TOE STORY by Dan Alexe
FADE IN: INT. A ROOM, SOMEWHERE IN AFGHANISTAN - DAY
The rectangle of the camera reveals a dirty wooden floor and the legs of a chair. The lower part of a woman wearing a burqa comes into the frame. She wears plastic sandals on her naked feet. Square clipped toenails and thin ankles.
MALE VOICE Sit down, sister.
She sits. The chair creaks.
FEMALE VOICE What’s this for?
MALE VOICE It’s for a movie. It’s called a casting. You
shouldn’t worry. Everything is Islamic in it. If we take you for the role, you won’t need to show your face. All you need to show is your toes... Those that everybody sees anyway.
The camera slowly zooms down onto the toes.
MALE VOICE And you’ll be paid for it.
Please, swing your ankle. She swings it.
Succession of women’s feet on the CREDITS. THE TITLE:
FADE IN: INT. CLEAN ROOM, WALLS LINED WITH BOOKS - DAY
A venerable OLD MAN with a noble beard closes the book he had been reading and stares with a disbelieving expression at the YOUNG MAN seated in front of him.
The YOUNG MAN is thin. Hungry eyes in a virginal face. Curly black beard like a regiment of spiders. He is tense, but tries not to show it.
OLD MAN You want to do a casting of women’s toes?!...
In this city?
YOUNG MAN Why would there be a problem? Is there anything in the Sharia that prohibits filming women’s toes? I won’t be filming their faces.
OLD MAN This sounds, first of all, like a base form of shirk (idolatry).
Sir, in the surah 24, the one called Noor, the ayat 31 says: “speak to the believing women that they refrain their eyes and observe continence; and that they display not their ornaments, except those which are external”. Except those which are external, like their toes.
OLD MAN This seems to me like a bad translation, my son.
Oh, no, father, because the Arabic runs: “Wa qul-lil-mu’minaati yaghzuzna min’ abssaarihinna wa yahfazna furuujahunna wa laa yubdiina ziinatahunna ‘illaa maa zahara”.
The old man eyes him in silence.
OLD MAN I didn’t expect you to know Arabic.
Al mu’minaat. The believing women. ‘Illaa
maa zahara : except those which are external.
OLD MAN Aha. And what would be the subject of what
you want to film?
YOUNG MAN You know the story of the Mad Prince and the
Fairy? The old man shakes his head.
YOUNG MAN (CONT’D) It’s like this. The Fairy is so unbearably
beautiful, that anyone who sees her becomes mad. The Prince knows this, but he insists so much on seeing her, that...
He stops. The old man encourages him to continue.
YOUNG MAN (CONT’D) ...finally they take him to her. She is
veiled, of course. They lift her burqa just enough so he could see her toes. And...
He starts gesticulating, with suddenly a possessed look on his face.
YOUNG MAN (CONT’D) ...he goes out of his mind.
He starts making grotesque noises and gestures.
YOUNG MAN (CONT’D) When he regains his senses, they tell him
“you’ve only seen her toes, think what happens if you see all of her.”
He stops acting. He laughs, apparently pleased with himself.
OLD MAN Lovely story. Yes, of course I knew it. It’s
the story of Majnun and Laila.
YOUNG MAN Wait, it’s not over. I made up my own
ending. Laila, the Fairy also falls in love with the Prince, and, so that they may live together without her killing him, she drinks a tincture of ugliness.
YOUNG MAN She makes a charm and she becomes an
eyesore. Then, when she’s ugly, they live together happily forever.
The old man still doesn’t say anything and keeps looking at him.
YOUNG MAN It’s a very simple story, which would teach
the public simple, fundamental values with unpretentious metaphors. What we would see from the female character would be only her toes.
Seeing the old man’s hesitation, he hastens to continue.
YOUNG MAN (CONT’D) The screenplay has already been approved by
foreign NGO’s and now all I have to do is find the appropriate toes and start shooting... You could say it’s an educational clip about pure love and devotion... without anything sexual about it... for certainly no Mullah in town would object to filming toes, the vilest part of the human body...
OLD MAN I thought the ass was the vilest part.
Watching the young man’s puzzled expression, the old dignitary roars with laughter.
The young man starts laughing as well. With an impatient gesture, the old man cuts him out.
Your father was a great mujaheed. I will
help you... mmm... Rahman, yes? RAHMAN nods.
RAHMAN We buried my father almost ten years ago,
when we were refugees in Pakistan.
OLD MAN I know that. Listen, I think you can do your
toe story. Meanwhile, I understand you also need a lodging. I will help you with that as well, until you find something. You know where the archaeological museum is? The curator is a cousin of mine. A woman of great learning. I will call her and ask her to help you find something.
Rahman leans forward and kisses the old man’s hand.
INT. THE ENTRANCE HALL OF THE OLD MAN’S HOUSE – DAY
The old man is leading Rahman out.
Suddenly, Rahman freezes in front of a big sitting Buddha made of cracked stone.
