. Fauji looks worried. FAUJI Roko saalon ko. EXT. ROAD - NIGHT Ranveer and Meera reach the concrete road. RANVEER Try and stop someone. He himself turns to point the gun towards Fauji and company. They are forced to stop. Meera rushes to the middle of the road. An approaching truck.
Meera frantically waves her arms. The truck doesn’t slow down. Instead - honks in protest. Meera steps aside at the last moment. The truck whizzes past her. RANVEER Stop someone, dammit. MEERA I’m trying. Ranveer has his eyes on the three men. And the darkness that lies behind them. And then, something emerges out of it. A pair of headlights. Rattling towards them. It’s the Scorpio. Omi and Satbir in it. The men too notice the light coming from behind. They move aside. The Scorpio goes straight towards Ranveer. Not slowing down even as it gets closer and closer to the road. Ranveer’s face slowly register what they’re going for. In panic - he fires. The bullet skittles off the engine body harmlessly. Another fire. This time, he gets the windshield, sending cracks through it. The vehicle still doesn’t slow down. It’s dangerously close now. RANVEER MEERA... RUN! He turns, takes Meera’s hand and they cross the road. The Scorpio does not slow down to check oncoming vehicles even as it hits the road. Omi’s almost like he’s on a suicide mission.
The two run to the other side, with the vehicle chasing them almost missing a side-on collission with an oncoming car on the road. Meera and Ranveer jump off into the fields on the other side. The vehicle follows suit. It flies off in the air and EXT. FIELDS OFF THE ROAD - NIGHT - and lands with a thud. It rattles for a bit but continues to come straight at them. Up ahead of them - sugarcane fields. Meera and Ranveer run towards them but - the vehicle is getting closer and closer. Ranveer lets go of Meera’s hand. RANVEER Go that way. They run in separate directions. The vehicle’s confused for a moment and then swerves dangerously to follow Ranveer. Fauji, Ashok and Ramotar have caught up by now and run in the direction of Meera. Meera heads into the sugarcane fields up ahead. So does Ranveer. The Scorpio follows him for a bit but is forced to stop when the vegetation gets thicker. Omi and Satbir step down. Satbir carries a torch light whereas Omi has a pickaxe in his hands. There’s a cold confidence about Omi as he follows Ranveer into the farms. I’ll get you, boy! EXT. SUGARCANE FARMS - NIGHT Meera runs through the sugarcane fields. In no particular direction.
She can hear feet chasing her. And the distant voices of the men. They are there somewhere. Closeby. She stops. Looks around. Just long sticks of sugarcane. And nothing else. She’s on the verge of tears. Her lips moving almost involuntarily in a muttered prayer MEERA Ranveer. Find me. Find me, Ranveer. She notices a figure. Is that Ranveer? She moves cautiously towards him. A twig cracks under her foot. The figure hears. Turns. Fuck. It’s Fauji. Meera ducks back. But Fauji has sensed the presence. He searches around. Beating down the crop with a long stick. Meera’s just there. Very close. Fauji’s stick swings over her ducked head. Only just missing her. Meera remains crouched. From the other side - Ashok and Ramotar. Moving in. Closing in. Meera. Crouched. Any moment they’re gonna spot her. Finally they spot - but only one another. RAMOTAR Kinghaan ne gayi raand? FAUJI Bichalo mat re chutiyon. Phaiyl jaao. (Don’t fucking get confused. Spread out.)
They all move away in different directions as directed by Fauji. Meera remains crouched close to the ground for a bit. Then gets up and runs away. SOMEWHERE THERE: Ranveer. Running. Looking around. Looking lost. Looking worried. He decides to risk it. RANVEER (screams) MEERA! MEERA! From afar, a torchlight immediately flashes in his general direction. Ranveer shuts up and ducks. But they have spotted him and rush towards him. Ranveer gets up and runs. They chase him down like hounds. It’s a long while - and lots of deliberate zig-zags - before Ranveer manages to make them lose his track. Breathless, he stops when he just can’t run any more. Panting heavily, he checks his gun. A single, lonely bullet left. RANVEER Fuck. Just then - the sound of feet. Approaching him. From right in front. Ranveer tiredly cocks his gun and points it straight ahead. The sound - getting nearer and nearer. Cautious. Ranveer’s finger goes to the trigger, ready to press it. Tortuous moments. Which come to an end when A figure emerges out of the sugarcane crop.
Ranveer almost fires. Stops himself - mercifully - For it’s Meera. Frozen. First in fear. Then in relief. Ranveer sighs. They hug hurriedly. Listen. It’s quiet. They move quietly towards the edge of the field. Out of nowhere - SWISH! A knife lodges itself into the side of Ranveer’s abdomen. It’s Ashok.
He’s been waiting silently in ambush.
As they grapple, the gun drops out of Ranveer’s hands. Ranveer clutches at Ashok’s throat in desperation. Ashok gives the knife a twist. Slow. Ruthless. Crrrrunch! You can almost hear the insides being ripped apart. Meera screams. So does Ashok. ASHOK FAUJI! RAMOTAR! Ranveer kicks the gun. Towards Meera. It stops close to her feet. She picks it up in a flash. Points it at Ashok’s back. Her finger closes in on the trigger. But Damn! She can’t shoot. She notices - Ranveer’s eyes on her. Do it!! The approaching sound of running feet. Meera realises her hands are shaking. Ranveer’s eyes - now! Meera presses the trigger several times. Bang. Click. Click. Click. Only a single bullet gets fired.
But it’s enough. Ashok’s grip on the knife loosens and he drops down. A visibly shaken Meera has still not brought the gun down when Ramotar appears there. He stops as he sees the gun in Meera’s hand. There are no more bullets in it. Meera knows it. But she’s hoping Ramotar doesn’t. The two look into each other’s eyes for a long moment. The first one to blink loses. And then, she takes a step towards him. He takes a step back. That’s it. Meera lets out a scream as she charges at him with the gun. Ramotar turns back and flees, shouting RAMOTAR FAUJI! Meera rushes to Ranveer as he drops down to his knees. MEERA Ranveer, you ok, baby? Ranveer nods. Meera looks at the knife still lodged in his abdomnen. With trembling hands, she plucks it out. Ranveer screams. Meera feels nauseated as she looks at it - it’s covered in Ranveer’s blood and flesh. She drops it like it’s pure evil. Then doubles over and retches. She recovers. Looks at Ranveer. In his eyes - fear. Fear of death. Something comes upon Meera. She takes his hand. MEERA Let’s go. She supports him as they disappear into the sugarcane crop.
