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THE JIHADIST’S OPERA
S kapoor 2018
A born-again Christian is set to move to rural Ireland but receives cryptic messages from a blackmailer who threatens to reveal his clandestine past and destroy the family life he’s worked so hard to build.
The past is never buried…
The Jihadist’s Opera is a character-driven drama which examines the post-jihadist life of Daniel Thomas, a born-again Christian who runs a barber shop in the heart of East London. Daniel is an Englishman. White. This is a conscious decision which questions race-relations in the UK and has potential to open dialogue on Islamaphobia and racism. Depicting our protagonist as a white-man with a Salafist past, flips expectations which typecasts Muslim and Asians and in the UK, the two have almost become inseparable. It further highlights the whitewashing trope and brings it full-circle.
Unlike many acclaimed shows that deal with Islamic related terror (Homeland, Fauda, The Looming Tower), The Jihadist’s Opera deals with the personal consequences of jihadism, not the act itself.
The show explores universal themes of faith, guilt and forgiveness and examines these lofty concepts, testing their intrinsic value. Not only are the characters’ religious beliefs tested but examines the value of holding such convictions – do they walk the walk or just talk the talk? Although the show unfolds with complex drama, mystery and edge-of-seat thrills, its deeper value lies in its subtext and in many ways, is a story of Biblical proportions comparable to characters like Job as their faith is tested in the face of adversity.
Style and setting
The Jihadist’s Opera presents a narrative arc in Season One which sees Daniel attempt to discover the blackmailer’s identity whilst keeping this past hidden from his wife. The show sprouts simultaneous stories but there are no stand-alone journeys; each element of the plot ties in and is a consequence of Daniel’s predicament. Characters have a cause-and-effect reaction to the crisis which creates ongoing tension. As the menace lurks in the background, the story-engine produces more immediate stories and new characters are introduced. Every major character will have a crisis which allows them to reflect and change. Unlike procedural shows, we do not have a precinct; the closest anchor to a traditional institution is the refugee support group which helps rebuild the broken lives of its members.
The show should have a gritty feel depicting a subculture set amongst the mosques, barber shops, community centres and battered terraced streets of Zones Three and Four, where Jihadism lay dormant for years and flourished against a backdrop of alienated men and women. Sometimes heart-wrenching and sometimes thrilling, our opera is a discourse examining an existential crisis of a populous, marginalized by the state.
Daniel Thomas – early 40’s
Daniel Thomas, an everyman man who has it all – a loving wife, a five-year-old son and a baby on the way. The family are set to leave London for Ireland and buy a small cottage. Daniel runs his own barber shop and helps out his wife, Coreen, volunteering at a refugee support group. Church, family and community – these are the pillars of Daniel’s life.
If life was a portrait, Daniel’s would be picture-perfect. But like most things that appear too good to be true, so is this treatise. Peer closer at this collage and you’ll see small cracks in the canvas and unfinished touches.
Although a devout Christian, Daniel has a hidden past; a juvenile delinquent, petty criminal and most worrying, a Salafist Jihadist. Raised on a heart-sink estate in South London, his life spiralled out of control and he eventually landed himself a three-year sentence in Brixton Prison where he converted to Islam but his deep-rooted unresolved anger made him a target for extremist elements.
Whichever role Daniel plays, (The Good Samaritan, The Criminal, The Jihadist), beneath the skin, lay the same wounds. Deep down, the guilt and anger bubble away inside of Daniel as he searches for a guiding framework, a magic pill, a fix-for-all.
He’s an urban chameleon, the titular paradox – a loving Christian who will take a life in order to protect his loved ones. A volunteer who stands up to a criminal syndicate. As moral boundaries slowly crumble, he justifies his actions but they also bring his marriage to Coreen closer.
There’s much to like; the way he mentors Zack, a runaway from Liverpool; the way he runs his business, honest, dedicated; the way he goes to great lengths to ensure the refugees in his program are given support and the way he cherishes and protects his family.
So when he murders in cold blood does this make him a villain? No, it further intrigues us. The puzzling question which runs parallel to the narrative is – does Daniel actually believe he is being guided by a higher power and if so, which power is this? Like the therapeutic analogy of an onion being peeled, the show strips away layer upon layer to find the heart of our protagonist, yet our driving question is also the story-engine which steams through several seasons before we can answer.
Azim – 50’s
Everyone’s favourite uncle. A well-rounded jovial man who plays the buffoon with an infectious laugh and a smile that any politician would kill for. Azim’s a refugee who has settled in London, a Christian Syrian fleeing the persecution from Salafists. He lives with his son, Ahmet, 9 and is an active member of the support group. Despite the persecution and trauma he’s experienced, he retains an optimistic outlook and sees life as a gift. Devout, Azim is popular and is well-liked by all he meets. That’s the image he portrays anyway.
The truth is known only to him and Ahmet. He’s a Shia Muslim, imprisoned by Sunni Jihadists and he’s here to take his revenge on those that murdered his son – Daniel, Billy, Nafeez, Nawab and Yousef. Azim is the anonymous architect who drives the narrative in season one. His desire for revenge sees him snake his way into the Thomas’ family circle and gain their trust.
Drawing moral parallels with Daniel’s predicament, Azim faces many of the same dilemmas – if faith teaches us to forgive then are our vengeful actions ever justified? Azim will transform over the duration from a devout Christian to a ruthless and calculating villain who threatens Daniel and his family. Yet our sympathies are torn – after all, wouldn’t most people desire revenge if their child was murdered?
Coreen – late 30’s
The emotional nerve-centre of the family. Resembling a fragile porcelain doll, an Irish-Catholic woman who accepted Daniel into her life when he was lost. She has a forgiving nature but when she discovers Daniel’s past, Coreen is furious at the betrayal of trust.
However, she believes her faith is being tested and leaning heavily on her religion, she manages to forgive Daniel. A selfless woman who acts to keep the family united, her prime motivation is to preserve her children’s future. She’s seen too many broken families, too many children raised in a secular environment and too many consequences of single-parenting. After discovering Daniel’s secret, she wrestles with the idea of an abortion but later dismisses this. We will see her transformation to a complicit matriarch who doesn’t so much guide Daniel but rather, issues decrees to protect his family
Father Murphy – mid 60’s
A fusion of hell-fire preaching and gentle love-thy-neighbour Christian. Confession, duty to God and community. He runs his parish like a prison officer. Regular attendance is mandatory, cursing is frowned upon. He represents a reactionary figure in an institution, battling a globalized and changing world. He’s also Islamaphobic and anti-Semitic. His own past comes in for self-examination. Here is a man, well into his 60’s who hides a secret – he’s addicted to prescription issued morphine. An addict who can only face himself when he’s sedated.
When Father Murphy discovers Daniel’s past, his first instinct is to inform the authorities but after a spell in hospital, where he deotxes, he has an epiphany. Old resentments that have kept him trapped and he’s been paying lip-service to Christ. As Father Murphy delves deeper into his past and faces the brutal monks who raised him, he discovers in order to truly forgive himself and others, he must first forgive those who have wronged him.
Zack – 19
Daniel’s protégé. A runaway waif from Liverpool’s gangland, Zack is Daniel’s apprentice and salvation. A mirror-reflection of what Daniel was, twenty years ago. A tattooed sleeve and a temper that boils, Zack is mixed-race, confused and needs a role-model. He’s lucky in a sense to have a guiding figure like Daniel but the “do as I say not as I did” adage doesn’t bode will with him – he steers off-course and falls apart. In season two, Zack becomes the symbolic prize Daniel will fight for. Despite being the youngest of the significant characters, Zack is the closest we have to a moral compass.