OLD MAN No, no, don’t worry... I’m not an idolater. My
daughter has brought some work home. She is restoring statues in the archaeological museum. All the statues that the Taliban have broken... You may have heard from your father that I was an art historian myself before becoming a judge. I studied in Moscow, where I specialized in all this... The Gandhara art... the Greco-Buddhist style... I can’t say it’s a frivolous thing... I let my daughter learn the craft of restoration with... (gesture) I don’t know what French NGO... So sometimes she brings stuff home.
Rahman goes round the statue, admiring.
RAHMAN It’s magnificently restored.
He caresses the statue’s toes.
OLD MAN Say, what happens to the Fairy’s toes when
she becomes ugly? Do they become horrible as well?
RAHMAN I haven’t figured out that part yet.
EXT. BUSY TOWN STREET – DAY Rahman walks through the heat of the day. Dusty, precarious. A dull grey sprawl of narrow streets.
Pedestrian rush hour. Garbage is piled up next to dumpsters. Dumpsters are burning in the foul spring air. Dogs are feeding in the piles of garbage.
Shops: chicken legs, cabbage, cookers, electronics, eggs. Tattered old electoral campaign advertisements and mine-warning posters litter the walls.
Rugs in the middle of the street, on the asphalt. Cars drive over them.
A NATO military jeep cruises by, LOUD MUSIC on the radio, then disappears around the corner. Yanks inside.
Poster with a muscled European-looking man showing off packs of muscles bulging with steroids.
Cinema posters with titles in Hindi and Persian, on one of them a female face, tears streaming down from her eyes.
On another one: a man, half naked, his chest covered with wounds oozing blood, clutching a machine gun.
Rahman strolls smiling through the dust, looking around, camera bag on his shoulder.
He passes in front of the entrance of a Sufi shrine and stops to look.
The short flight of cement stairs leading up to the square entrance is set between the window of a shoe shop and a pharmacy. A green curtain hangs over the entrance.
From inside comes the muffled sound of a female dhikr, a mystical ceremony. Rahman stops to listen, as the musical recitation inside ends.
Female feet appear on the stairs.
As they come out, the women wrap themselves in their burqas, with short dignified gestures. Most of them are covered from head to toes.
Rahman pretends to read the labels in the pharmacy window, as the women’s feet come down the stairs, one after the other, at eye level.
Most women wear the same kind of plastic flip-flops and slippers. Their toenails are dirty, thick and keratinous. Some others wear sports shoes and trousers under their burqas.
The last pair of feet stop for a couple of seconds.
Their possessor wears jeans under an expensive coat and the marble-like feet are set in very elegant leather sandals.
The plant of the feet is elongated; the vault of the plant is very arched, while the toes are long and neatly separated.
The toenails are oval and almost transparent, with a thin top margin whiter than the rest and set in an obviously well cared- for ring of pink flesh.
Raman’s jaw drops and his eyes swipe the woman’s slim body up to the uncovered face.
When their eyes meet, she lifts both her arms and rearranges the headdress down on her face. He jumps aside to let her step down and pass.
Down on the pavement, she turns her back to the young man and walks away.
He watches her walking determinedly away, past the body-building poster.
Without another look for the shrine, he starts following the girl keeping at a distance.
At the first crossroads, while she prepares to cross the street, she looks to the left and sees him. She pulls the veil upon her face.
She suddenly crosses the road, without looking right or left. He follows her and is almost run over by a huge decorated truck, horns blowing tremendously.
When she arrives safely on the opposite sidewalk, she sees his reflection in a shop window.
She hurries away, stiff and dignified.
Finally, while trying to cross yet another large street, she has to stop because whistle-blowing cops make frantic signs to all pedestrians to clear the road. An official convoy passes at high speed, dark windowed four-wheel drives and NATO armor-plated humvees.
Coming behind her and looking ostensibly left and right at the other waiting pedestrians, he asks:
RAHMAN Can I help you, sister?
She shakes her head, looking away, what’s visible of her face showing extreme annoyance.
On the other side of the road, Rahman’s step slows down when he recognizes the gate to the old judge’s house.
The girl stops on the threshold of the judge’s courtyard and turns to face him, somber eyes and lips pressed together with an expression of infinite contempt.
He stops too, at a safe distance and lowers his eyes, fixing his gaze on her feet.
He suddenly recites, voice slightly trembling:
RAHMAN “How happy the king that is mated by thy
rook! How fair company has he who lacks not yours!
RAHMAN (CONT’D) “I desire to fling heart and soul at your
feet; Dust on the head of the soul which is not the dust on your feet.”
He waits, smiling shyly. Face set in stone, she takes over:
GIRL “I have closed the passage of the lips, and
opened the secret way; I am free in one moment from the desire of speech.”
That’s gay poetry, ahmaq (idiot).. Rumi’s
love poems were written in praise of a man. Such poetry you can go and declaim in the bazaar... Kandahari merchants are very fond of it. You might gather enough to buy yourself a better shirt...