EXT. SUGARCANE FARMS - NIGHT The vast, dense sugarcane field. Four dots running through it. Ramotar leads the others as they reach up to where Ashok lies dead. Omi’s eyes go to the bloodied knife. He picks it up. Cleans it on his shirt sleeve. OMI Ghani door naa jaa paayenge. Satbir flashes the torch light around. The others follow him as he moves ahead. Ramotar looks just a tad unsure as he follows the rest. EXT. SUGARCANE FARMS - NIGHT Meera supports a barely conscious Ranveer as they make their way ahead. The crop seems to be thinning and the field seems to be coming to an end. Ranveer halts. Meera looks at him. He shakes his head weakly. RANVEER I can’t. I can’t walk any more. MEERA We’re there. See. Ranveer clutches on to his wound and draws upon all his strength. They move ahead. EXT. FIELDS NEAR RAILWAY TRACK - NIGHT Ranveer and Meera emerge out of the sugarcane farms. In the distance - a numbingly bright light. Rushing towards them.
Blinded and confused, Meera shields her eyes trying to make out what it is. Then - with a thundering roar an express train tears through the night past them. She realises they’re on a small dirt track running along a major rail line. MEERA Aas paas koi toh gaon hoga... A police station maybe... Bas wahaan tak pahunch jaate Thud! Ranveer drops down on the ground. Meera rushes to him. He looks weak. Exhausted. Meera thinks. Makes a decision. MEERA Ranveer, baby, I’m gonna go get some help. No response from Ranveer. Meera shakes him up. Ranveer manages to mutter something incomprehensible. She looks around. Spots. A little culvert besides the track. A dry bed under it laden with thick bushes. Almost spooky in the moonlight. Meera helps Ranveer get up. It’s difficult as his knees are wobbly. She helps him walk up to under the bridge. Makes him sit down with his back to it. She looks at him. Fights back her tears. MEERA I’m gonna be back soon, ok? I promise. He can barely keep his eyes open now. MEERA And you promise that you’ll wait for me here. Ranveer nods ever so slightly.
MEERA You got some money on you? No response. She checks his pockets. Nothing there. Then her eyes fall upon his watch. The big fat designer watch. A man’s watch. She takes it off. Puts the gun in Ranveer's hands. MEERA If they find you, this will scare them off. OK? Her voice betrays the feeling that she doesn’t quite believe it herself. She looks at Ranveer. He’s losing consciousness. Meera shakes him up. Slaps him a few times lightly. MEERA RV. Sona mat. Wait for me, RV. Listen. Listen to this. (whispers in Tamil) We’ll go home and make mad love till the sun comes up. OK? He lets out a weak smile. Just about manages to mutter RANVEER My lucky day today? This time, tears roll down her eyes. She kisses him on the lips for a long moment. She covers Ranveer under the bushes. Wipes off her tears, turns and heads out. As she emerges out of the bushes, walking along the rail track, we notice what’s on her wrist. The man’s watch. The time on it. Five past twelve. Happy Birthday, Meera!
INTERVAL FADE IN: EXT. TRACKS ABOVE UNDERPASS - NIGHT The rail tracks. A lone figure running along them. Meera. Looking around. Not quite sure where she is going. And then she spots - a glimmer of light in the distance - and a dusty road going under the tracks, leading towards it. Hope? Meera stumbles down the steep muddy embankment. She loses her balance and tumbles down. Lodging herself in a thorny bush. It rips through her shirt and her arm. Meera yelps in pain. Slowly pulls herself out. EXT. DUSTY ROAD - NIGHT She holds her arm as she runs on the dusty road, towards the light, shouting MEERA HELP! No one in sight though. As she gets closer, she realises it’s a small rest stop for passers by. A tube light flickers over an inscription on the wall “Yeh aaramgah pathikon ki suvidha ke liye Belada gaon ki sarpanch Shrimati Indori Devi ne banwaaya hai.” No one there at this time. She curses. Then notices - a tap. Meera runs up to it and gulps down some water thirstily. As she is drinking - a strong approaching light hits her. And the unmistakable sound of an approaching diesel engine.
Meera turns sharply. It’s a jeep coming down the road. She runs to the middle of the road and flails her arms about. The vehicle slows down as it approaches her. Stops. Meera can’t see much past the headlight. She runs up close. MEERA Please help. Police station Her words taper off as she looks at the men on the vehicle. Faces. Partially covered in blankets. Rustic. Rough. Not unlike the ones she has encountered earlier in the night. Their eyes on - Her state. Her face. Her ripped shirt. Her alienness. On her face too - the fear of the alien. She slowly backs off. And runs away in the direction opposite to which the jeep is going. An OLD MAN shouts out at her receding figure OLD MAN IN THE JEEP (shouts out) Ke ho gaya beti? - but she’s gone. He murmurs sympathetically to the others OLD MAN IN THE JEEP Chyondhi laag ri thi bichaari. (The poor thing looked lost) BACK WITH MEERA: A tense Meera runs hard, looking back to ensure she’s not being followed. She stops near a little canal. Holds her head in despair. Looks around. Nowhere to go. And then her eyes go to a signboard in Hindi.
Beat Chowki No. 2. Gaon Belada. Thana Shivarsa. Haryana Police. And most importantly - an arrow that leads to it. Meera can’t believe her luck. She runs in the direction the arrow is pointing at. EXT. POLICE CHOWKI - NIGHT A decrepit small structure. An old bicycle leans on the wall. A solitary naked bulb hangs above it, attracting insects by the dozens. A breathless Meera reaches there running and heads straight for the door. She pushes at it. Only to find it locked from inside. She knocks on it. Waits. No response. She knocks harder, almost bangs on the door. Some stirring inside. She continues to bang. Finally the door opens. A sleepy, MIDDLE AGED CONSTABLE in a dishevelled state. He’s taken aback to see Meera. And embarassed. Offers by way of explanation as he buttons his shirt CONSTABLE Wo kuttey ghus jaate hain toh bandh rakhna padta Meera of course has no time for this. Cuts him MEERA Please help. Mera husband... he’s in danger. Please saath chaliye. The Constable seems confused. CONSTABLE Ke baat ho gayi? MEERA Kuchh log... unhone humpe attack kiya. Highway par. They... (MORE)
56. MEERA (CONT'D) they stabbed my husband. Please jaldi chaliye.
The Constable looks at her. Realises the seriousness of it. CONSTABLE Main saab ko phone karta hoon. He goes in. Meera follows him in. INT. POLICE CHOWKI - NIGHT A dimly lit, depressing room. An old desk and a couple of chairs. And A crumpled bedsheet and pillow on the floor. Confirmed - the bugger was indeed sleeping before she came in. The Constable rushes to the phone on the desk. Dials a number. Wait. Wait. Wait. He notices Meera looking at him impatiently. CONSTABLE Ringing kar rya sa. Some more wait, before a voice appears at the other end. SUB INSPECTOR (O.S.) Haan bol Dhulichand. CONSTABLE Janaab. Ek madam hain. English type. Boley koi rolla raapda hoya sa... SUB INSPECTOR (O.S.) Kathey? CONSTABLE (cups the phone) Tam aa kahaan se rahe ho? MEERA Delhi. CONSTABLE (relays) Dilli.