Luke – Daniel’s five year old son – deeply troubled and withdrawn. Plays with matches – in the pilot episode, he burns down a toy church, foreshadowing events.
Ahmet – Azim’s nine year old son – later revealed to be a rescued orphan.
Billy – a former (Jihadist) colleague of Daniel’s. Anarchic thrill-seeker whose family come looking for him after he disappears.
Nafeez – a former (Jihadist) colleague of Daniel’s. A family man and accountant.
Yousef – A former (Jihadist) colleague. Murdered in the pilot episode.
Nawab – a former colleague and committed Jihadist who unlike the others has returned to London determined to carry out further attacks.
The Refugees – Several men and women who attend the support group. Their meetings provide an anchor to the narrative, reflecting the show’s thematic ideas. One of them, Busharat later discover Daniel’s past.
AL-Raheem – a Syrian mercenary
Callum and Tommy – Billy’s brothers – a pair of tough bulls who come searching for their younger brother.
In the West-End, YOUSEF, a kaftan wearing Asian man, peddles a rickshaw of American tourists, weaving in and out of traffic, pausing at sights and landmarks, his London accent, adding an authentic touch to the tour. At the end of his working day, he pockets a healthy tip and decides to finish up, wearily making his way to Tower Hamlets, with its colourful display of ethnic shops and chatter of foreign languages. Unbeknown to Yousef, a car has picked up his tail, keeping a discreet distance from him.
Later, as Yousef parks his rickshaw in an alley behind a Bengali restaurant, a MAN discreetly approaches him, grabs him and drags a cut throat razor across his neck, leaving him to bleed out in an alley, choking to death.
In Whitechapel, we meet DANIEL THOMAS, a local barber. As Daniel finishes shaving acustomer, he inspects his equipment, sharpening a cut-throat razor against a leather strop. He takes pride in his work – his tools are polished and keen. His wife, COREEN, heavily pregnant and his son LUKE arrive. Daniel’s a family man, a devoted father and husband and committed member of the local parish.
Later, they head to church where they listen to the iconic FATHER MURPHY, an Irish priest renowned for his strict adherence to the faith. His sermon recounts the story of Abraham and Isaac, where God asked for a sacrifice from the prophet.
After socialising with other members of the parish, Daniel and Coreen head to the church hall where they set up for the evening meeting – a support group for Christian refugees from The Middle East and Africa. The group is the brainchild of Coreen and welcomes Christians looking to escape their war-torn lives. It’s also an extension of Daniel’s commitment to voluntary work – we learn he volunteered for a Christian charity in Syria during the civil war.
As Daniel facilitates, members share their pain discussing the main theme – should we forgive those who trespass against us? That night, two new members joins the group – BUSHARAT, a frightening looking man with a skull-face of twisted cheek bones, traumatised and angry about his past, who glares at Daniel and takes an instant dislike to him and Coreen and AZIM, a Syrian Christian fleeing the troubles in the Middle East.
As Daniel leaves he finds a former colleague from his Christian Aid days, Nafeez, waiting for him outside. Daniel’s face blanches – he’s obviously disturbed by his former colleague’s appearance. Nafeez says it slowly – “Someone knows what happened out there…”
It’s a cryptic phrase but its impact is colossal. Daniel ushers Nafeez away and tells him not to return.
That night Daniel is edgy, unsettled, After tucking Luke into bed , he sits downstairs, listening to hymns when he has a flashback –
He’s in Syria, working for Christian Aid. There is a convoy approaching the camp – gunfire – Daniel takes cover behind a vehicle – watches as a Jihadist approaches a helpless refugee – presses the trigger when –
Bang – he’s awoken by the front door where a courier hands Daniel a parcel. He simultaneously receives an anonymous text – it reads –
Open the box
Daniel opens the parcel, picks out a photograph. He stares at it, hand trembling. Whatever the picture is, it has stricken Daniel’s mood.
At the shop the next day, Daniel sweeps up as last night’s events weigh heavy on his mind. He’s jolted as his assistant, ZACK, rushes in followed by MEHMET, the neighbouring restaurant owner. They’ve been having disagreements recently about rubbish disposal and now Zack, a hothead, has provoked Mehmet.
Daniel tries to keep the peace but then realises he’s gripping a cut throat razor, ready to strike Mehmet, a Sweeny-Todd esque glare in his eyes. Mehmet is terrified and releases Zack who is stunned, never having seen this side of Daniel. Just then, Azim comes in for a shave and strikes up a conversation with Daniel who recognises Azim from the meeting.
Later, while finishing up, Daniel receives another cryptic text,
God sees all – he wants you to confess to your wife about your past
Daniel is stunned. Who’s sending these texts and what do they know? He arranges to meet Nafeez, convinced the texts and Nafeez’s reappearance are somehow related but when he arrives at Nafeez’s place, he discovers he has been brutally murdered. Daniel panics and quickly leaves.
Daniel arrives home, flustered and tense, Coreen realises something is wrong. She’s become accustomed to his bouts of anxiety and realises this is a symptom of his PTSD from the horrors he witnessed whilst volunteering in Syria. She tries to brighten his spirits, telling him the local estate agent has agreed a sale for their two-up two-down house. That just leaves the shop to sell. Daniel relaxes as Coreen tells him how wonderful their life will be when they finally move to Ireland. They’re close to their dream. She convinces Daniel to accompany her and Luke to church.
After the sermon, Daniel tells Coreen that he needs time with Father Murphy. Daniel makes his way through the dimly lit church – he pauses outside the confessional and enters. He hears Father Murphy approach and the two start the ecclesiastical process. Daniel says he’s sinned and needs absolution. He tells him he’s been hiding his past from his wife and now feels the need to come clean.
He picks up the photo he received earlier, we see it for the first time. There are five men, Daniel, Nafeez, the rickshaw driver, Yousef. There are two other men with them. But they’re not voluntary workers, as Daniel claimed, they’re dressed as Jihadists, rifles and bullet belts draped around them. Faces rugged, matted beards. Daniel, his heart racing, sweat dripping, stammers to the priest –
“Do you know what it feels like to be a chameleon, playing so many roles I forget which person I’m supposed to be playing …I was never a voluntary worker for Christian Aid, that was just a story I spun, I was a Salafist. I converted to Islam when I was in prison but became involved in more radical elements and ended up fighting in Syria.”
Silence… the confession sinks in. Father Murphy then grabs the cage and rattles it, furious, cursing Daniel, calling him a sinner and a heathen. Daniel is shocked, he never expected such an extreme reaction.
Outside, there is noise – the booth is bolted and locked… then a swishing sound. Daniel and Father Murphy listen – eyes narrowing with fear, the air clipped with paranoia as someone souses the booth in kerosene. They hear a match fizzle and then a roar of a flame as fire quickly erupts and spreads across the booth.
Inside, Daniel and Father Murphy are trapped – they shout for help as the booth is engulfed in flames…
Daniel manages to pound his way out of the booth. He grabs a fire extinguisher, shoots a layer of foam, douses the flames but inside, a blazing beam collapses, pole-axing Father Murphy to the ground and knocks him out.