She slams the gate shut. He remains there, eyes fixed on the corrugated metal gate. CUT TO: EXT. IN FRONT OF THE ARCHAEOLOGY MUSEUM - DAY
The bombed-out carcass of the museum, on a hill overlooking the city.
The museum has bullet-pocked walls. A cement flight of stairs leads to the entrance.
INT. THE MUSEUM - DAY
Rahman enters the building, camera on his shoulder, passes in front of a row of decapitated statues.
He crosses a series of halls, some of them roofless and brightly lit by the morning sun.
INT. OFFICE IN THE MUSEUM - DAY
The curator is busy talking over the phone. She is an energetic woman in her late forties, with a lock of hair elegantly hanging over her high forehead from under the veil that she has pushed back.
After ending the phone conversation, she smiles to Rahman and points to the chair in front of her.
CURATOR Rahman, yes? My cousin recommends you. It
seems that he was very close to your father in the old days. I’m Spojmai. In what way can I help?
RAHMAN Would you first let me express the feeling
of trust that overwhelms me at this very moment when I see how you receive me? You are of a kind nature. I can see it in your eyes. You seem to be one of those rare beings that do good actions not out of duty, but because they feel the need to do it. Allow me to take advantage of that.
(smiles) How can such a young person speak so bizarrely about human nature? How brazen, to tell me immediately that I am a rare being. In exchange for that, I hope you have a lot to ask for.
RAHMAN Some feelings have a value only when they
come out spontaneously. Even if I didn’t have anything to ask, I would find something, only in order to be able to express my gratitude to you.
(laughs) Such gross and clumsy flattery shows me that you must have a keen sense of humour. So be it. Come on, what do you want?
RAHMAN I came to make this film. I believe in this
rewriting of the Majnun and Layla story. I would like to be able to stay for a couple of months, work on this and go away with the subject packed in my bag. All I want is to work, but I can’t afford to live in a hotel. I also need to obtain the help of intelligent and cultivated people, like yourself and the judge, who could help me with organizing the casting and with convincing the religious authorities that there is no wrongdoing in filming a woman’s toes.
SPOJMAI Are you a good Muslim?
I can’t say that I am good, but I constantly try to mend what I have identified as my shortcomings. From what I know, I have never did anything wrong deliberately. I am also initiated in the Qadiriya brotherhood, and the first thing this morning, after the discussion with the judge, was to go to the Noori Baba shrine.
SPOJMAI In the morning it’s reserved for women.
RAHMAN Yes, I saw that. I will return there, but I
was glad to see that the shrine hasn’t been touched by the bombings.
SPOJMAI Because Noori Baba was a saint. This is very
good. A Qadiri. I hope you don’t smoke. He shakes his head.
RAHMAN Bibi Spojmai, I have five hundred dollars, I
am serious and hard working. Could you help me find a room, not too horrible and not too expensive?... until I finish my film?
Spojmai looks him over in silence. She frowns, slightly nervous. She seems embarrassed and puzzled.
She calls out.
RAHMAN I am sorry that I should disturb you so
much. I’ve seen a guesthouse right close to the museum and I am sure that I could afford a night there. I will then dispose of the whole day tomorrow to find something. Thank you for your time.
SPOJMAI That is Bibi Malalai’s guesthouse. It is
horribly expensive. Only foreign NGO people live there. Wait. I am trying to imagine what would suit you better.
RAHMAN What would suit me is simply some silence, a
bit of sun, and a mattress... or a rug to sleep on.
SPOJMAI My dear, you’ve been so open from the start,
so let me also ask you directly: are you really just a solitary young man who wants to film a modern version of Majnun and Layla? I am asking myself whether I can put you up in a respectable house. You make a very good impression... I am only worried about your age.
An old, swarthy and wrinkled female servant, veil-less, with inquisitorial dark eyes appears with a tray of teacups and sweets. Her toenails are tainted with orange henna.
She places the tray on the table, pours ceremoniously a cup of tea and pushes it towards Raman, looking askance at him.
SPOJMAI I remember the time when I could sit for
hours in a cafe, sipping tea and watching the spectacle of the city. I suppose you were not born then.
She pours some tea for herself. She watches him drink.
SPOJMAI Shugufa, this young gentleman is recommended
by my cousin, the judge. Where could we put him up for a couple of weeks? Somewhere with electricity, running water, not too expensive.
Shugufa is eyeing him.
SHUGUFA Can’t think of anything like that.
Rahman gets up.
RAHMAN Please, do not worry too much, I will find
something. Spojmai checks him over hesitatingly.
SPOJMAI Come on, let me show you something.
INT. A DARK STAIRCASE – DAY
SPOJMAI I lived in Paris all these years. I studied
architecture, then came back. We are an exploded family. Half of us live in Australia.
They climb to an upper floor of the museum.
SPOJMAI (pointing to a door)
Here’s my room. I made myself an apartment in the museum since a bomb razed my house.