SUB INSPECTOR (O.S.) Dilli? Dilli mein hoya to hum ke karengey? CONSTABLE Naa janaab. Aayi dilli se... kaand inghe hoya... highway par. Hain janaab? (cups the phone again) Highway ke is taraf ki parli taraf? Meera has had enough of this confusion. She snatches the phone from the Constable’s hand. The Constable doesn’t like it but lets it pass. MEERA Sir... please try and understand. Hum Dilli se aa rahe the. Raaste mein kuchh logon ne attack kiya. They... they stabbed my husband. (listens) Nahi, mujhe nahi pata kaun log the. Koi honour killing ka case hai. Ek ladke aur ladki ko utha ke le gaye dhaabe se... The Constable looks at her sharply. MEERA (chokes) Dono ko maar diya. Hamaare saamne. Ladki ka naam shaayad... The line gets disconnected before Meera could speak more. She looks down at the phone. The constable’s finger is on the cradle. Meera looks at his tense face. Not quite understanding the meaning of it. MEERA Phone... phone kyun kaata? CONSTABLE Tam jaao yehaan se. MEERA Kya hua? CONSTABLE Bola na. Jaao.
The phone begins to ring. The Constable doesn’t pick. Instead looks at it like it’s a ticking bomb. Meera tries to pick it up. The Constable pulls it away from her. MEERA (pleads) Sir, mere husband injured hai wahaan. Aap please... The Constable doesn’t relent. Meera looks about. Remembers - the watch on her wrist. Starts to take it off. MEERA Aap... aap yeh le lijiye Sir. Expensive hai. Do... Do lac. The Constable looks at her gravely. CONSTABLE Jaao madam. MEERA Aap aise kaise kar sakte hain? Aapka kaam hai help karna. CONSTABLE (shouts in frustration) Arey naa karni help. Niklo yehan se. All this while, the damned phone continues to ring. She snatches at the phone again. He dodges. A little game ensues. Like how you fool around with a kid. The Constable finally pulls the cable out of the phone. Sudden silence. Meera stares at the Constable for a bit. Angry. Helpless. On the verge of tears. MEERA F...fuck you. She storms out of there. The Constable watches her go. Tense. Then slams the phone back on the desk. Anxiety in his eyes.
EXT. POLICE CHOWKI - NIGHT Meera emerges out of the Chowki. Looks around in despair. Spots the bicycle. She kicks it in frustration, sending it down tumbling. A dog barks somewhere closeby, startled by the sound. Meera looks at the fallen bicycle. EXT. DUSTY ROAD - NIGHT The rickety cycle rattles down the dusty road. Meera on it. Breathless. Tears running down her cheeks. She crosses the rest house she had earlier stopped at. Still no one there. From up ahead in the distance - the jingling sound of a bell. Meera tenses up as she cycles towards it - her eyes squinting in nervous anticipation. And then from the darkness emerges - A cow. An emaciated, abandoned one, with a bell around its neck. Meera cycles past it. She seems very low on hope at this point. And just then - out of nowhere - headlights appear in the distance. Coming towards her. She slows down. Stops. The vehicle continues to come towards her. Meera realises - it’s a jeep. The same one as earlier? She tenses up. Looks about nervously. The jeep’s almost there now. Meera strains hard for a better view. A sign on the jeep - Haryana Police. It stops next to her. The young SUB INSPECTOR AHLAWAT gets down. He looks at Meera. Then at the cycle. Resists a smile. SUB INSPECTOR Phone pe aap hi thi, Madam?
Meera lets out a huge sigh of relief. EXT. DUSTY ROAD / POLICE JEEP - NIGHT Meera tick-tocks her pen in nervous agitation as - the Sub Inspector drives while talking on his mobile. SUB INSPECTOR Madam mere saath hi hain. Hum abhi andheriya gali se nikale hain. Dhulichand... Dhulichand... manne na sunna. Sab ko le ke rail patri pe aa ja... Ganne ke khet waali side. He looks at Meera, to check if he is giving the right directions. She nods vigorously in approval. The Sub Inspector cuts the phone and pockets it. SUB INSPECTOR Dhulichand aadmi maada nahi hai. Aap please complaint mat karna. Meera looks at him sharply. MEERA Police wala hai. Kuchh toh... SUB INSPECTOR Madam, police koi hawa mein toh rehti nahi? Gaon mein hi rehti hai. Biradari mein. Hukka paani band ho jaata. Byaahne waale teen ladke hain Dhulichand ke. Kaun beti deta? Aise hi ladkiyaan nahi hain. Meera still looks unconvinced. SUB INSPECTOR Achcha chalo. Aap apni caste bataao. MEERA Huh? MEERA Iyer... Er, Puri. Wo shaadi ke baad...
SUB INSPECTOR Intercaste marriage? MEERA Jee? The Sub Inspector smiles benignly. SUB INSPECTOR Waise Iyer, Puri... yeh sab toh surname hai, Madam. Caste? Jaise bramhan, baniya, jaat, gujjar, kurmi, lohaar etcetra etcetra. Meera seems clueless. SUB INSPECTOR Gotra toh fir ke hi pata hoga? (beat) Yo hi farak hai, Madam. Gaon mein aap kisi 12 saal ke bachche ko rok ke poochho. Jaat paat gaut patri sab bata dega. Apni. Padosi ki. A fork on the road. Meera points to the left. Ahlawat takes it. They are getting closer to where she left Ranveer. SUB INSPECTOR Manu padha hai aapne? Meera doesn’t reply. Her focus is on the road and the turns. He continues irrespective. SUB INSPECTOR Bahot badey gyaani the. Jaise Ambedkar saab. Jinhone Bharat ka kaanoon banaaya. Ab Ambedkar saab ne bola ki saari gaadiyaan left side pe chalegi to chalti hain na? Koi right pe chalegi to accident toh hoga hi. Meera’s eyes scan the road anxiously. They’re almost there. And she wouldn’t mind if he’d shut up right now. SUB INSPECTOR Ab yeh Mukesh Pinky ka hi case lo. Inko pata hai daada laahi ke jamaane ka kaanoon hai. Koi nayi baat to hai nahi. Par fir bhi inko gotra mein hi byaahna hai. Galat hai na?