Later in hospital, Father Murphy falls into a deep coma. Miraculously, Daniel manages to escape without serious injury. The police question Daniel and begin their investigation but have no leads. Daniel suspects the stranger who’s been texting him but he can’t tell the police. He waits by Father Murphy’s bedside whispering to him –
‘If you can hear me Father, I’m sorry for what happened. I put you in this position…’
On one hand he desperately wants the Father to make a recovery but as long as he’s in a coma, Daniel’s secret is safe. As he leaves, he receives another cryptic text – Ramadan is for 30 days
starting from today. You have until then to confess to your wife about your past in Syria.
A few days later, the barber shop is ransacked – windows smashed, shutters bent. Zack suspects Mehmet but lacks any proof. Daniel arranges for insurance to refurbish the premises which leaves Zack, temporarily, unemployed and game for mischief. Daniel tells Coreen he needs to attend to the repairs urgently, considering a potential buyer is viewing the shop in a few weeks time. Coreen protests saying Daniel needs to rest but he uses it as an excuse to buy himself some time.
In a secret lock-up garage, there are remnants of his former life – football programs, books, weapons, records etc. He retrieves a diary from an old case and contacts a man in the photograph named Billy.
At the support group, as news breaks of the arson attack, the group holds a candle-lit vigil. Azim is a pillar for Coreen – he lost his wife so providing comfort to others is part of his coping strategy. Everyone is deeply concerned except for Busharat who has the audacity to suggest that maybe Daniel deserved it. Azim and Coreen are outraged. Later, they sit by Father Murphy’s bedside, praying for him to make a recovery.
Daniel arrives at an abandoned warehouse to meet Billy but as he gets out of his car, he’s ambushed by his former colleague. Later, Billy ties him up and accuses Daniel of blackmail. Billy has received similar messages. After convincing Billy he’s as much a victim, Billy releases him and they decide to track down their former cell. It has to be one of the men in the photograph who is blackmailing them. They look at the photograph, Nafeez is dead so it leaves either Yousef or Nawab.
Back at home, after putting Luke to bed, Coreen is feeling lonely and vulnerable. Daniel is away trying to sort out the shop and Azim has left to collect his son. She busies herself in the kitchen when she hears a noise at the back door. She approaches when a masked man breaks in and pushes her roughly to the ground. She lands on her stomach – groaning in agony . The last thought that crosses her mind before she blacks out – Is the baby still alive inside her?
Azim returns to collect his phone from Coreen’s place and finds her on the ground. He chases off the intruder. Meanwhile, Daniel and Billy locate Nawab and learn he’s still active Jihadist and might be planning a lone-wolf type attack. Daniel tips off the Police but Nawab manages to escape. Later, they learn that Yousef has also been killed by the blackmailer. Zack goes missing and resurfaces days later with some hardened criminals.
Daniel is distressed but has to prioritise. He rushes back after learning of the attack on Coreen who gives Daniel an ultimatum. Father Murphy comes out of his coma. Daniel goes to his bedside but on arrival, finds the Police already there. He’s not sure if the priest divulged any details.
After speaking to Nafeez’s family, Daniel and Billy learn that Nafeez was being blackmailed and track down the go-between Nafeez and the blackmailer. Father Murphy admits himself to a recovery program and through self-reflection realises he’s been carrying lifelong resentments that the morphine suppressed. How can he preach to others about confession and forgiveness when he’s living a lie? He tells Daniel he’s returning to Ireland for a while, to face some old ghosts but hasn’t decided on what action to take after Daniel’s confession. Daniel and Billy discover they’ve been following a red herring – It’s not one of the men in the photograph but the man who took the picture – their old commander Al-Raheem, an infamous mercenary who’s here in the UK.
Coreen and Azim watch over the group where Busharat is asked to leave. Unable to control his anger. Father Murphy faces his old Bishop and after a heartfelt confrontation, decides to forgive him. Daniel and Billy locate Al-Raheem’s hideout. They find photographs of their families pinned to the wall. Al Raheem shows up and in a brutal struggle, is killed by Daniel and Billy. After they dispose of the body, they go their separate ways, back to their normal lives. The nightmare is finally over.
The end of Ramadan. The streets are filled with Muslims celebrating, wishing peace and goodwill to all. Coreen decides to have a heartfelt chat with Daniel who promises to give her more attention now that the shop has been finished and sold. They’re ready for a new start in Ireland but then Coreen receives a USB stick from the anonymous stranger – it contains footage of Daniel in Syria, participating in a massacre. Coreen is stunned beyond belief. She asks Daniel to leave and later considers an abortion. Daniel is shocked, thinking the nightmare was over after they killed Al-Raheem. He moves out and contacts Billy but learns from Billy’s brothers that he is missing.
Finally, the identity of the blackmailer is revealed. It’s not Al-Raheem or Busharat, as Daniel suspected, it is Azim. He confesses to Daniel that he was the sole survivor in the massacre, where Daniel executed his son. Azim escaped and ever since, has planned his revenge on Daniel. He would have forgiven Daniel if he had confessed to Coreen but instead, Daniel chose to try and outwit him. What is the value of being a Christian if he wasn’t living by what he preached?
Daniel pleads with him but Azim has a final test up his sleeve; he kidnaps Luke and sends Daniel a suicide vest and gives Daniel a choice – detonate the vest and save Luke or else…
He compares his predicament to God ordering Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Daniel decides to sacrifice himself. He follows instructions, arrives at the shopping centre and presses the detonator. The explosive vest is a dud. Azim releases Luke and tells Daniel he forgives him. It has taken every ounce of strength but is a more powerful empowering than taking revenge. Coreen takes Luke leaving Daniel to face the future alone.
This season sees Coreen eventually forgive Daniel and accept him back but when Callum and Tommy arrive to take revenge for Billy, Coreen demands Daniel protect her and the family, including the new baby. Luke rebels and Daniel blames himself, sensing the family conflicts as a trigger for Luke’s rebellion.
Father Murphy arrives back in London and contacts Daniel – he’s had time to think things through and decided the best course of action is for Daniel to hand himself in. If he doesn’t, he’ll be forced to go to the authorities.
Callum and Tommy discover Daniel’s secret past. They beguile Zack from Daniel’s good influence. Daniel will not stand for this, seeing Zack’s salvation aligned to his own. He knows he has to face Billy’s brothers at some point.
Studying the bible together, Daniel and Coreen focus on the saying – An eye for an eye… Daniel now has Coreen’s blessings.
a movie synopsis
Jay, an abandoned India orphan is taken in by a caring Pakistani man, Sadiq, but welcoming Jay into his family causes problems. Tariq, Jay’s older step-brother, resents him from childhood to adulthood, culminating in an attempt to oust him from the family that ends in murder and Jay becoming Tariq’s slave.
Little India is a sprawling story of a broken family, slowly falling apart, in which Jay must learn to deal with the challenges facing the immigrant community and break free from its self-limiting stigmas.
Opening – 1975
A baby chick on the pavement, twitching, writhing in pain, fallen from its nest. A boys hand picks up the chick which opens its beak for the last time then lays still. Dead.
Young Jay, a seven-year old barefoot waif, hustles along Southall Broadway, searching the crowds of immigrants for his father, Jaswant Singh. He’s as thin as a post, hair in a top-knot, eyes flashing with anxiety. He shoves through a bunch of men – looks left – looks right… Nothing. Hasn’t seen him for days.
