SHIPMENT FROM INDIAThe adventures of a smuggler
A feature-length THRILLER and
A jail bird, a woman from the W.H.O. and an Indian holy man team up to smuggle an herbal cure for hemorrhoids out of India.
Mitch, an American, is doing time in a Calcutta prison for smuggling—let’s not ask what—when a Bagwan, also in for smuggling, is thrown into his crowded cell with him.
The Bagwan's villagers have shown him a cure for hemorrhoids—works instantly!—handed down secretly for millennia. Not even the local Muslims know.
Despite his contract with an Ohio pharmaceutical company, the Bagwan can't get it out past the red tape. It makes up as a suspicious-looking white powder and he can’t afford to baksheesh all those officials. But he can spring Mitch, if Mitch can get it out of the country.
The two go into business. Mitch takes a steel suitcase of the stuff from the Bagwan’s ashram in the southern hills to Bombay (they say Bombay in India, not “Mumbai”), where an associate, a fisherman, will sail it past the customs cruisers to a waiting freighter.
But here's another steel suitcase—they’re normal here—being tied to the roof of a bus in the Khyber Pass by an Afghan horseman.
So heavy is it, so cumbersome, that he puts a curse on it.
And, yes, as we follow that suitcase south into India on buses and trains, from runner to runner, the curse works its evil on each of them until, on the train into Bombay, it gets mixed up with Mitch’s.
Jill and Harold, an idealistic young couple from the World Health Organization, are traveling India third-class to do a report on Indian women.
A starving kid grabs her wallet, Mitch reluctantly intercepts it and lets the kid go, and their prickly relationship begins.
Also on the train is tough sexy small-time smuggler (it's a widely-practiced trade in India) Franny Mullins, who guesses that Mitch too is a runner, and flirts with him shamelessly—
—although she has something going with shy and proper Shubash, an untouchable. "We'll see about that," she says, and brings him into the first-class carriage over the objections of the conductors, where—well.
He has sold his patrimonial acre and is on his way to Bombay to make his fortune, though he knows he'll have to sleep on the sidewalk.
When they arrive the other four go to a slum hotel. Mitch, high-liver, goes to the Rialto. He had thought the series of porters carrying his case (one never caries one’s own in India; too many people need the work) had been angling for extra backsheesh by exaggerating its weight.
Now he realizes he’s got a case full of opium, very dangerous, and goes to the fishing village on the waterfront to ask his colleague Bhao for help. All he wants to do is give it back before the heavies come looking for him. “Will ask,” Bhao says. But when Mitch returns to his hotel they’re waiting for him, a man in a plaid turban and Bhigu—large, mean. Doesn’t speak. Kills.
Mitch runs. They chase him through the market. Cops in shorts and flip-flops ring their cudgels on the curbstones and Mitch thinks he’s safe—but no, they’re after him. He runs to the Taj Mahal Hotel, island of opulence in the city, into the restaurant, spots Jill, Harold and Franny—
—and sits with them as the cops come in behind him. He gives a quick account of life in an Indian jail, and, oh, Harold wants to give him up! But they owe him for the wallet, and Harold joins the others in giving him an alibi. The cops leave. Mitch leaves. “He’s no good,” says Jill, “you can see that.” “Yeah,” says Franny gazing after him wistfully.
Mitch finds Plaid Turban’s corpse in his room. He goes to ask Franny to help him move the body, and finds only Jill. They soak it in whisky and walk the “drunk” to a Hindu burning place. No death certificate.
So they take it to a Parsee Tower of Silence, where corpses are eaten by vultures. In the morning Bhao’s dead. Mitch backsheeshes his way to Bhigu’s boss, Sikander Khan. “If my entire shipment is not here by tomorrow noon your feet will be crushed. You will have a beggar’s income in the marketplace—steady, but not large.”
A sidewalk beggar tells Mitch a woman looking like Franny visited his hotel in his absence, and came out with a heavy bag.
A double-decker bus chase, Mitch and Bhigu changing roofs on the fly.
A hooker. A car. The road to Goa. Behind him the impersonal Bhigu drives over people sleeping in his way.
Goa. Franny’s contact, a priest who is also a smuggler. Mitch spots a white cassock and hat he can use as a disguise.
As I do not know your intentions, or what evil may come of your deception, I must ask a hundred and fifty.
A hundred. Last price.
One ten. Best price. No better price.
But on the train to Calcutta Mitch is arrested by Under-Assistant Sub-Inspector Pramod Gupta, a likeable fool, whom he persuades to search a waiting boat for the stolen shipment. They find nothing.
He escapes Gupta and, out of leads, out of money, hops a southbound train—
—where he finds Franny, Jill and Harold. Franny’s “big bag” is full of contraband pornographic DVDs, which is what she smuggles. He gives up.
A joint goes around—strong stuff. Jill can’t get into the bathroom, someone’s sleeping in there, so Mitch goes and helps—
—and while he’s leaning in the open doorway the train rounds a bend and there, a few doorways down, is Gupta.
The curve sharpens, and in the next doorway is Bhigu, who jumps to Mitch’s car and attacks.
Mitch unhitches cars and they spread out, held only by the brake hoses.
Jill reaches for him across the widening gap, Bhigu grabs her other hand and, as they cross a trestle and are suddenly in the sky, Jill, stoned, is a clothesline between the two.
Which way should she go?
Never make an important decision when you have to pee.
And we're just getting started. She thinks he’s smuggling something bad, but they’re already on a non-stop-bus-car-train-boat chase that gives her a closer look at the country, fast as it goes by, than she’d bargained for.
The team so far:
Production manager Venugopal Nair has worked with the great Indian directors, including Satyajit Ray, and on every Western production of note in India—Far Pavilion, Octopussy, Jungle Book, A Passage to India, Gandhi, Jewel in the Crown….If it’s in India, Venu is on it.
Los Angeles-based Australian producer Steve Stubbs has twin companies, Pacific Island Films in Oz, and Ten Win Films in the U.S., a post house in Australia, and access to soft money.
Pretentious pictures presentsSHIPMENT FROM INDIA
The adventures of a smuggler
A feature-length THRILLER and