Something strikes Meera. We STAY ON her as the Sub Inspector continues to jabber. SUB INSPECTOR (O.S.) Aap ko sun ke shock lag raha hoga, Madam. Par Gurgaon ki aakhiri mall jahaan khatam hoti hai, aapki yeh democracy yeh constitution bhi wahin khatam ho jaata hai. Yehaan bijli paani nahi pahonchta, bhonsadi ka constitution kahaan se pahonchega. Par nibha rahe hain na yeh log. Inki do maheene ki dihaadi se aapke jootey tak nahi aayenge. Yeh log toh naa karte protest mombatti jalaa ke. Caste system ka shukar hai ki bikhre pade hain saaley. Nahi toh bhasad mach jaayegi. (beat) Aage se...? They’ve reached the underpass where Meera stumbled down the slope. No response from Meera. He looks at her. Her face seems to have gone pale. SUB INSPECTOR Madam? Kya hua? MEERA Huh? Shaayad galat aa gaye. The Sub Inspector stares at her for a bit. And then - Brakes hard. Silence. Just the sound of crickets. Meera looks at him. Scared. Trying to cover. MEERA Sab ek jaisa hi... Raat ke waqt woh... A long moment passes, before Ahlawat smiles at her. SUB INSPECTOR Mhaare se mistake ho gayi, na? Aap ne hamein Mukesh Pinky ka naam kab bataaya? She notices his gaze going to the rear view mirror.
Headlights approaching them. Coming nearer and nearer. Fuck. It’s the Scorpio. She moves to get out. The Sub Inspector grabs her hand. Hard. Smiles. SUB INSPECTOR Dhulichand bechaara theek salaah de raha tha. His words are cut short by a swing of Meera’s other arm. Primal. Reflexive. Unexpected. Something lodges itself into the Sub Inspector’s eye. The ball point pen. For a while, nothing happens. Ahlawat’s trembling hand goes to pluck it out of his eye. A fountain of blood gushes out and splatters on to the windshield. And on Meera’s face. Leaving her frozen. In horror. Till - Ahlawat drops dead on the steering wheel. Paaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiinnnnnn... The car horn pierces through the stillness of the night. And through Meera’s shell-shockedness. She looks in the rear view mirror. Two images in it. One is of her face - generously sprayed with blood. And the other is of the men emerging out of the Scorpio. Meera pushes Ahlawat’s body out of the jeep. And slips into the driver’s seat. She barely manages to drive away before Fauji and Omi reach the jeep. The men cling to the jeep for a bit but she eventually shakes them off. The Scorpio - driven by Satbir - catches up. The two men in to it.
Meera can’t see clearly. The windshield has blood all over it.
She tries to wipe it off. Only making it worse. EXT. DUST ROAD NEAR RAIL TRACKS - NIGHT The jeep tears down the dirt road. The Scorpio follows suit in hot pursuit. Up ahead - the little bridge with a thick bushy overgrowth under it. Where she left Ranveer. Meera’s eyes are on it. She’s headed towards it. But a quick glance at the Scorpio and she changes her mind. She swerves the jeep a hard ninety degrees and steers it away from the spot where she had left Ranveer. EXT. FIELDS - NIGHT The fencing of a farm. The jeep crashes through the barbed wire and enters the farm. The Scorpio follows it, chasing it like a hound. EXT. DUSTY ROAD BY THE CANAL - NIGHT Meera notices - right in front of her - a canal. And a dusty track by it. She swerves and puts the car onto it. The Scorpio follows the jeep as they drive alongside the canal. Getting closer...and closer...and then Satbir turns sharply and bangs into the jeep from the side. Meera’s almost thrown out of the jeep from the impact. But manages to recover. She tries to steer away but the Scorpio follows her, going for another bang. She now realises what Satbir is trying to do - to push her towards the canal waters, thus boxing her in. She tries to crank up some speed but there’s only so much an old rickety government vehicle can do. Satbir bangs into her again.
Meera swerves and she’s now riding pretty much alongside the edge of the canal. She panics. Just a few feet separating her from the slope. She sees the Scorpio coming towards her ominously. She’s gonna go down for sure if it hits her this time. The Scorpio barges in, but at the last minute, Meera brakes hard. The incoming Scorpio swerves but misses her. Recovers and takes a sharp u-turn to come back at her. Meera jumps down from her vehicle. Looks at the Scorpio coming straight at her. With the clear intention of ramming her down. She then looks at the canal waters. And the lights on the other side. Meera takes a few steps back. Then runs in to gain momentum. And jumps. SPLASH! She hits the cold water of the canal. The Scorpio screeches to a stop. The men seem surprised at her perseverance. They get down. Watch her swim away. She turns to look at them. An animated discussion going on. Post which Omi and Ramotar run towards the field. Looking around for someone. For Ranveer. And then she hears two SPLASHES, one after another. Satbir and Fauji. Into the waters. Following her. EXT. CANAL WATERS / CANAL BANK - NIGHT The moon reflects in the clear waters. Before being dispersed away by the ripples. Meera. Strong, rhythmic movements.
For the first time in hours, she seems calm and focussed. Almost like she’s practising a hard lap in the pool. Fauji and Satbir are not too far behind, though Meera seems to be pulling away from them with every yard. But there’s only so much distance to cover. Meera reaches the other end. Steps out of the waters. Soaking wet. Cold. Shivering. She turns to throw a look at Fauji and Satbir. They still have half the distance to go. They too stop as they see her standing on the bank looking at them. Their eyes meet. The hunter and the hunted. With her eyes still on them, Meera takes off her wet squishy shoes. Throws them away. As Fauji and Satbir resume their swimming Meera turns and makes a dash out of there. EXT. ROAD LEADING TO THE VILLAGE - NIGHT Two bare feet. Running on the little uneven road. On one side of her is the canal. On the other side - acres of farms. She comes across a bridge that runs over the canal. Tired. Breathless. She stops. Looks around. In the far distance - a cluster of lights. A village probably. The bridge or the village? She makes her choice. Heads straight ahead - to the village. 57A
She hobbles further alongside the farms.
Crops. Crops. And more crops. Until she spots in the far distance A chimney. Tall. Industrial. Surely, there’s gotta be somebody there!
Meera limps towards it. EXT. BRICK KILN - NIGHT A dusty path leads her to rows and rows of stacked underproduction bricks. Almost like a maze. MEERA (shouts) Hello? No response. As Meera stands looking around and regaining her breath - her eyes go to the dusty path she just took. Two figures come running down on it. Meera ducks between two rows. And waits. The footsteps coming nearer and nearer. And then - she hears their voices. FAUJI (O.S.) Isi taraf aayi thi. Meera peeps through the little space between bricks. There they are. Fauji and Satbir. SATBIR Tu udhar dekh. Fauji runs in the direction. Satbir looks around. Feels something. Turns to look straight at the hole Meera was peeping from. Meera ducks. Just in time. Crouched - she can see Satbir’s feet approaching the stack of bricks. Still crouched - she scurries away towards the end of the row. Just as - Satbir hits the row of bricks sending a portion crashing down.