In the background – factories, smokestacks, dilapidated buildings line the streets. Over these grainy images we hear in VO, his father, Jaswant, reading a letter to Jay’s uncle, Billa …
Jay leaps a fence – enters a building site where five Indian men dig foundations for a house. They’re worked to the bone, ragged, eyes smudged with exhaustion. One of the men looks at Jay and shakes his head – your father isn’t here…
Jay pauses outside a butcher’s shop, catches his breath, darts in, glances around… nothing… Just a few customers buying cuts of meat…
In an overgrown yard, two quails leap at each other, pecking, squawking. Around them about twenty Indian and Pakistani men crouch in a circle, hollering, clutching money in their hands, smoking biris.
Jay pushes through, scans their faces one by one, still searching for his father…
Jay enters a terraced house, a make-shift drinking den. He opens the hallway door, scurries down to the basement where he sees a bevy of Indian and Pakistani men. Some are passed out, laying on threadbare mattresses.
In the corner of a room, a still is set upon a stove, bubbling with illegal hooch. A fermented stench fills the air. Jay wrinkles his nose, turns a drunkard onto his back, checking if it’s his father…
One of the men grabs him, asks what he’s doing here? Looking for my father, he replies.
Where are you from? Jay shrugs then bolts out, leaving the men to loll in their stupors.
Jay darts into a Sikh temple, shoves his way through the congregation. White sheets on the ground. The Priest recites a prayer from the holy book. Nothing. Jay can’t find him.
His head slumps as he makes his way back to the dilapidated bedsit on Lady Margaret Road.
The room is cramped, stacks of empty bottles of alcohol, dishes, laundry. a leaking tap over the sink. Peeling wall-paper. Damp walls.
Jay picks up the letter we’ve been listening to, takes a seat at the edge of the bed, stares straight ahead, waiting, his hope, diminishing. Finally after a few moments, he wraps his arms around himself, surrenders to his exhaustion.
A few days later… In the bedsit above, Sadiq, 50’s, a bull-necked Pakistani widower, is barking orders at his three kids. Today is moving day and they’re packing bric-a-brac in trunks and cardboard boxes. Islamic decor – Punjabi artefacts – a well worn Persian rug.
Something catches his eye – a glint amongst the clutter – a silver Tiffin lunch box. He picks it up, thinks, then hands it to his youngest son, Afzal, 5, a boy with a cherubic grin and asks him to return it to Jaswant Singh who lives downstairs.
Afzal dallies down, playing the buffoon, whistling as he goes but when he enters the room and sees Jay disheveled, eyes glazed with despair, he hurries back up and fetches his father.
Sadiq returns with Afzal. He picks up the letter Jay is holding and realises this is Jaswant’s suicide note. He reads on –
In a flashback sequence, we see Jay’s uncle Billa enter the room, pick up the family gold and leave. Instead of taking his nephew in, he robs him, betraying his legacy.
Sadiq curses, shoots a cursory glance around the room. He’s caught in a dilemma – he can’t just leave the boy here… he decides to take Jay with him. He takes a seat beside him, places his arm around his shoulder – Don’t worry little man.
Outside, as they climb into the crowded VW van, Tariq, Sadiq’s eldest son, 10, a batteringram of a boy takes an instant dislike to Jay and punches him on the nose. He’s chided by Sadiq, who clips Tariq around the ear and kicks him out, telling him to walk.
As the van pulls away, Afzal and Hameeda, 5, Sadiq’s daughter rush to embrace Jay as tears roll down his cheek, leaving Tariq outside, seething.
The new family dynamics are set.
A few days later, Sadiq visits the mosque and consults the Imam who tells him, if Jay is handed to social services, he will be logged into the system, never a good thing for a Punjabi boy.
Sadiq asks what his options are – the Imam replies – even prophet Mohammed raised other men’s children, it’s a great honour that pleases God and guarantees a place in paradise – Sadiq’s intrigued.
The Imam adds he can arrange for falsified papers to be sent from Pakistan, stating the boy as his nephew, Sadiq can then adopt the child as his own. Sadiq thinks it over and agrees.
A few weeks later, Sadiq formally adopts Jay as his own son. This calls for a family celebration, everyone is pleased, except Tariq who resents Jay for stealing the attention. He glares at the other three kids holding hands, playing. Some Muslims in the community object, telling Sadiq the boy should convert to Islam but Sadiq ignores them.
The months pass – Jay settles in. The trauma and memory of his father fades, except for at night when Jay has visions of his father, tortured, struggling to breathe, trying to speak He keeps these nightmares a secret.
Afzal and Hameeda raise his spirits, comparing the Urdu and Punjabi language, laughing at the results. Sadiq’s children study the Koran – an Imam visits them once a week. Tariq steals away and skips classes which earns him a telling off from Sadiq. Jay wants to join them but Sadiq tells him it doesn’t matter which God you pray to – there’s only one anyway.
Sadiq works in a cereal factory. Every morning, he walks three miles with a gaggle of immigrants to punch the Anglo Saxon time-clock. The manual labour is tough and on several occasions, he’s on the receiving end of racial abuse. One day, a group of English workers hide a severed pig’s head in his locker. They cheer when Sadiq opens his locker and the pig’s head falls to his feet.
Sadiq confides in his friend, Roshan, a Punjabi man who offers him the lease to his grocery store. Roshan’s prospered in London but has had enough. He wants to sell up and return to India.
Sadiq takes the kids to inspect the shop. It’s a good spot, a corner on Broadway. With a little effort they could turn the flailing business around. Sadiq checks the lease but being illiterate, he needs a solicitor to finalise matters.
Sadiq secures a loan from an Indian goldsmith. Jay and Afzal help him clean the shop, humping boxes, getting it ready for opening. Tariq’s more interested in tasting the alcohol in the stock room.
A few years pass….
Against Sadiq’s wishes, Jay quits school in the fifth year and spends most of his time helping Sadiq in the shop.
In the evenings he helps Afzal with his homework or kicks a football in Havelock Park. On other occasions, Jay, Hameeda and Afzal take long walks along the canal, occasionally, falling victims to racism. One day, as they’re being harassed by English kids on The Golf- Links estate, Tariq arrives and gives the racists a beating. He’s now forged a reputation for himself amongst local delinquents.
During the 1979 Southall riots, business owners group together to defend their premises. Newspaper headlines scapegoat immigrants, blaming them for economic problems. The National Front plan to rally in Southall and attend an Oi gig at the Hambrough Tavern.
As the National Front clash with Asians in the streets, Sadiq and the boys take refuge in the shop, ready to defend the store with hockey sticks and bats. As the raucous grows fiercer outside, Tariq, unable to sit through it, grabs a bat and heads out, wanting to be in the action.
A long and restless night passes for Sadiq and Jay – from the streets outside, the sounds of swearing, rioting, breaking glass …
In the morning Tariq returns, his face bloodied and bruised. Jay and Sadiq venture outside to survey the damage. The streets are littered, shards of broken glass, burnt-out cars, scattered debris.
Jay and Sadiq pick up brooms and sweep, starting the arduous task of cleaning up…
Seven years pass – 1986
Atari replaces Connect Four – Punk gives way to Hip-Hop. Thatcher’s Britain is relishing the Yuppie revolution. London is the enjoying the wealth of privatisation, stocks, shares. But this affluence doesn’t trickle into Southall – as the first wave of Somali immigrants enter Southall, an equal amount of white residents leave for the Home Counties. This hamlet now becomes the most multi-cultural spot in London.