They climb yet another staircase.
SPOJMAI France... That’s a country where a woman can
remain unmarried without anybody inquiring into the reasons... You don’t have to lie pretending to be a widow, like I do here.
Choosing expertly one of the huge keys, she unlocks a door leading to an enormous attic, filled with unmatching furniture, broken statues, bad taste paintings in superb frames, old weapons, books.
SPOJMAI Here. You could stay here for a while, and
without having to pay anything. As I said, the only thing that worries me is your age. In another part of the city, I wouldn’t have allowed you in. Fortunately, my only neighbours here are the NATO barracks and Bibi Malalai’s guesthouse, where there are only foreigners.
She looks around with a dreamy expression.
SPOJMAI It’s like the setting of a film about the
end of the world... I always thought that the end of the world is actually a dream about wealth and riches. People who have such dreams and who see themselves as in a trance, wandering through ruins, want actually to profit of all these riches without an owner. Robinson Crusoe is a softened version of this fantasy: he is alone on his island, but possesses the full cargo of a ship carrying everything necessary to rebuild a new little world, a solitary world of abundance and endless enjoyment of an undeserved loot.
So this will be your temporary kingdom.
RAHMAN A cupboard would be enough for my needs.
As long as I have a rug to sleep upon, I’m fine. I don’t even need books. Why read history, or psychology, when one of these objects tells me more than I can bear to know?
SPOJMAI Come on, come on... Nobody comes up here.
Also, there’s no electricity. You’ll have to recharge your camera in my office. Also, I will ask you to keep quiet.
RAHMAN This would make me so happy!... I will not
be a burden for you, you will see.
SPOJMAI Where will you eat?
He makes a dismissing gesture.
RAHMAN Oh, I’ll go out for some naan and kebab...
Even just naan will be enough for me.
SPOJMAI Nonsense. Shugufa will cook for you. Now
come and eat something. INT. GUESTROOM IN THE MUSEUM - EVENING
They squat opposite to each other, while old Shugufa is placing food on a napkin spread on the floor.
RAHMAN Have you ever made anyone as happy as you
are making me now?
SPOJMAI You are overdoing this part. Please eat.
RAHMAN Would you allow me to put some order in that
attic? She looks at him chewing silently, and then she nods.
SPOJMAI Toe Story, huh?
INT. THE ATTIC - NIGHT
It is a dark night. Rahman is walking around the attic, an oil lamp in his hand. He is arranging the room, cleaning, dusting objects, placing them on shelves and tables, contemplating them, shifting them around.
INT. THE ATTIC - DAY
In the morning, warm sun piercing through the window. The room is decorated, looking like some curiosities cabinet in the old baroque paintings.
Rahman jumps up and runs to wash in the sink. A knock on the door. Shugufa comes in with a plate of food. She puts it on a table, then she looks around, startled. She claps her hands in amazement.
She runs out of the room and down the stairs, shouting:
SHUGUFA Mash’allah! Bibi Spojmai! Come and see!...
EXT. ENTRANCE OF THE SUFI SHRINE - DAY
On the sidewalk opposite the shrine. Rahman pretends to read a paper.
Women come out and climb down the stairs in pairs, talking and giggling.
The girl appears, feels his distant presence and walks down the stairs of the shrine and away with a sovereign gait.
Their eyes meet.
She presses her lips, preparing an imprecation.
His eyes show humble, defenseless expectations.
He lowers his stare, humbly.
With a superior air, she gathers her burqa around her and passes her way, without looking at him.
He follows her from afar, the distance between them revealing an almost familiar pattern.
INT. MUSEUM HALL – DAY
Rahman is fixing his camera on a tripod, lens pointed downwards towards the legs of a chair.
Spojmai comes in leading a limping old lady with an inquisitive look.
SPOJMAI This is Bibi Malalai. You will probably find
her toes of great interest.
RAHMAN Sit down, Bibi. Let me check the light.
Bibi Malalai sits.
BIBI MALALAI Did you go through this as well?
SPOJMAI Oh, no, I got my share of filmed glory a
long time ago. I was Miss Afghanistan, remember?
Rahman looks up at her, surprised.
SPOJMAI You wouldn’t say that today, would you?
THROUGH THE LENS: Bibi Malalai’s toes are crooked and a number of them are missing.
AT THE DOOR
BIBI MALALAI’S VOICE Stepped on a grenade, dear. Otherwise, I
would have had more than a chance of becoming Miss Afghanistan myself.
SPOJMAI Thank you, Bibi. Rahman here could certainly
think of a role for your toes.
BIBI MALALAI (to Rahman, before leaving)
Come stay at my place, you will meet lots of foreigners.
Spojmai closes the door, turns to Rahman.
SPOJMAI I rather like myself as an impresario.
Memories of old skills are coming back. Well?
RAHMAN She’s good... We’ll keep her. But I will have
to find a special role for her. She could be the Fairy after the transmutation.
