Whodunit

FLASH FICTION #18:

This is a short story that accompanies a crisp 3-minute dramedy, if you prefer to watch it first.

A pair of shackles, marrying two wrists – one umber, the other a shade darker – restricts the free accompaniment of their swinging arms, as the two saunter in the shade to the sound of stressed gravel.

Both the Constable and the rogue are calm. On top of it, the Constable is amused. Birds chirp on their way, as if in expression of curiosity at this duo. Looking at their faces, it seems they do have a tale between them.

*

That morning, as the residents of the colony go about their daily tasks, the wheel of routine stumbles on a dark, bald head. It is the man who is soon going to be shackled to the uniformed figure. What is his buzzing eyes looking for in that colony? Standing in a corner, why is he frantic about the movements around? One of the residents spots him and doesn’t feel alright.

A stone’s throw from this corner (if thrown by a powerful arm) is a dunce squatting on the sideline of the injured tar admiring a fruit in brown. He looks at his friend nearby and says it was kiwi bought by his father on his way home from Delhi. Delhi is obviously so far away and foreign to this boy, probably his father was a first in their familial travel history. The other, receiving the fruit and upon a slight glance, declares it is no exotic kiwi, but only a local sapota, mostly bought at the decaying store located at the entrance to their colony. So furious, so injured, the dunce stands and collects his prized fruit. A flaunting Constable appears by the arising squabble.

He climbs a staircase, beating his lathi on his thigh, and reaches a door, indistinguishable from others in the colony; but the policeman is in front of this particular door on a purpose. He slaps it and shouts a name. A boy, son of the shouted name, nervously opens and testifies the absence of his father. His father is not a person who can pass through the legal books, so he himself feels justified at the tremor in his voice.

The policeman, there on purpose, pulls him outside, barges in and shuts the door, all done in a lubricated jiffy. He is careful to close the windows and doors and only then turn around the house, looking for something. After a few neat minutes, he opens the door and tells the son he has got the ‘packet’. Packet? You and the son ask. Yes, euphemistically powder. But he is not very discretionary, he says he identified the packet of cocaine stashed behind the grinder. And then, he asks the boy to convey this to his roaming father, so that he himself will come looking for him. And that is how it came to be.

Is this the tale?

*

Birds chirp. Gravel squeak. How many days? So today had been the day to get caught, the Constable pokes. I didn’t expect at all, just thought of passing by, but the lucky wind has turned around today, comments the rogue. Not some lucky wind, my job is inherently hard, you must admit, defends the Constable. Whoever asked you to carry on in this job, exclaims the other. Who was there to advise me against it, so I just kept on in it, the Constable says. All crooks say the same thing, says the other.

This is the tale.

*

Once the Constable is outside the colony, he is not able to restrain himself from taking another look into the packet. He unwraps it and – jewels! Gold bangles, chains and a glimmering necklace. He satiatedly smiles to himself and proceeds. The Constable in mufti, dressed like a rogue and on the watch since morning, rats out of his snoopy hiding place and jumps on the thief who’s modus operandi – if such a sophisticated term could be employed to describe the pettiness of his thefts – is to dress up like a policeman and conduct searches around known criminals’ rests.

Watch this story as a 3-minute film here.

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12 Angry Men

“Life is in their hands and death is in their minds”. Thus states a poster of the film I was recommended to watch by my movie-maniac friend. I heard it’s a black and white movie and had been shot entirely inside one room. Well, quite out of the way right, so I decided to give it a try and thus went on for the one hour thirty six minute ride. At the end of it I was left with questions like how come I missed this movie all these years and why hadn’t I heard of Henry Fonda before.

12 angry men starts with a worm’s eye view shot of the United States courthouse, giving us a false sense that it is going to deal with law related subjects. We are then taken to a courtroom where the fate of a boy who had allegedly killed his father is been given to the hands of a jury, consisting of only men. Among these men is one juror, Henry Fonda. The jury retires to their room and we are shown that the weather is very hot and that the only fan in the room is out of order. These may preliminarily seem to be insignificant observations, but as the movie progresses we understand that they play an important role in mentally aggravating the already chaotic situation and provoking heated conversations. While all men are convinced that the boy is guilty of murder charge it is Fonda who opposes them single-handedly saying he doesn’t know if the boy is guilty or otherwise but that it is their responsibility to give him a fair discussion and enough thought before coming to an unanimous  verdict. Thus begins a series of heated discussions sprinkled with slapstick comedy here and there without meaning to destroy the crux of the plot. Also beautifully shown is the mental instability of the jurors as new interpretations are drawn from already presented facts. They are equally spaced for them to sink in the minds of the audience and the changing mindset of the jurors is well synchronized with that of the audience. After all, what is a film if you can’t relate yourself to it?

Coming to the technical aspects of the film, my first appreciation goes to the cinematographer. I am sure he would have had a tough time setting up the frame and composition for each and every shot in a small room filled with 12 men and a couple of light sources. Even though the screenplay cannot be altered much from its linear course, the writers have amazingly built it to suit the mood of both the jurors and the surrounding. The direction unit is effective as can be seen from the coordination of the twelve men, though I wonder how many takes the director would have gone for before approving a shot. The music drawn suits the mood well, we are tensed and surprised when and where we are supposed to be (a special mention goes to a piece made of violin which comes as an emotional supplement when the boy in question is shown).

When the English department of my college decided to screen the film I was more than happy to take the ride a second time. In all, the film is a must-watch and certainly deserves critical appreciation.