Jay, now 18, runs the store by himself, with Sadiq popping in occasionally. He’s an adept trader, generous to customers – he offers credit to regulars, learns to deal with trouble makers and drunks. He befriends the neighbouring butcher, Baba, offering him basement storage for their meat. Their premises, divided by a stud wall.
Tariq has gained a reputation — a thug and a dealer. He has an Irish girlfriend named Neve, a local barmaid. He jokes to his friends, dating a white girl is his contribution to world peace. They spend their time smoking weed, drinking, arguing.
Afzal is still at school. To everyone’s delight, his presence fills the house with a jovial spirit, singing, playing tricks, hiding Sadiq’s shoes. Even Tariq laughs and tickles him but resents how close he is to Jay.
Hameeda is at sixth-form, she is beautiful beyond propriety. At home, she’s the traditional Muslim girl donning a hijab to please her father and Tariq, cooking for them but outside, she’s a young woman, bursting with ideas, craving her freedom, planning for the future.
Sadiq, largely ignores Tariq, secretly blaming himself for his son’s unruly manner.
Tariq rules with an iron fist. One day, he’s drinking in the store’s basement when Jay arrives and tells him he has to lock up. Tariq flies off the handle, pushing Jay to the ground, berating him, calling him an infidel. His friends, have to pull him off.
On Hameeda’s birthday, Jay steals away with her, they spend the day in the West End – they watch a show, visit an arcade, have fun. Hameeda tells Jay she wants to leave Southall and “live how the rest of the world lives.”
But Jay protests, he doesn’t want to leave Southall where he feels secure. Hameeda berates him, saying he has a coolie mentality. On the train journey home, there is a palpable tension between them.
As they enter the house, Sadiq eyeballs them but says nothing. The attraction between them is obvious. Hameeda goes into the front room to find Tariq, somber, waiting on the sofa. He proffers a gift-wrapped box, she opens it to reveal a sparkling bracelet but when Tariq notices that she already has a similar one hanging around her wrist, a present from Jay, he storms out, his pride, hurt.
Later, whilst smoking with his friend, Tariq admits his feelings and resentment towards Jay – “he’s come into my family, my dad thinks he’s doing God a favour. He’s turned my brother and sister against me.”
They devise a plan, they can get Jay into a whole lot of trouble, forcing Sadiq to reconsider Jay’s position and responsibilities.
One day, Sadiq comes into the store and tells Jay he needs to close up shop and accompany him to the Cash and Carry. Tariq was supposed to be here but has let him down. The store is teeming with customers, milling around, picking out groceries. Jay says they should leave Afzal at the till to ring-up customer bills.
Later, the rush has died down. Afzal is sitting at the till playing a handheld game when a masked man bursts in pointing a gun, demanding money from the drawer — Afzal freezes in terror, he drops the console, it smashes on the ground… the noise makes the gunman jump… his finger involuntarily squeezes the trigger. The gun fires. Afzal slumps to the floor. Dead.
The thief freezes… then leaps over the till, clears out the cash drawer and runs.
Later, the area is cordoned off by the police. Parked cars, flashing sirens. As Sadiq and Jay return, their eyes narrow, fearful. As they push their way through and emerge from the crowd, they see Afzal laying on the floor, blood pooling from his head.
Sadiq lets out a guttural scream. Jay drops to his knees. Tariq comes in, freezes, can’t believe what he’s seeing as Sadiq howls in pain. Their little prince has been taken from them. Murdered.
The next few months sees the house enveloped under a gloomy cloud.
Sadiq becomes a ghost of his former self. He takes to his room, decaying, only emerging when Hameeda pleads with him to eat something.
Jay, blaming himself for Afzal’s death, becomes moodier and isolates himself from Hameeda. Emotionally the strongest in the family, she tries to lift his spirits but to no avail. Instead, she copes by throwing herself into her work, applying for college courses, proving herself. She blames the poverty in Southall for Afzal’s death and can feel the pressure of her culture bearing down on her. She wants out of here.
Tariq looses himself in drugs with Neve. They dive, head on into self destruction, experimenting with narcotics, the only remedy for his conscience.
A year passes under a grey fog…
One day, Tariq comes into the store, he asks Jay to close early, telling him he has a surprise, he will love it.
They climb into Tariq’s Capri, he asks Jay to sit in the rear as they head towards Northolt. Tariq stops at a heart-sink estate, he wolf-whistles up to a block of flats – a few minutes later, Terry (aka Jumbo), a local thug with a stitched-up face joins them in the car. Jay is uneasy, not sure of what’s going on as drugs and money exchange hands. Tariq lights a joint, cracks open beer as they drive towards South East London, joking and laughing along the way.
Later, Tariq pulls up in an abandoned factory. He kills the lights, hands Jumbo a joint – it’s laced with a hallucinogenic. He’s already stoned, his head spinning and fuzzy.
Tariq suggests they play a game of truth – the idea, you reveal something you’ve never told anyone. Tariq starts – he slept with his friend’s girlfriend… Jumbo sniggers, the weed, jumbling his brain…
In the back, Jay opts out, wishing he was anywhere but here but when it comes to Jumbo’s turn, he reveals he shot someone by mistake in a bungled robbery orchestrated by an anonymous party. Tariq glances at Jay in the rear view mirror as Jumbo becomes more drowsy.
Later, atop a wasteland, moonlight bathing them in silver, Tariq marches Jumbo out to a bog. He pistol whips him across the head – Jumbo drops to his knees like he’s been poleaxed.
Tariq tells Jay this is the guy who murdered Afzal. He hands Jay a Kirpan, flicks his eyes at Jumbo…
Jay recoils in horror, his hand trembles, he can’t do this but Tariq goads him – will he lets Afzal’s murderer go unpunished…?
Jumbo – nonsensical, slurring, pleads, tries to rise but Tariq hits him several times…
Unable to control his anger, his heart pounding, Jay takes the Kirpan and thrusts it into Jumbo’s neck. He slumps down dead. Later, they bury the body in the wasteland.
The weeks pass, Jay becomes moody and aggressive, even with customers. He spends all of his time at the store, away from the house, shrugging Hameeda off, telling her, he’d rather be alone. When she suggests praying, he rebukes her, telling her he doesn’t believe in God anymore.
Tariq continues to climb the underworld ladder, reinventing himself as a supplier, him and Neve, increasing their drug use. He designates small jobs to Jay, stashing drugs, counting cash. When Jay protests, Tariq slaps him, reminding him the debt he owes to his family.
Sadiq notices the tension between Jay and Hameeda. He calls Jay to his room, asks him to close the door, sit down. He’s not blind to the attraction but while he’s still alive, he forbids it but once he passes away… he just shrugs, hinting Jay and Hameeda should marry.
Jay asks but how? Tariq will never allow it.
Sadiq asks Jay to pass him a folder from his drawer. He opens it to reveal an official document – Jay will inherit the house and the store, his name will be on the lease. If Sadiq divides the inheritance, Tariq will squander his share.
Sadiq picks up a photograph of Afzal – he says of course if Afzal was alive… His hand trembles, face floods with sadness as he recalls his youngest son… He says he’ll see Afzal soon, in heaven. Helping Jay has guaranteed a place for him in Paradise after the mistakes he made with Tariq.