EXT. ENTRANCE OF THE SHRINE - DAY
He stands on the sidewalk, not even pretending to read.
The first women appear and descend the staircase.
Rahman’s face is beaming with humble expectation.
The girl appears as well, accompanied by the swarthy servant Shugufa, who carries a basket.
They come down whispering to each other. In passing him, Shugufa throws him an indignant look.
They ignore him and walk away.
He follows them. EXT. A BAZAAR - DAY
The girl and the servant glide through the stalls, among mounds of raw meat, raisins and huge, sectioned bloody watermelons.
Smoke from meat on grills. Carcasses of cattle and sheep hang in shop windows, some with facades painted in shades of pink and blue.
Loudspeakers pour out a steady stream of Indian music.
In the tangled alleys, attached sheep and goats snort under swarms of flies.
Men watching a cockfight and shouting out their bets.
The servant keeps stealing glances at Rahman. The two women buy apples.
They stop to watch a begging Gypsy with a tame dancing monkey wearing a Nazi iron headgear. He sings and the monkey, kept on a short leash, dances in the middle of a crowd of happy onlookers.
Suddenly, the crowd pushes Rahman towards the two women.
He struggles hard not to touch the girl. She turns to him and faces him.
She has taken a bite from an apple. She looks him in the eyes. Her face turns into an expression of disgust.
She throws away the apple.
Rahman jumps and grabs the apple, which has rolled until stopped by a pile of garbage.
He holds it in his hand and turns it round to find the trace of her teeth.
He looks straight at her. She returns the stare.
He sucks gently, but forcefully the juice from the bitten part of the apple.
Laughter around, but most people are still watching the monkey.
She shrugs and passes by him, followed by Shugufa the servant, who shakes her head.
Rahman throws the apple in the girl’s way. It rolls in the dust in front of her.
She stops for a second and deliberately crushes it under her heel, her toes getting dirty with dust and juice from the apple.
She now walks away with a quicker step, but the servant stays behind for a couple of seconds, just enough to see Rahman lifting the crushed pulp from the soil and putting it in his mouth.
Rahman walks after the two women, smiling, chewing the thing as if it were some fruit from Paradise.
INT. SPOJMAI’S OFFICE – DAY The girl and Spojmai hug each other warmly.
THE GIRL So, auntie, who’s the young man who lives
here in the museum? Even Bibi Malalai told me about him. I suppose if Bibi Malalai
THE GIRL (CONT’D) knows about him, the Suprem Court must be
informed by now.
SPOJMAI Horsheed, dear, a very nice character,
recommended by your father. He won’t stay long.
HORSHEED (repeating sarcastically)
“A nice character, recommended by my father”. Since when is my father supposed to understand anything about the nature of living people?
Spojmai lifts her eyes towards the ceiling, taking the heavens as witness for such a lack of filial respect.
HORSHEED (her face suddenly darkened)
He’s been following me everyday for the last week. I would like you to tell him to leave.
(surprised) Horsheed, dear, I can’t!... Not like that, all of a sudden. I have offered him my hospitality.
HORSHEED Oh, you can. I’ll show you how. Where is he?
INT. RAHMAN’S ATTIC – DAY Rahman is toying with his camera. Spojmai and Horsheed come inside, both of them somber-faced.
Rahman, at the other end of the attic, freezes. Horsheed throws her veil on a chair.
HORSHEED You should come closer, if you want to hear
what I have to say.
RAHMAN I’m not so sure. When you come closer to a
phantom, it fades away.
He comes slowly towards her. He kneels and makes a gesture of worship.
Spojmai is watching the scene with bulging eyes.
HORSHEED This posture is very ill suited for what
RAHMAN It is perfectly suited for what I will
answer. She shrugs.
HORSHEED I ask you to leave this building and to stop
coming to the shrine. Or should I stop going there myself?
He turns pale.
RAHMAN Your wish is an order for me.
She turns her back on him. He clears his throat.
RAHMAN “I have put duality away, I have seen...”
HORSHEED Oh, spare me, please, this pathos. You’ve
seen too many Bollywood movies. Yes, I hear that you are good with words... But what you showed me in the market place was the adoration of a dog. This made me feel offended. And sick.
RAHMAN Your purity could not be soiled by my
impersonation of a dog...
HORSHEED I see you start another discourse. I will
cut it short. Let me ask you something. Would you please answer me honestly? Anyway, the smallest lie would immediately make me despise you even more.
SPOJMAI Please sit down.
HORSHEED I will stand, if you don’t mind.
She takes a pose, resting her thigh against the wall.
HORSHEED I hear you came here to make a film, and I
suppose that when you saw me, you imagined introducing me into the economy of your daily routine...
HORSHEED You are young and an easy pray to small and
dirty temptations. By watching me... you project me on a screen, which allows you to do your dirty job, something that my father had the folly to encourage.