Satbir peeps in now. Nope, she isn’t there. Instead, she’s on his side of the row. If only he would look back. But he doesn’t. As Satbir pulls himself back, Meera ducks back towards the other side of the row. She sees - Fauji coming running towards them. FAUJI Ke hoya? Aawaaj ke thi? Still crouched - Meera gets out of there and rushes towards the kiln area - where the chimney is. 58A
Meera reaches the kiln. Nothing much there to hide in. And heck, only one entrance or exit. Meera decides to turn back but seems like the two are coming just in her direction. Damn. No way out. She runs into the circular area. Fauji and Satbir. Coming nearer and nearer. And then they enter the area. They look around. Run in separate directions. Sure she’s gonna be caught now. But - she’s nowhere to be seen. They converge again. Just a couple of feet away from them - she’s hiding inside a little dark alcove. But - They do not see her. They run out in frustration. Meera waits for a while. Then steps out. 58B
OUTSIDE THE KILN:
Meera emerges. Looks around nervously. They are nowhere to be seen.
She spots - a rough brick hutment. Meera runs towards it. EXT. / INT. BRICK KILN, CABIN - NIGHT Bang. Bang. Bang. Meera on the door. VOICE FROM INSIDE (O.S.) K... kaun? Kaun hai? Meera continues to bang. Finally - a light comes up outside. And the door opens tentatively. A man - THE MIGRANT - wearing only a lungi stands there. Behind him - a charpaayi from which a sleepy WOMAN peeps out from under a thick blanket. Meera barges in. Shuts the door. MEERA Bhaiyya... please help karo... wo... wo log... EXT. BRICK KILN - NIGHT Fauji and Satbir. Heading away. Fauji feels something. Stops. Satbir looks at him. Fauji’s eyes are on the the hutment in the distance. The bulb glowing outside it. EXT. / INT. BRICK KILN, CABIN - NIGHT Meera finishes up her pleadings. MEERA ...please kuchh help kijiye. The Migrant and his wife look at each other. Just then Bang! Bang! Bang!
SATBIR (O.S.) O! Ahn Re! Meera panics. So does the Migrant. His eyes travel to his wife. She seems to be pleading with her eyes. The Migrant makes a decision. Takes Meera’s hand. Leads her to the chaarpaayi. Meera looks at him quizzically. He signals her to get in. Under the thick blanket. Next to the woman. Meera’s unsure. But the woman pulls her in. Pulls the blanket over them - just as the Migrant opens the door. Fauji and Satbir barge in like they own the place. BIHARI MIGRANT K...kaun? Kya hua? SATBIR O Bihari! Koi lugaayi aayi ke? BIHARI MIGRANT Koi nahi aaya hian toh. Bas aap du log aaye hain. FAUJI Batti kaise on hui baahar ki? BIHARI MIGRANT Woh... pesaab ke liye gaye the. Fauji looks at him. Then looks around. Nothing in the room that can hide anyone. Except - the bed. The bump under the blanket. Someone’s there for sure. He heads for it. The Migrant steps up. Like blocking him. Fauji glares at him. The Migrant looks back with a funny mix of confrontation and pleading. BIHARI MIGRANT Mehraru hai maalik.
Fauji’s about to make a move but Satbir puts a hand over his shoulder. Fauji turns to look back at Satbir. Satbir nods. Let it be! Fauji ignores him. Pushes the Migrant aside and walks up to the chaarpaayi. Just before he can pull at the blanket - someone sits up on the chaarpaayi. The Migrant’s wife. Looking at Fauji with hateful eyes. Fauji glares at her before heading out of there. Satbir follows him. Silence again. The woman turns the blanket over. Crouched around the lower half - Meera. BIHARI MIGRANT Pul ke us taraf thana hai. Meera steps out. MEERA Police mili hui hai. Gaon mein koi...? BIHARI MIGRANT Sarpanch hoga. Unke paas jaaiye. MEERA Aap le chalenge? The Migrant looks at her. Unsure. Then looks down. Kinda ashamed. Meera gets her answer. She rushes towards the door. The Migrant follows her. Points towards a direction. Go this way! Meera heads out. Turns back one last time to look at him. BIHARI MIGRANT Hum baahar waale hain, Madam. Meera nods at him. I understand.
Runs away. EXT. VILLAGE OUTSKIRTS / ALLEYS - NIGHT Meera emerges out of the bushes to reach the outskirts of the village. A solitary dog sniffs her coming. It follows her, cautiously. Meera ignores it. Too tired to even shoo him away. 62A
With a hand-painted advertisement for an abortion clinic. Painless. Done by machines. Rupees 350 only. Meera dodders past it. 62B
Towards the first house.
Bangs on the door. Hard. Then harder. No response. Her eyes go to the top of the door. A lock hangs there. She staggers up to the second house. Hell, it’s locked too. Where the fuck is everybody? A sound floats up to her ears. The sound of live music. Intrigued, Meera runs towards it. EXT. PRIMARY SCHOOL, GROUND - NIGHT A small make-shift stage in the middle of the school playground. A traditional Swang being performed by an all male crew, including a few cross-dressers. In which Savitri saves Satyavan from the clutches of death... 63A
Beyond the boundary wall: Meera. Her droopy eyes scan the crowd.
About a hundred people. Mostly boisterous men. Only a small group of veiled village women who sit huddled together in a corner. Meera stands evaluating her move when - she hears a giggle a little away from her. She freezes in fear for a moment. Then turns slowly. Just TWO LITTLE BOYS pissing on the school-wall, crossing streams like only little boys do. With relief, Meera runs up to them. MEERA Beta. Suno. Mujhe sarpanch ji ke ghar le chaloge? The two boys - KAMLESH and PAPPU - look at each other. They seem unsure as they finish up and turn to her. MEERA Please, beta. PAPPU Is ka ghar hai. Gaya to waapas na aan denge. Meera’s face lights up. Hope. MEERA Tum... tum sarpanch ji ke...? PAPPU Pota hai unka. MEERA Please... please apne ghar le chalo... A roar of approval from the crowd O.S. Enough to get the attention of the boys diverted to the stage. ON STAGE: A CLOWN appears and starts regaling the crowd with his antics. He points to someone in the crowd. MAKHAULIYA Wo dekh. Savitri ka naam sunte Chaudhri khada hogya. Baith jaa Tau. (MORE)
74. MAKHAULIYA (CONT'D) Thaare khaatar koyi Savitri konya bachi. Inghe to saare randwe Satyavan hi sa.
The crowd laughs at the expense of an old man the clown is pointing at. Too much fun for the boys to miss. Pappu runs away from there, shouting PAPPU Makhauliya aa gya. Kamlesh makes a move too but Meera clutches on to his hand in desperation. Kamlesh struggles to get out of her grip, but she won’t let go. In the tussle, the boy’s eyes go to the watch on Meera’s wrist. He stops squirming. Meera notices it. EXT. VILLAGE ALLEYS - NIGHT Two pair of feet running. One without shoes. The other with shoes that have flashing lights in them. Meera and Kamlesh. Kamlesh fiddles with the watch on his wrist even as he runs. He slows down. Stops. Meera catches up to him, trying hard to regain her breath. KAMLESH Isme light nahi hai kya? Meera. Exhausted. Exasperated. She takes his hand and drags him along. KAMLESH (disappointed) Mere to joote mein bhi light hai. 64A
He resumes his run. Meera now finds it difficult to keep 64A pace with him. INT. SARPANCH HOUSE, ROOM - NIGHT Almirahs. Cupboards. Being emptied out.