Unable to speak and blaming himself for Afzal’s death, Jay looks away.
Later, Sadiq calls Tariq to his room and repeats his wishes – Tariq reacts, storms out, vowing to take what belongs to him.
A few weeks later, broken and lagging, Sadiq passes away in his bed.
At the cemetery, Jay is in charge of the ceremony. Indians, Muslims gathered, joined by a few white faces. It’s a sombre occasion – Sadiq was loved and respected.
As the crowds listen to the last of the prayers, there’s a raucous from the corridor – the door swings open – Tariq enters the room with Neve tugging his sleeve, trying to restrain him.
He’s drunk, disheveled, bloodshot eyes. The room falls silent – the Imam narrows his brow at this insolence.
Tariq roars at Jay, accusing him of stealing what is his. A few of the crowd try to curb Tariq – Jay does not react, respecting Sadiq’s memory. Tariq then grabs Jay – shoves him against the wall. The Imam looks around the room, signals with his eyes. A few men drag Tariq away, cursing and threatening. Jay glances at Hameeda – a sense of urgency in his eyes.
Back at the house, there’s only Jay and Hameeda. It’s deathly silent. He places his head in her lap, tears streaming, unable to contain his grief. She strokes his head gently. Slowly, the grief turns to lust – they move into her bedroom and for the very first time, make love.
Later, Jay reflects on Sadiq and Afzal. Hameeda suggests they go away for a while then plan to move, just as Sadiq wished for them. An inspired moment, he sits up and proposes to Hameeda and she agrees to marry him. They sit in silence, embracing each other.
Over the next few days, Jay sets plans in motion, settling financial maters, cashing out his account. He visits an agent to sell the house and the lease.
In the store’s basement, he hoists the floorboards, sees Tariq’s money and drugs. A large sum of cash. His eyes widen, he’s tempted to take but decides against it.
Hameeda books two tickets for Brighton. They’re to leave on Friday, in two days. Although Sadiq’s death has cast a glum shadow, it’s also given them a new lease of life, there’s a spring in their step.
On Friday morning, Hameeda packs her and Jay’s clothes. She prepares her walkman and tapes, getting ready for the journey, keeping an eye out for Tariq whom no one has seen since the funeral.
Jay goes to the store. He locks up the stock room, bolts it. He calls the agent, tells him he’ll drop the keys off in an hour. He sets the alarm, winds down the shutters and steps onto Broadway when a hand grabs his shoulder.
He turns to see two plainclothes detectives, they cuff him and drive him to the station. They’ve got some questions for him, an anonymous tip has come in about the disappearance of a local criminal known as Jumbo.
At the station, Jay is interrogated. His hand trembles beneath the table but protests his innocence – he doesn’t know the man and never met him.
The questioning is quick-fire, rapid – where was he at the time? Does he know the man was a suspect in Afzal’s murder? The only thing he states is that he was with Sadiq and Tariq at the time, at the store.
Jay stares straight ahead and remains silent. After a while he is lead away to a holding cell and locked up.
Back at the house, Hameeda is pacing, worried. She glances at the bags before rushing out.
Arriving at the store she finds the shutters down. Baba, the butcher comes out, tells her he saw Jay being taken away by two policemen.
At the station she’s sent away. She finds Tariq and Neve in a local drinking den, pleads for him to help. He tells her not to worry, he will do what he can.
After a few days, Tariq enters the station, asks to see his brother. Jay looks up as the cell door opens. The sergeant asks Tariq for a statement – where was Jay at the time? Tariq glares at Jay, his mouth curls to a grin and then he says it slowly –
Jay was with him and their father. He knows nothing about this.
A few days later, Jay is released due to a lack of evidence. In the car he thanks Tariq for his support. Tariq slams his palm against Jay’s nose, spurting a shower of blood. Does he think he vouched so they can play happy families?
Tariq explains – he tipped off the police and he provided the alibi – Jay must now do everything he asks, that means signing the house deeds over to him and putting his name on the lease. Jay can continue to live and work but under Tariq’s conditions – Jay asks what if he doesn’t agree?
Tariq dips his hand into his jacket and hands him a Polaroid – a photograph of the kirpan, the same one Jay used to murder Jumbo.
Jay closes his eyes in despair – he has no leverage in the deal, Tariq has the upper hand.
The next few weeks sees a major reshuffle. Tariq calls in the movers and gets rid of Sadiq’s belongings. He moves his and Neve’s belongings into Sadiq’s room. He forces Jay out of his bedroom and makes a space for him under the stairs, in the stock room. He’s given a mattress and small bedside table, little more than a servant’s quarter.
He accompanies Jay to the solicitor’s office and gets him to sign over the property and lease to himself. He also changes the shop’s name to Tariq’s.
When Jay protests, Tariq slaps him and reminds him he can, at any time, have him incarcerated. He will also marry Hameeda off to someone in Pakistan. Jay is horrified at the thought. He has no option but to comply.
And so begins Tariq’s tyranny – Jay is sporadically beaten, depending on Tariq’s mood and drinking. Neve falls pregnant but when she suggests an abortion, Tariq lets loose on her, fists flying into her face. Jay and Hameeda stand back and watch, not daring to interfere.
Hameeda enrols at sixth form. She meets a volunteer, a black woman named Joy who visits the school to talk about domestic abuse. Joy runs a charity backed program called The Black Sisters, an outreach organisation looking to help women in Southall who are victims of abuse. Their friendship grows and one day, Hameeda confides in Joy about her home life.
Neve discovers this new friendship but covers for Hameeda when she goes to meet Joy, telling Tariq she accompanied her to after school study. Tariq demands to know where everyone is at all times, keeping a tight watch.
Through his criminal network, Tariq meets two brothers from Bradford – Imran and Nassim. They’re looking for new territory to supply their heroin to. Tariq meets their requirements and they courier down a monthly shipment to him.
Tariq secretly uses the store’s basement to stash the contraband. He has a safe installed under the floorboards, confident that no one knows its location. He doesn’t see Jay peeping from the stairs.
Neve gives birth to Tariq’s son, Rahim. Tariq is overjoyed and calls for a celebration, treating everybody in the family to food and drink but when Jay refuses his offer, Tariq warns him not to spoil the occasion.
As the months pass and the pressures of a baby settle in, Tariq starts dabbling with heroin, chasing the dragon, then graduates to intravenously injecting. Unable to resist, Neve joins him.
They often stay in their room all day, instructing Jay to fetch drink and drugs. With the drugs and cash rolling in, Tariq delegates Jay to watch the store.
Neglected, Rahim cries out all day, leaving Hameeda to take him downstairs to care for it. She passes the baby to Jay who refuses to hold it, saying he can’t bring himself to show the infant any affection – his heart is full of hate for Tariq.
At the store, Jay meets a customer, Ramesh, an Indian Jeweller who loans money out into the community. They get chatting – Ramesh tells him there’s a lot of cash to be made in gold. The metal is smuggled in and sold at nearly a mark-up third of the price to the Indian community, which has an insatiable appetite for the precious metal. If he ever fancies making some for himself on the side, he should come and see him. The idea plays on Jay’s mind but lacking any funds, he can’t see a way in. Unless he uses Tariq’s money. He asks Ramesh what the turnaround period is? A week, maybe two.