HORSHEED At least you are not a liar. I understand
you will stay for an unbearably long time. It is unbearable not only because I have to suffer every day your dirty stare, but also because you have abused my family’s hospitality. I used to sleep in this museum when working late. Now I can’t anymore and I will be forced to go home early because of you.
She pierces him with her eyes. Her lips are trembling with indignation.
HORSHEED It makes me mad when I see how you twisted
everybody’s mind. My father and my aunt, because they lived abroad and loved their Western life, they were afraid of appearing retrograde, so they took you in. But nobody asked me, like always in this country.
She stomps the ground with her foot.
HORSHEED (CONT’D) You have no right to make me think of you
everyday. I do not want to have men in my mind. I do not want to have to think of filth and perdition. My mind is directed towards my art and towards God. So, get out of here.
He pales and leans against the wall.
She sees his wretched state, and her victory seeming total, she becomes slightly less vehement.
HORSHEED It is possible that you didn’t realize the
gravity of your acts. I don’t think you are a pervert. I suppose that you commit these evil acts instinctively, but the confusion that you seem to go through now plays in your favour.
She stops and watches him.
HORSHEED (CONT’D) You know, you don’t need to carry that
camera around all the time to show that you are an artist. That camera is something extremely violent, and it is irrelevant whether you are filming toes, or any other part of the human body. Did you try to imagine how I feel when you point those eyes at me, making me feel that you have a webcam behind your eyes? You make me feel impure with your stare. Tell me, is it true that you get a secret delight imagining that my toes, which look so perfect - and now because of you I am forced to wear socks in summer- that my toes reflect all my secret untouched beauties?
They both look at her feet. She is wearing woollen socks with coloured stripes.
RAHMAN It is true.
HORSHEED Your evil act is not to have gazed at me
every day, with your mouth wide open... I know myself that I am beautiful. What is evil is that you extracted a secret vile pleasure out of my appearance. You are a coward. You have no right to try to reveal to a pure young girl pleasures that love only can reveal... You, who obviously cannot love!... Was I clear enough?
RAHMAN Yes. I see that I have lost...
HORSHEED You have only lost your pagan little
shameful pleasure. Now go and film toes somewhere else. Or film your own.
RAHMAN Please. Let me explain to you... Let me find
my words. I am not very well right now. I never felt anything dirty in my head or in my heart about you. When I saw you, I was simply transported by your beauty, but without thinking anything...
HORSHEED And this beauty pushed you to try to transfer to me your moral confusion.
He opens his mouth. She stops him with a gesture.
HORSHEED I really don’t see why I have to talk like
that, but did you ever consider even the total and definitive social gap between us?
RAHMAN Please, understand that there was no plan in
my head!... I was just admiring you without even thinking... Or if there was a thought, it was that your toes are worth infinitely more than my soul.
(indignant) My toes will rot in a hole when I die, but your soul will have to meet your creator. I will not permit such insanities in front of me, or you will lose the little esteem that I...
She grabs her veil without looking at him.
HORSHEED This meeting is over.
RAHMAN I didn’t realize I was so seriously under
your spell. Or, when I did, it was already too late. Please, believe me, it is not me, it’s you. No, I’m not saying that you are responsible, no. But you will do this again and again to other people, because...
(mockingly) That’s why I should have worn a total burqa, like everybody else... Which is what I shall do from this day on... I want you to get out of here by Friday, otherwise I will inform my father about all this.
She throws the veil over her head and walks out of the room, followed by a silent Spojmai.
Rahman remains dumbstruck, expressionless, arms hanging limply, staring into the void.
INT. THE JUDGE’S HOUSE – DAY Horsheed rushes in.
Her old father turns towards her, smoking, and he suddenly freezes.
FATHER What happened?
FATHER Is anything wrong?
HORSHEED N-... No, no. Why?
FATHER You look strange. I never saw you like that.
HORSHEED How do I look?
FATHER Uh... Scared.
INT. RAHMAN’S ATTIC – DAY Spojmai knocks. She enters. Rahman is spread over his couch, motionless.
SPOJMAI I certainly did not expect anything like
this when I accepted you. He closes his eyes full of tears and shakes his head. Spojmai puts her clenched fist in front of her mouth.
SPOJMAI Rahman, it is only a moral pain, right? Tell
me that nothing really happened!... You didn’t fall prey to some... to... You didn’t really expect that some day you could...?
He pushes himself up, regaining some force.
RAHMAN How can you believe such a thing?
He falls back on the couch. INT. RAHMAN’S ATTIC – LATER Feverish, he lies on his back, shaking. Spojmai and the servant are watching him.
SHUGUFA He wouldn’t eat anything. He has the evil
eye for sure.
SPOJMAY Look, we won’t throw you out in this
condition, of course... But... How could I pull you out of this?
RAHMAN (in a weak voice, to the servant)
Would you bring me some of her food? I think I could eat that. I only want some remains from what she eats. Certainly I deserve at least what you would throw to a dog.