Cartons. Trunks. Packed. Being packed. AMMAJI, the weathered matriarch, picks up the last pile of clothing from an almirah and dumps them into a trunk. Moving house, perhaps? AMMAJI Peti bandh kar ke side laga de. BHUMIA, the timid dusky girl in her early 20s, does as told. She’s a little out of place. In an urban setting - she’d be one of those domestic helps from the East. A tired Ammaji shuts the almirah. On the life-size almirah mirror - old stickers. Mickey Mouse. Barbie. Pink hearts. Memories. Ammaji looks at them for a long time. Sad. Nostalgic. Something comes upon her. She starts taking them off. The damned things won’t come off so easily. But she seems determined, almost obsessed. Trrrrrrrr. O.S., the doorbell rings rather sharply. No reaction from Ammaji as she continues with her task. Scrub. Scrub. Scrub. Scrub. Trrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Longer this time. Bhumia looks at Ammaji. Then walks up to her to touch her arm gently. Ammaji, almost startled, turns to look at Bhumia. Bhumia’s reply is a mix of shout and gestures - the way you’d talk to hearing-impaired folks. BHUMIA Koi aaya hai. Baahar. We were right. Her accent’s definitely East. A long moment passes. Ammaji chokes back a tear before nodding at her. AMMAJI Mhaari machine dekh kathey rakhi sa.
EXT. SARPANCH HOUSE, COURTYARD - NIGHT An old but rural-prosperous house. The courtyard with the private well a proof of that. The old matriarch slowly walks past it and opens the door. Kamlesh there. AMMAJI Chhorey tanne manaa karya tha na jaane se? KAMLESH (shouts) Koi milne aaya hai. AMMAJI Kaun? Kamlesh looks behind in the dark alley. Ammaji’s eyes follow his gaze. Meera emerges from the darkness. Legs wobbly. Barely managing to make those last yards. AMMAJI Kaun sa? Kamlesh shrugs. KAMLESH Boli thaare se kaam tha. Meera reaches there. Looks at Ammaji and then at Kamlesh with woolly eyes. MEERA Sarpanch ji? KAMLESH Arey yehi to hai Sarpanch ji. Meera. Surprised. Relieved. Just about manages to mutter MEERA Mera husband... please woh... Please... - before the night finally takes its toll on her. She passes out in a dead faint. Ammaji holds her as she falls.
AMMAJI Beti? Ke hoya? No reply from Meera. Ammaji looks at her with worry. AMMAJI (shouts out) Bhumia! 66A
BACK IN THE ROOM:
Bhumia looks about around the bed. There it is. Under the pillow. A hearing aid. Just then, she hears AMMAJI (O.S.) Bhumia! BHUMIA (shouts back) MIL GAYI, AMMAJI. She picks up the hearing aid and rushes out. 66B
IN THE COURTYARD:
Bhumia emerges into the courtyard. Surprised to see Meera in Ammaji’s arms. She helps Ammaji carry Meera into the house as Kamlesh follows them excitedly. INT. SARPANCH HOUSE - NIGHT They help Meera on a bed. She’s still unconscious. AMMAJI Bechari daredi sa. (Poor thing looks scared) (to Kamlesh) Jaa paani le kar aa. But Kamlesh’s attention has been snapped up by all the packedunpacked boxes. He digs into one. Finds something. Picks it up. KAMLESH Bua kahin jaa rahi hai? Bhumia turns to give him a reprimanding glare. Do as told.
He makes a face. Dumps what he’s holding back into the carton as he leaves. It’s a photoframe. A girl we know. But in happier times. Fuck. It’s Pinky. Kamlesh comes back with a jug of water. Ammaji splashes some on Meera’s face. Meera slowly revives, although just about. AMMAJI Beti tu theek sa? Ke baat ho gayi? MEERA Hum dilli se aa rahe the. Raaste mein kuchh log ek ladka ladki ko... Meera continues but we see the rest of it from Ammaji’s POV: She just sees Meera’s mouth opening and closing. All that she can hear is a faint, incoherent voice. Ammaji turns to Bhumia irritatedly. AMMAJI Machine kathey sa mhaari? Bhumia. Ashen faced. Stares at Meera in disbelief. She has heard. She knows. Only we notice - the hearing aid that she discreetly hides in her fist. Ammaji shakes her up. AMMAJI Machine? As Kamlesh giggles somewhere in the bg, Bhumia recovers. Looks at Ammaji. BHUMIA Huh? Mili nahi. SLAP. Sudden. Hard. Bhumia falls down from the edge of the bed and onto the ground.
AMMAJI Ek kaam na hota raand sa. Meera - taken aback. Looks at Ammaji with surprise. Ammaji’s angry eyes are on Bhumia though - still lying on the ground. And then she notices - her closed fist. And something peeking out of it. With suspicion, she walks up to Bhumia. Bhumia offers no resistance as Ammaji opens up her fist. There it is - the hearing aid. Ammaji picks it up and puts it in her ear - her eyes on Bhumia all the time. As her hand moves to hit Bhumia another time MEERA Please Aunty... Mera husband injured hai... Please mere saath chaliye. Wo mar jaayega, Aunty... Ammaji stops. Looks at Meera. Then back at Bhumia. And then - realization dawns on her. She starts backing off from the room. Meera doesn’t quite understand this. MEERA Aunty? Ammaji takes Kamlesh by the hand and storms out - making sure to bolt the door from outside. Meera looks at Bhumia questioningly. What just happened? Bhumia’s defeated eyes are fixated on a cushion. Meera follows her gaze. On the cushion. Amateur embroidery. A flower. And a name. Pinky. Meera. Realization. Shock. MEERA Fuck.
EXT. SARPANCH HOUSE, COURTYARD - NIGHT Ammaji dials a number from her mobile phone. Satbir’s. It’s unreachable. She cuts it. Curses. BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! The door’s being banged from inside. Loud. Incessant. Ammaji ignores it. Dials another number. Omi. AMMAJI Omi. Satbir kathey sa? She tries hard to listen to Omi. The banging’s making it tough for her. She shouts, first at the shut door AMMAJI Chup kar jaa raand. And then at the phone AMMAJI Ghar aao saare. Ibbe ke ibbe. She cuts the phone. The banging seems to have stopped. But only for a moment. As next we hear a much louder THUD! INT. SARPANCH HOUSE - NIGHT Meera lies on the floor, next to the door. She struggles to pick herself up. Then walks back to the other end of the room. And then comes running in. Right into the door. THUD! She falls down again with the impact. Hurt. Spent.