After closing, he goes down to the basement, lifts the floorboards and opens the safe to see a few thousand pounds. He takes a bundle and tucks it into his jeans.
Later, he visits the Ramesh and passes the cash over, the jeweller laughs – such a small amount. Jay says he has to start somewhere. The jeweller tells him he will be in touch.
Two weeks later, Ramesh returns the money, with interest. Jay is amazed. He’s managed to make a significant amount without Tariq noticing the missing cash. He replaces Tariq’s money and stashes his interest.
The process is replaced a few times. Ramesh tells him, if he wants to make more, he should loan out his share, at 30 per cent interest. Jay agrees and within a few months, manages to increase his profit.
One day , he nearly gets caught out by Tariq who visits the store on a whim but Jay manages to stall Tariq and replace his cash.
With the drugs taking their toll, Neve and Tariq argue more frequently. One day, she takes such a beating, she passes out into unconsciousness, bleeding down her thighs. A miscarriage. Hameeda and Kaka burst into the room. Hameeda picks up Rahim who is playing with a syringe, Jay manages to rouse Neve, nursing her. On the floor, in the middle of a blood-pool, lays the remains of the foetus. Jay carries it away and buries it in the park.
Tariq increasingly looses himself in stupors, blacking out from cocktails of drink and drugs, loosing weight, his hulking shoulders, thinning out like branches of a winter tree. He instructs Jay how to cook his heroin shots, at one point telling him not to put too much in – I don’t wanna die just yet.
A few weeks later, Tariq wakes to see Neve gone. There is no note or message. He lifts Rahim, kisses him on the cheek and tells him, good riddance to the junky whore.
Jay meets Hameeda outside college. He takes her back to the store and tells her his plans. With the amount he’s putting away, they might be able to get a place together, away from Tariq but Hameeda, having seen how Jay has changed, tells him she’s not so sure. She’s being supported by the group who are raising her self-esteem. She doesn’t need a man in her life.
Jay is shocked to be spurned, he never expected this.
Just then, Tariq comes into the store followed by Imran and Nassim. They eyeball Jay and Hameeda as they head down to the basement.
They inspect the goods and the money, whispering amongst themselves, then ask Tariq who the people were upstairs. He replies it’s his step-brother and sister.
They make him an offer – they have a brother in Pakistan – Faizal. He needs a suitor for marriage and Hameeda appears a good match. In return, they will offer Tariq an increase in profits and expand his operation. Imran picks up the money from the safe, about £20, 000. This will do nicely for the dowry.
Tariq thinks it over, the drugs and money dictating his decision. He agrees, in two weeks Hameeda will marry Faizal. They hug each other, a union of two families. The marriage is set for two weeks, Saturday. They don’t notice Jay at the top of the stairs, eavesdropping.
Jay panics – he divulges Tariq’s plan to Hameeda – she’s horrified – Jay pleads with her to leave with him, he has money put aside but she rebukes him – Jay is becoming more like Tariq – bossy, aggressive. She wants a fresh start. What is it that Tariq has over him? Why can’t he just stand up to him?
Jay spends the next week searching for the evidence Tariq has over him. He scours the store, Tariq’s room, the stock cupboard but can’t find anything that might link him to Jumbo’s murder.
He empties Tariq’s safe and hands the money to Ramesh who promises him a handsome return but a week later, the jeweller fails to deliver Jay’s money, prompting him to visit.
Ramesh tells him their courier was arrested – the money and the gold has been confiscated. The words hit Jay like a sledgehammer – Faizal is due to marry Hameeda on Saturday and Tariq will need the money for the dowry.
It’s a week Saturday. Tariq wakes up with a hangover shouts out to Jay to get Hameeda ready but Jay replies Hameeda is nowhere to be found.
Tariq bursts into her room – It’s empty. He shoves Jay against the wall demanding to know her whereabouts when he hears a knock at the door – It’s Faizal with his brothers, dressed to the nines, ready to take Hameeda to the town hall and fast-track the marriage. Tariq tells them Hameeda has gone out and will be back soon.
They raise their brows, annoyed as they take a seat in the lounge, waiting for her to arrive.
Tariq searches the streets with Jay, driving to all possible locations. He scolds Jay, blaming him for her disappearance. After a few hours, they return to the store.
Later, Faizal and his brothers arrive – they demand to know what the hold up has been – why Tariq has insulted them? They demand the dowry payment.
Tariq leads them down to the basement, lifts up the floor boards – everybody watches – Jay, shuffles, uneasy as Tariq opens the safe to find it’s empty.
Tariq is stunned, he fishes around but the money is definitely gone.
Imran’s brow furrows – his lip quivers with anger – he bellows that Tariq has cheated and insulted them. The brothers move quickly and overpower Tariq.
Furious, the three brothers let loose on Tariq, fists flying, boots stomping, demanding to know Hameeda’s and the money’s whereabouts. They tie him down to a palette.
Imran glances around the room – he grabs an axe raises it then brings it down on Tariq’s hand, chopping at the wrist, applying the Sharia punishment for theft. He screams in agony then passes out into unconsciousness.
Faizal and Imran drive around the streets like two hungry sharks… the Mosque… the shops but Hameeda is nowhere to be found. They go back to the house, narrow their eyes as they hear a baby crying from above.
They open the door to Tariq’s bedroom to see Rahim crying in the cot… they glance at each other, angry. Tariq never told them about a child.
Meanwhile, in the basement, Jay is trying to squirrel free but can’t break the bind. There’s a noise from the wall – a door opens and Baba enters the room, two lamb carcasses slung over his shoulder.
He stops as he sees Jay. Imran glances up at Baba, he rushes to grab the axe but Baba swings the carcasses and smashes Imran across the face. He drops to the ground, like a sack of beans. Baba releases Jay, together, they tie Imran up.
Jay hastens towards the Jeweller’s, desperate for the money. He opens the door, overhears Ramesh speaking on the phone about the deal – Jay barges in, thrusts Ramesh against the wall, demands his money. The frightened jeweller hands over his money.
Meanwhile, the brothers are still waiting for Hameeda to show up but she doesn’t arrive. The screaming baby makes them nervous, pushing them to leave.
They drive towards the store but see several police cars and an ambulance outside. Tariq is being carried out on a gurney – Imran is being lead away. They’re unable to do anything so they turn away, back to Bradford.
Jay heads back to the house. He gathers a few things, decides to leave but can’t ignore the baby’s screams – he stops, caught in two minds, turns back, goes into the room and lifts the baby out of the cot.
That evening- At Ealing Hospital, Tariq is hooked up to a drip. A stump at the end of his arm. The heart rate monitor beeping intermittently. He’s stable.
The door creaks open, Tariq, on the edges of consciousness looks up to see Jay holding Rahim. He takes a seat beside the bed.
Rahim reaches out to Tariq who smiles. He tells Jay he is happy to see them. Jay shows Tariq the money from the jeweller and the gold. Tariq – an ironic smile – he knows Jay outplayed him.
He tells Jay he was always jealous that Sadiq brought him into the family and he felt pushed out. Jay proffers the money to Tariq who just shakes his head – he doesn’t want it.
Jay is surprised – Tariq will be out of the hospital soon. Tariq shakes his head – he doesn’t want to live his days out filled with fear and the nightmares just make his life unbearable. He misses Afzal. He has something to confess-
Jay’s ears perk up – what?