The two women exchange a puzzled look. INT. KITCHEN – DAY
Horsheed is picking up some food from a platter, chewing slowly, lost in thoughts and balancing her naked foot.
The old servant enters carrying some dirty plates.
SERVANT Your father says it was delicious.
Sure. The servant comes to look at her plate.
SERVANT You are not really eating... (pause) That boy
is very ill.
HORSHEED Please, stop talking to me about that
madman, otherwise I will lose my temper and my father will think again that there is something wrong with me. He doesn’t even now that Spojmai lodged the lunatic inside the museum for such a long time.
SERVANT I suppose she can’t throw out someone who’s
ill. If I may... Just a little thing...
SERVANT I talked to your aunt and she knows this
remedy as well...
HORSHEED What remedy? Speak up.
SERVANT Well, it can’t be an easy burden for your
soul to know that someone is slowly being wasted away because of you. He is really possessed... So, if would allow me...
She produces a plastic bag.
SERVANT You are not finishing it, anyway.
HORSHEED My God!... I didn’t know my aunt was as
ignorant and superstitious as you are... She points to the plate.
HORSHEED (CONT’D) If you think a good Muslim should eat what
we usually throw to the dogs, please take it... But don’t you start talking about him again.
The servant empties the plate in the plastic bag.
SERVANT Never, never, I swear... Unless you do it.
She goes out with the bag. INT. RAHMAN’S ATTIC – DAY He lies on the couch, feverish, under a blanket.
Spojmai and the servant come in together with a plate on which the remains from Horsheed’s lunch have been rearranged.
SPOJMAI You want me to reheat it?
Rahman shakes his head fixing the plate. They place it on a little table close to the couch and leave.
He painfully lifts himself on an elbow and with his fingers moves some cold rice around on the plate.
He picks up a bit of meat, puts it in his mouth, closes his eyes, falls back on the pillow and starts chewing slowly.
INT. RAHMAN’S ATTIC – SOME TIME LATER
Old Shugufa knocks and comes in carrying a cardboard box. She smiles.
SERVANT Today she ordered a pizza from that
restaurant in the centre. She opens the box, pulls out an aluminum plate with the pizza.
RAHMAN (protesting weakly)
But it is intact.
SERVANT No, no. You see? She chewed the crust here
on the borders. She wasn’t hungry.
She puts it on his lap, arranges his pillows and he starts eating.
INT. HORSHEED’S ROOM – DAY
Horsheed sits cross-legged reading distractedly. A plate of food is close to her on the carpet.
The servant comes in.
SERVANT I should go to the museum now.
HORSHEED (pretending to read)
SERVANT I should take the food.
Horsheed shrugs without looking. HORSHEED
Take it. The servant squats on her heels and inspects the plate.
SERVANT But you haven’t even touched it.
HORSHEED I’m not hungry.
SERVANT Take at least a little bite.
HORSHEED (hissing, irritated)
You take a little bite. It wouldn’t matter, anyway.
(gently) It would. Otherwise it doesn’t function. (pause) Please...
Horsheed sighs. She throws the book away, grabs a chicken drumstick, takes a bite and slams it back on the plate.
HORSHEED Here. Take it to the dog.
Trying to remain expressionless, the servant takes the plate and carries it away.
INT. KHORSHEED’S ROOM – SOME TIME LATER
She sits in front of a plate of food, a book in her lap. Tries to read.
She turns a couple of pages, closes the book, looks at the food. She starts taking little bites from everything.
INT. RAHMAN’S ATTIC – DAY The servant comes in with her bag. She opens it. She is beaming.
She arranges the food. She carefully places a little bottle close to the plate.
SERVANT Use this carefully. This is powerful stuff.
He looks at her, intrigued. She whispers.
SERVANT Water from her bath.
Slowly, Rahman pulls himself from the cot and manages to sit. He pulls a slug from the bottle, swallows and closes his eyes for a second. He seems in a much better shape.
RAHMAN Sister, I want to thank you very much.
Shugufa smiles, mouth open, and nods.
RAHMAN Listen, I want to explain something to you.
You know that I have what people might call the evil eye. This is not always given voluntarily, and comes not always from evil persons. Your mistress is not evil, but she put a spell on me. There are beautiful creatures who can harm us if we don’t protect ourselves. This is how God made things.
RAHMAN Just think: the sun is good and beautiful,
but it burns and kills if we don’t protect ourselves. Water is marvellous, but it rots what it covers... Now, in such things we have to follow the old traditions, the customs of the simple people from the countryside. The food helped me, but my soul is still ill and heavy. I’m not cured yet. What I would need is little things that have been in contact with her, things that she uses and throws away.
RAHMAN Like... Like the hairs that remain on her
comb. Or... bits of clipped nails, especially if they are from the toes... Or used socks... Remember those with coloured stripes... See if she doesn’t wear them anymore...
The servant stares at him, expressionless. She doesn’t seem astonished, but doesn’t say anything.