She notices Bhumia - still sitting on the floor. Exactly where Ammaji left her. Bhumia looks at her. Smiles wryly. BHUMIA Main toh khud aath saal mein nahi nikal paayi. Meera lifts herself up. MEERA Tum yahan kaam karti ho? BHUMIA Bihayi hun. Pachchees hajaar mein khareede. Bahot the mere baap ke liye. Meera looks at her. Hopelessness in her eyes. It deflates Meera. For a moment. But she recovers. Runs right into the door. Thud. She’s not giving up without a fight. EXT. SARPANCH HOUSE - NIGHT Ammaji paces up and down the courtyard. Another THUD. She looks at the door. It seems to be holding up so far. The sound of an approaching vehicle outside in the lane. Ammaji looks at the gates in anticipation. SCREECH! The Scorpio comes to a stop right outside. Satbir, followed by the rest, jump out and barge in. Satbir stops as he notices Ammaji glaring at him. AMMAJI Phone kyun na laag rya tha thaara? SATBIR Wo... paani ma bheej gya.
AMMAJI Aur jey yaa nikal jaati tey ke karta? SATBIR Sab control ma sa Amma. Ammaji slaps him hard. Leaving him stunned. Embarassed. AMMAJI Gaye cheh. Paachhe aaye chaar. Yo control sa thaara? She glares daggers at him. The other men hover around nervously. A long, tense moment. Until - another THUD. AMMAJI (screams) Rrr chup karaao isne koi. The men - almost relieved - spurt into action. Rush to the door. INT. SARPANCH HOUSE - NIGHT Meera on the floor. Trying hard to pick herself up again. Just then, the door opens. And the men she evaded all night enter. A sullen Satbir goes straight for her. Kicks her in the gut as she is trying to get up. Meera goes crashing into one of the packed cartons. It topples over. Knick-knacks. Trinkets. A dead girl’s memoribilia. Satbir catches hold of Meera’s hair while Fauji slaps her hard. Again. And again. And again. Meera almost passes out. Satbir drags her out by the hair -
EXT. SARPANCH HOUSE, COURTYARD - NIGHT - and throws her in the courtyard, near Ammaji’s chair. AMMAJI Thaari lugaayi. Usne bhi le ke aa. Satbir and Fauji go back in. Sounds of more beatings. And Bhumia’s cries. Meera opens her eyes. Ammaji stares at her. AMMAJI Mhaare private matter ka tamasha bana diya tune. But Meera’s eyes are on someone else. Behind Ammaji Kamlesh. Near the wall of the well. Watching all the action with a kid’s curiosity. Meera pulls herself up with all her strength. Ammaji gets up to grab her arm. Meera sinks her teeth into Ammaji’s hand. Hard. So hard that blood oozes out from it. Ammaji screams. Lets go of Meera’s hand. Omi and Ramotar notice. Run towards her. Meera pushes Ammaji into them, blocking their way. And heads straight for Kamlesh. Omi and Ramotar recover. Go after her. But freeze as they see something. Satbir and Fauji emerge out of the room, pulling Bhumia along. And they freeze too. Meera. Blood on her mouth. She holds Kamlesh precariously over the well. His body dangles over the edge, being held only by Meera’s hands. If she lets go... Bhumia shrieks and makes a move towards Meera. Meera shouts back at her.
MEERA In ko bolo gaadi ki chaabi de. Bhumia grabs Satbir by the collar - surprising him. BHUMIA Chaabi. (shouts) Chaabi de. Satbir looks at Ammaji. She nods. He gives Bhumia the key. She slides them over the ground towards Meera. MEERA Inko bolo kamre mein jaaye. Nobody moves. Meera releases one arm of Kamlesh. He lets out a wild cry as his body dangles dangerously over the well. AMMAJI (screams) Chhore na chhod de. MEERA Andar jaao saare. Ammaji relents. Makes a move. They all follow her. Including Bhumia. MEERA Tum nahi. Bhumia stops to look at her. MEERA Darwaza band karo. The rest go in as Bhumia shuts the door. But she’s still standing by it. MEERA (tentative) Darwaze se door jaao. Bhumia moves away. Bhumia and Meera. Their eyes meet.Meera pulls Kamlesh up and puts him down.
He rushes straight into Bhumia’s arms. Meera nods at her before picking the car keys and running out. EXT. LANE OUTSIDE SARPANCH HOUSE - NIGHT The Scorpio parked right at the gates. Meera jumps into it. Fumbles with the keys. Damn, those shaky hands! She finally manages to start the car. And with bare feet, drives it away. EXT. VILLAGE, VARIOUS - NIGHT Meera drives through the village lanes... 74A
...past the abortion clinic advertisement...
...past the school where the troupe sings a lilting Ragini... 74B ... past the tenement of the Migrant.- TO EDIT Her eyes on the rear view mirror all the time. Nope, no one’s coming after her. EXT. BRIDGE ON THE CANAL - NIGHT Meera reaches the road that runs alongside the canal. Up ahead - the fork. To her left is the bridge. She swings the vehicle towards the bridge. She feels something. Something touching her bare feet. She looks down. Warm. Sticky. Liquid. Blood. Coming from the back of the car. She brakes hard. The vehicle comes to a screeching stop. For a while, Meera remains seated like she was. Too afraid to look back.
Finally, she does. There he is on the floor of the car. Ranveer. Bloodied. Tortured. Dead. Meera stares at the body for a long time before turning back straight. Moments pass. Silent. Excruciating. And then Meera hits the steering hard as she lets out a scream. We only see her screaming. What we hear is the car horn. The lone car on the bridge. The silently flowing canal waters below. And the scream of the horn. It stops only after a long while. Then the car starts again. And resumes the drive. Alright, she’s going to go away. Yup, that’s all she can do. Drive away. Away from the madness. Back to civilization. Or, maybe not. The car drives past the bridge and as soon as it reaches the other side, it takes a vicious turn. A U-turn. Fuck ‘em. She’s coming back. Fuck ‘em all. EXT. SARPANCH HOUSE, COURTYARD - NIGHT The door’s being banged from inside. O.S. shouts and threats being hurled from inside. Bhumia consoles Kamlesh as she sits in the courtyard. Defiant. Her eyes on the shaking door. And then - it breaks open. Omi and Fauji jump out, followed by the rest. They head out into the lane. Satbir and Ammaji heads straight towards Bhumia.
