Tanglish Talks: “Charlie – version 2”

Posted on April 18, 2021

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I keep writing scenes. Some of them get discarded. Thought they’d make for fun blog posts, titled ‘Tanglish Talks’. Do read, share, mock, comment, ring the bell icon, whatever 🙂 !

About this installment: Remember that “magician-boy” scene I posted a while ago, from when I was reworking CHARLIE for Dhilip? Here’s another version I tried, where we begin with the Parvathy character instead. Reading it today, I find it wordier than I’d like it to be, but this is a first draft, so I am not going to angst about it. 🙂

PRELUDE: 1997

A dressing room. The screen is filled with women in colourful silk saris, seen waist up. We hear voices saying things like “Can you button me up?” and “Is this earring better or that one?”

The camera lowers to floor-level and we see a 10-year-old girl (MEENAKSHI, aka M) in a very casual, tomboyish outfit, reading a book. The chatter of women fades into the background as we hear M’s mind-voice reading the book aloud. The prince came on a white horse. He heard a girl singing a sweet song. He got off the horse, but could not find anyone nearby. After walking a while, he found a castle, he knocked on the door, and…

The chatter of women comes back like a roar and the book is plucked out of M’s hand. She looks up and see her MOTHER’s face, looming like a witch. She puts down a box of with a pavadai/sattai and jewellery with a slam.

MOTHER: எப்ப பாத்தாலும் கையில book-u. Dress எடுத்து வெச்சுருக்கேன்-னு எவ்வளவு தடவ சொல்லறது?

DEEPA comes by, all dressed up. DEEPA’s MOTHER is nearby.

MOTHER: இவள பாரு. நீயும் இருக்கியே…

DEEPA’s MOTHER picks M’s MOTHER by the hand and says to her in a low voice, “நீ கத்த ஆரம்பிச்சா அவ பிடிவாதம் இன்னும் ஜாஸ்தி ஆகும். நீ போ. நா பாத்துக்கறேன்.”

M’s MOTHER leaves. DEEPA’s MOTHER squats in front of her and talks in a way one talks to little girls, a little cutely, a little condescendingly: “ஒனக்கு அத்தை பிடிக்கும்- லே?”

M nods seriously.

DEEPA’s MOTHER: “நான் சொன்னா கேப்பே- லே?”

M nods. Deepa stifles a smile, as though she knows what’s going to happen. DEEPA’s MOTHER picks up the jewellery one by one.

DEEPA’s MOTHER: “இந்த ஜிமிக்கி எவ்வளவு light-ஆ இருக்கு பாரு. And this chain. Oh, இந்த ஒட்டியானம். So pretty. இந்த வயசுல தான் இவ்வளவு cute-ஆ dress பண்ணிக்க முடியும். பெரிசாயிட்டா என்ன மாதிரி தடி தடி-யா jewels போட்டுக்கணும்.”

M looks, unimpressed, at the jewels in her aunt’s hand.

DEEPA’s MOTHER: So இதெல்லாம் போட்டுக்கறியா?

M is silent for a second, and then she nods (again, seriously, clearly not relishing the prospect).

M’s MOTHER calls out to DEEPA’s mother. DEEPA’s MOTHER turns to DEEPA and says, “Five minutes-ல நீங்க ரெண்டு பேரும் அங்க இருக்கணும். Okay?” She leaves.

M and DEEPA look at each other.

CUT TO

The wedding hall. Everyone is well-dressed, laughing – the typical wedding cheer. A photographer is going around – we see flashes of his camera.

Suddenly one face turns to the [movie] camera and expresses surprise. Another face does the same. DEEPA’s MOTHER does the same. Finally, M’s MOTHER does the same.

M and DEEPA are walking in. M is wearing the jimikki, the chain, the oddiyanam – but over the tomboy dress she was wearing earlier. She has followed her aunt’s instructions to the letter. M’s MOTHER’s face is turning red with rage.

The photographer clicks a picture of the girls. The flash is a fade-out.

OPENING CREDITS SEQUENCE (MAYBE WITH A SONG)

M is in a bus or train, smiling at this memory.

In her phone is a whatsapp message from Deepa, with that photo of M at the wedding and the text: “Remember? 😀 :-D”

She replies to DEEPA: “Even if I want to forget, will DRAGON let me?”

DEEPA calls. M picks up.

DEEPA: Just wait till DRAGON wakes up tomorrow and finds you are gone.

M hesitates a bit, as though trying to find the right words.

DEEPA: I just had to. I couldn’t stay there anymore.

M pauses.

M: Do you believe in reincarnation? அந்த மாதிரி தான். It’s like my soul needs to escape from that house to a new place. I think the ashram will help.

DEEPA: Ok, Ok. ஒன்னோட யாரால argue பண்ண முடியும்? You’re okay with cash?