Tariq admits Afzal’s death was his fault – he tells him about the bungled robbery – he anonymously hired Jumbo to frighten Jay so that Sadiq would lose faith in him, it was never supposed to end the way it did…
Jay is dumbfounded – he can’t quite believe it – the veins in his neck throb with fury. He just sits there, stunned beyond belief.
He has one last request – he flicks his eyes to the bag – Jay understands – he takes out the bag and produces the works – needle, spoon and heroin. He starts to cook a shot, adds the heroin – pauses – adds a few more grams – enough to kill a man – Tariq watches him – their eyes lock in a moment of silent understanding as Kaka adds the remainder of the powder. He glances at Tariq who rolls up his sleeve – the needle pierces the skin, Jay’s hand trembles…
Tariq reaches out, takes over, pulls the plunger back – the barrel fills with blood – together, they depress the plunger, filling Tariq’s veins with a lethal dose – a mercy killing.
Jay picks up Rahim, walks out of the room. We glimpse Tariq letting out a huge sigh.
As Jay emerges onto the street with the baby – we hear Tariq’s heart rate monitor oscillate then flat line.
At Southall train station, Jay pauses at the ticket office. He asks for a ticket to Brighton – the clerk punches the machine – asks why he’s going there?
To visit someone. He asks Jay where he’s from? Jay pauses – turns to look at the bustling streets teeming with immigrants. Right here, he says. The clerk laughs, you’ve had enough of Little India, hey?
Is that your son? Jay nods, yes, he’s adopted, just like I was. Jay collects his ticket, heads to the platform.
Later, he’s on the train, speeding towards Brighton. Green fields flashing by when Jay has a vision of his father who smiles. It’s as if for the first time, his father is at peace now.
In Brighton, Jay walks along the promenade – the sea and pier, visible in the background.
He stops at a block of apartments, rings the bell. A few minutes later, Hameeda answers it, she takes Rahim and leads Jay into the flat. Jay looks back, watches a seagull catch a thermal over the water and drift high and away.
Inside, Rahim sits at the edge of the bed – Jay takes a seat beside him, places his arm around him – Don’t worry about anything, little man.
a movie synopsis
Logline – A disgraced banker is head-hunted by a modern employment agency to recruit clients but soon discovers the firm’s methods are much darker than he could possibly imagine.
Genre – Corporate thriller
Slug line – Eventually, everything comes back around
Jason Summers is a trader at an investment bank in a top London firm. He’s determined to climb the corporate ladder in the cut-throat world of finance. His ambition borders on obsession. Hailing from a broken home and a useless father, he’s trying to rewrite his legacy and now, he’s got his eyes set on promotion. He needs it; he’s leads a decadent lifestyle of fast cars, fast women and luxury restaurants.
But when Jason intentionally misleads a client, with the sole aim of securing a commission, he’s investigated by the firm’s fraud department and found guilty of gross misconduct. Jason is dismissed from the company and warned — one more industry breach will land him in prison.
Discredited within the industry, Jason struggles to find work. Wherever he applies, his reputation proceeds him. So when he’s head-hunted by the enigmatic Huxley, CEO of the hi-tech uber-chic employment agency, Karma, overlooking the South Bank, Jason believes he’s back in with a chance. After a gruelling interview, he’s offered the job and assigned to acquisitions. He takes to the role with zeal, breaking the firm’s record for securing new assets; charm and persuasion, being his forte.
Users from the firm’s online client-base who score a minimum of 9 points on the company’s mobile app, are invited for analysis, a process where their iris and fingerprint scans are fed into a computer which creates an algorithm, projecting an efficient career trajectory. The firm then pairs successful clients within a global network of companies who pay Karma a share of profits. Each client Jason secures, earns him a commission and a few months later, he’s promoted to lead the section and begins to live the luxurious life he’s always dreamed of but breaks a cardinal rule; he sets out on a relationship with one of his clients, India Kowalski, an Uber driver and unlikely match for him.
Despite falling for Jason’s charm, India resists signing with the firm, claiming she downloaded the app on a whim. Her status as a high-value asset puzzles Jason but he’s forced to keep their relationship discreet.
The higher Jason climbs, the more he starts to suspect that something doesn’t quite sit right behind closed doors, especially in the director’s board-room which is off-limits to the staff. Several high profile clients whom he recruits encounter misfortune shortly after signing. A professor on the verge of a breakthrough discovery whom he personally recruited, is killed in front of his eyes, crushed by a bus. It seems signing with the firm brings bad luck for some and good luck for others.
Nevertheless, with bonuses rolling in, Jason suppresses his gut-feeling, only to suffer nightmarish hallucinations and excruciating headaches. India, who can see through Jason’s facade tries to persuade him to leave but his stubbornness won’t let him quit.
Thomas Decarney, Jason’s predecessor at Karma who’s now keeping a low profile, makes contact with Jason and warns him about the agency. Jason dismisses him as a jealous rival but before he mysteriously disappears, Thomas leaves clues which reveal a trail of corruption. Jason’s investigations lead him to the firm’s accounts department where he discovers large sums of crypto currency paid by some of the world’s most influential people.
Altered to this security breach, Huxley walks in on Jason and comes clean, confessing that himself and the other directors run a clandestine auction. He explains — clients surrender their iris and fingerprint scans to the firm’s growing database. Every online key stroke is analysed to produce an accurate picture of the client’s past. This creates an algorithm which predicts the client’s future. A large screen showreel’s the clients past (the sum of all their deeds and accomplishments ) and projects their future. High-valued clients scoring 9 and above are invited in for analysis and literally have their good luck, or karma, extracted without their knowledge.
The agency is a front for a global cabal which includes politicians, financiers, and industrialists.
They bid on people’s good karma. That’s the secret to life. Some people, no matter what they do, will succeed whereas others will fail. Without good karma to protect them, they are doomed to misfortune.
Jason is stunned, his instincts were right. He also discovers that his father, a brilliant and promising inventor who died broke, was a victim of Huxley’s techno-charlatanism, twenty years ago. He’s always despised his father only now to realise that he’d been cheated of his destiny.
Huxley now gives Jason a choice, he’s offers him a seat at the Director’s Table but delivers an ultimatum – bring in his client, India Kowalski for analysis or risk the same fate as Thomas.
Realising that he now depends other people’s good karma and fortune to stay sane and healthy, Jason has little choice and persuades India to come on for analysis, with her, being none-the-wiser.
In a sinister finale, Huxley begins analysis but discovers that India’s DNA and cell count doesn’t match her previous data ; she’s carrying a child inside her. Jason has impregnated her, rendering her useless to Huxley who planned on extracting her karma and injecting it into his barren wife, Maya.
Jason has a final trick up his sleeve and manages to outwit Huxley; he dumps all the data online and reverses the flow, so karma surges back to the original owner and in doing so, not only redeems himself but reverses his own good fortune. Without his shield of stolen luck to protect him, Huxley is condemned to the live out his worst nightmare – the life of an everyman.
Jason leaves with India and turns himself in. He is sentenced for breaching privacy laws.
A year later, he’s released and is greeted by India and their son. He’s learned the valuable lesson of karma – what goes around, indeed, does come back around.
The agency is a tense Orwellian-thriller set in the corporate world of big business and social media. It comments on issues of data privacy and a casino-style of capitalism, operating unchecked in a system where the populous has been reduced to mere binary data at the hands of an elite tech-giant sector.