She doesn’t flinch. Ammaji pulls Kamlesh away from her lap. Satbir kicks her straight in the chest. She falls back. Her forehead hits the ground. Hard. A trickle of blood emerges from Bhumia’s forehead as she stares into nothingness. Ammaji picks up a stick as she shouts at Satbir AMMAJI Isne main dekh lyungi. Tu jaa dhoondh usne. Satbir runs out, shouting SATBIR Fauji, Girdhari ki motorcycle le kar aa... EXT. LANE OUTSIDE SARPANCH HOUSE - NIGHT A restless Satbir shouts instructions at Fauji who disappears into the dark alley. From the same darkness, Ramotar emerges. Riding a motorcycle. Omi hops on to it. He has an iron rod in his hands. SATBIR (to Omi) Nikal, nikal. (shouts) FAUJI! Chal. Just then, headlights appear in the lane. A vehicle. Coming towards them. They try to look past the blinding headlights. The vehicle continues to come rattling towards them. Finally they see her. Surprise. That she’s coming back. Realisation. That she’s coming right at them.
It’s a visual we have seen before. Meera in a car. Men on a motorcycle. Meera not having enough courage to mow down the bike. That was then. This time, Meera heads straight into the men. The men realize her intention. At the last moment, they jump back. Except for Ramotar. Too late to react. WHAM! Blown away by the car. Meera stops the car. Reverses it. Omi and Satbir. Look at each other. Grrr. Grrr. The engine growls at them. Meera puts it in gear and heads for them. They run. EXT. VILLAGE ALLEYS - NIGHT The narrow village lanes. Feet. Tires. Nervous eyes. Angry headlights. The car continues to be on their tail doggedly. Two lanes ahead. Omi and Satbir split. Meera goes after Omi. More chase. The lanes are getting even narrower and the car scrapes against the walls a few times as it swerves around those curves. Omi runs. The iron rod still in his hands. He takes another turn. Stops. Oops. It’s a dead end. The sound of the car engine. It’s almost there. Omi runs again. Only till the wall ahead will let him. The car turns. It now faces Omi.
A moment between the two as they look into each other’s eyes. Omi grips the rod tightly in his hands. Meera puts on her seat belt. And then goes for a head on. Into the wall. Into Omi. CRASH! SPLASH! Blood all over the windshield. Meera. Jolted. Recovers. Tries turning the engine on. It won’t. She steps down. Blood splattered all over the wall. Omi splattered all over the bonnet. Meera yanks the rod out of Omi’s hand. 78A
Walks back down the road. Barefeet.
Leaving behind a trail of footmarks. The colour - blood red. She reaches the turn. Sound of a motorcycle coming her way. Meera takes a step back. Into the darkness by the wall. Waits. Waits. Waits. The motorcycle - coming nearer and nearer. Meera tightens her grip on the rod. Just when she feels it is real close, Meera swings her rod. It finds Fauji on the head. The bike swerves. Hits Meera on the leg, before Fauji & Satbir go down crashing with it. Meera on the ground. The iron rod lies a few feet away from her.
She gets up with some effort. Drags herself to the rod. Picks it up. She looks at Fauji. He lies pinned under the bike. A trickle of blood runs down his temple on to his cheeks. Meera hobbles up to him as Fauji tries to wriggle out. Yelps in pain. Meera looks at him. He doesn’t seem all that macho any more. She swings the iron rod. Whack! Whack! Whack! Whack! Whack! Just a little away: Satbir lies on the ground, watching this with shock and horror in his eyes. He tries to get up and collapses back. Something fractured there for sure. Meera looks at him. Then slumps to the ground. Tired - so tired. She sits there on her haunches, propped against the wall. The moment stretches - the two of them in silence. Satbir starts to crawl away from there. Painfully slow. On the ground - a packet of cigarettes that has fallen out of Fauji’s pocket. Meera reaches out for it. Lights one with shaking hands. She takes a deep drag and then struggles to stand up. 78B
She follows Satbir down the lane. Limping, the rod dragging 78B behind her. The cigarette hanging from her lips. The hunter. The hunted. Roles reversed. As she reaches up to him, she swings the rod. It hits Satbir on the back of his head. A thick gush of blood bursts out from there as Satbir hits the ground face down. He tries to drag himself away. She steps over him - blocking his way.
He looks up. Meera takes the rod and shoves it in his mouth. Hard. She twists it. Harder. Then some more. A croak escapes his throat. And his neck swings to a side. Lifeless. Meera looks at it with cold detatched eyes. And then stubs the cigarette out. EXT. LANE OUTSIDE SARPANCH HOUSE - NIGHT Ammaji nervously paces up and down outside her house. A silhouette appears in the dark alley. Ammaji peers hard. AMMAJI Satbir? No response. Just a sharp sound. Metal being dragged on concrete. AMMAJI Fauji? The silhouette emerges out of the darkness. Meera. Covered in blood. Limping. Dragging the iron rod behind her. Ammaji freezes. Then rushes back inside the house. Tries to shut the doors. Meera jams the iron rod in between the doors. Ammaji tries to push. Meera pushes back. That much harder. The door flies open, sending the matriarch tumbling down with the impact. EXT. SARPANCH HOUSE, COURTYARD - NIGHT Meera steps in. Ammaji. On the ground. Cowering in fear.
Meera walks up to her. About to swing. But stops. Looks at Ammaji. AMMAJI Beti thi wo mhaari. Par jo karna hai so karna hai. At that moment - she looks like an old, helpless woman. Meera seems to be changing her mind. But then, her eyes go to Bhumia sitting in a corner. Bruised. Battered. Hopeless. Bhumia looks up. Straight into Meera’s eyes. Meera looks back at Ammaji. MEERA Jo karna hai so karna hai. Whack! Meera swings the rod. Ammaji goes down like a dead tree. Without a word. Silence. Until the iron rod drops from Meera’s hand and hits the ground. THE WELL: Splash! A bucket hits the water. Bhumia pulls it out. Puts it in front of Meera. A dazed Meera looks at it for a long time. Then empties it over herself. EXT. HIGHWAY / MOVING BUS - DAWN The sun is just about rising in the distant horizon. Meera. Washed up. Washed out. Walks down the highway. A bus appears. She waves it down to a stop. Hops in. Men. From the hinterland. Their eyes on her. She walks past the stares and takes the seat right at the back.
Stoic. She notices - Two schoolbound kids. One of them in new shiny ‘civilian’ clothes and with neatly combed hair. A packet of candies in his hands. A birthday boy! Meera’s eyes linger on his happy face. An old woman smoking a beedi turns to look at her. OLD WOMAN IN THE BUS Tu theek sa beti? Meera looks at her. Into her sympathetic eyes. Something comes upon her. A tear rolls down her eyes. The old woman touches her cheek affectionately. OLD WOMAN IN THE BUS Khaa le. Meera looks - the old woman is proffering an orange. Meera takes a piece and puts it in her mouth. The sunlight on her face. The orange. The wind in her hair. It’s good to be alive. The old woman gently pulls up her shawl to cover the both of them. Tired, Meera closes her eyes. Outside, the morning sun shines on a signboard. NH 10. Have a safe journey. FADE OUT. ROLL IN END CREDITS THE END