M: Yes, my dear அத்தை பொண்ணு. You’re such a darling. Why couldn’t YOU have been my mother?

DEEPA: Because I did a lot of good deeds in my past birth? 😀 😀 😀

M smiles.

M: Very funny. Okay, goodnight. I’ll call you when I reach.

DEEPA: Bye. Muah.

M stares at phone, and her smile disappears. She becomes serious. She hesitantly dials MOTHER (saved under the name DRAGON), but when MOTHER’s face comes up as the phone tries to connect, she quickly switches off.

She eases into her seat. She sees sights, people. She is at peace.

At the end of this sequence, she reaches Charlie’s house in Pondy.

SCENE ONE: CHARLIE’s HOUSE: LATE EVENING

She reaches the location in an auto. The AUTO DRIVER is an eccentric man.

As she gets down from the auto, she looks at the images on her phone and checks if they match the building in front. They do.

She pulls a heavy backpack from the auto. It gets stuck. The AUTO DRIVER has to help her dislodge it.

M: Thanks.

AUTO DRIVER gets back to his seat. M rummages through her purse and extracts a 100-rupee note.

M: Change இருக்கா?

AUTO DRIVER: இருக்கு mademoiselle.

M gives him the 100-rupee note. He pockets it and and starts the vehicle.

M: Change இருக்கு-னு சொன்னீங்க?

AUTO DRIVER: (cackles) இருக்குmademoiselle. நெறய இருக்கு. நீங்க “change குடு”-னு சொல்லியிருந்தா கொடுத்திருப்பேன். “இருக்கா”-னு தானே கேட்டீங்க. Merci beaucoup! Au revoir! (cackles again)

He leaves. M starts to run after him but she realises her backpack is there.

M: (shouts after him) (something funny and abusive)

M dials the number of OWNER. He picks up.

M (in an irritated voice): You said someone would be waiting with the keys. There’s no one here.

OWNER: அங்க Althaf Raja இல்ல?

M looks around. There’s no one there, just a goat, tied to a post.

M: (yells) இங்கே ஆளு யாரும் இல்லே. ஆடு தான் இருக்கு.

OWNER: (laughs) அதான் மா Althaf Raja. அவன யாரும் Bakrid-க்கு பிரியானி போட கூடாதுன்னு தான் அந்த பேரு வச்சோம்.

M: (exasperated) இங்க எல்லாருமே பைத்தியமா?

OWNER: (chuckling) ஒரு தொண்ணூறு சதவீதம் அப்பிடித்தான்-னு வச்சுக்கோயேன். சாவி Althaf-ஓட chain-ல இருக்கு. ரொம்ப late ஆயிடுச்சா! அதான் வேற யாரையும் அனுப்ப முடியல.

M finds the key after a bit of physical comedy with Althaf Raja.

M: சரி. எந்த floor?

OWNER: Right on top. எனக்கு ஒரு help பண்ணு மா. இன்னிக்கு ராத்திரி Althaf உன் கூடவே இருக்கட்டும். நாளைக்கு வீடு clean பண்ண வர்ற போ கூட்டிட்டு போறேன்.

Before she can say anything, he hangs up.

She climbs the stairs, puffing and panting – heavy backpack in one hand, the leash on the uncooperative goat in the other. A couple passes her by and look strangely at her. She says hello. They don’t reply.

It’s dimly lit.

M: Is this a power cut?

The couple is silent.

M: When will the power be back?

Before she can complete the sentence, they have gone out of sight. She peers over the railing and it’s dark.

She climbs another flight of stairs. She’s out of breath. She leans against the wall and removes her arms from the backpack straps. It falls with a thud that echoes through to the bottom of the stairs.

She sits on a stair, catching her breath. Suddenly the lights come on. The light in front of the apartment on top of the flight of stairs is not the usual yellow light. It’s maybe red or blue – a soft light. And it shows up a beautiful mural outside the door. M is awestruck. She runs her hands over it and smiles at the beauty.

The mural runs over the door. As she passes her hands over it, the door swings open. It’s been unlocked all along.

She goes inside with backpack and Althaf and switches on light. She gasps and lets the backpack drop. The house is a dustbin, with things tossed around – things used to create art. Like pottery shards. Paints and brushes. Chart paper cut into incomplete shapes. But on the walls, the images are breathtakingly beautiful. She stares at each wall. One image is of a mermaid speaking to a man on a boat. One image is of a pregnant woman. And so on.

She also finds a slightly faded picture of Charlie making a mad face, surrounded by old men making equally mad faces.

Just then, she hears some lovely sax music. Holding the picture, she walks to the balcony. An old man is playing the sax. Her bad mood slowly vanishes. For the first time after reaching Pondy, she smiles.

SCENE 2: CHARLIE’s HOUSE: MORNING

 

Posted in: Tanglish Talks