RAHMAN Did you understand me? You know that I am
right and that only this functions when someone gets the evil eye.
SERVANT Yes, I know, but then the spell is rejected
back on the person who originated it.
No, no, that’s only when it was thrown willingly. In this case, there was no willing spell... You know what? Forget what I said about the evil eye... It wasn’t that, it was like what I said about the sun... My soul got sunstroke. I exposed myself too much to the sun.
The servant watches him, still thinking.
SERVANT Do you swear that there is no evil...
Shugufa, the servant, comes in, making a funny face.
Rahman smiles to her.
She comes closer to him. She has her hands behind her back. She smiles too.
She hands him a little parcel.
SHUGUFA First time I steal something in our house.
He opens the package... It is...
A pair of crumpled black fishnet stockings!... He looks up at her, beaming.
INT. HORSHEED’S ROOM –DAY Horsheed is lying on a cot, pale and feverish. A female doctor is taking her pulse. The father stands behind, worried.
DOCTOR You should try to make her eat something.
FATHER Is it serious? What does she have?
DOCTOR She’s exhausted. Burned out. I think it’s a
FATHER Depression?!... What reasons would she have
for being depressed? The doctor just stares at him with blank eyes.
INT. RAHMAN’S ATTIC – DAY
Shivering, he puts on her stockings. He then sits on the couch caressing his legs.
The fishnet stockings are torn in places, and his toes come out through the net.
He leans over and picks up the bottle filled with bath water. He takes a slug, shivers, thrusts his head back and drinks it all, staring at the ceiling.
Footsteps are heard. He quickly sits and brings his legs under him.
Shugufa comes in empty handed and with an angry look.
SERVANT You should give me back everything I brought
you from her. I shouldn’t have done that.
SERVANT Please, I am just a simple ignorant woman,
but don’t let me threaten you with something else. It’s very good that you recovered. Now please give everything back. I should denounce you for this.
He looks at her without moving.
RAHMAN Will you please wait outside?
SERVANT You don’t need to get up. I’ll gather them
myself. She picks up a comb, checks it, puts it in her bag, looks around.
RAHMAN Please, please, I’ll do it. Wait outside.
She looks down at him. She sees the stockings. She walks quickly out and SLAMS the door.
INT. JUDGE’S HOUSE – DAY Horsheed sits, still shivering, but looking slightly improved. Her father is holding her hand.
FATHER Horsheed, there isn’t something happening in
your life or soul, is it?
She gives him a quick look, checking his face, and shakes her head.
Her father taps her hand.
FATHER Look here. You know how much I trust you.
Promise to me just one thing: that you will never let any man touch you.
FATHER (CONT’D) The only man who will ever touch you will be
the one whom you will marry. Will you promise me that?
FATHER Do you swear it?
HORSHEED I swear it on God.
FATHER I believe you. You know that I do.
EXT. ENTRANCE OF THE MUSEUM – DAY
Weakened and stern, Horsheed is walking towards the entrance, through the heat of the day.
Rahman is waiting at the foot of the stairs.
She sees him. Her eyes narrow and she has a sudden expression of disgust mixed with a beginning of fear.
He is nervously wriggling his hands, as if in a prayer.
Instead of walking away, she walks toward him, decidedly, with a somber face.
He has a pitiful look and seems incapable of saying anything.
She stops, stares at him.
Her lips tremble.
Her eyes lose their hard expression.
She turns her back and walks away from the museum.
He looks on silently as she walks away.
INT. HORSHEED’S ROOM – DAY
Horsheed sits staring somberly at a point in space.
Spojmai comes in.
She sits down in front of her niece. She takes her hands in her own.
SPOJMAI He talked to me. He doesn’t want you to
suffer. Tell him again to go and he will leave forever. I will pass him the message.
HORSHEED That’s very noble from him.
SPOJMAI Dear, you know as well as I do that there
would be no future to such a relation. Horsheed starts silently crying.
HORSHEED What? Do you think I’m love with him? If I
loved him, I would know it immediately. It would be a feeling clear and sharp as a blade. No, I don’t love him, but his eyes hurt me. Why did he crush me with such a humble love? It’s not fair.
INT. RAHMAN’S ATTIC – DAY Horsheed comes in without knocking and walks straight to him.
HORSHEED Dog! You are an animal, with animal
passions. I am ashamed of this beauty of mine, which transformed you into a beast. See? You are not even listening, you are like a trembling dog, you understand the master’s fury, but not his reason for it...
RAHMAN Shugufa told you everything.
HORSHEED Stupid dog!... I knew from the beginning what
she was up to. I chose to let her do it. I pitied you. I was ashamed of my beauty, if it is doing this to someone. If my front teeth were missing, would you still love me? I would have the same heart, I know, but what if I were disfigured...?
RAHMAN You would be like that Fairy who becomes
ugly in order to spare her lover’s sanity.
HORSHEED You think you have an answer to everything,
huh? Master of the word...
RAHMAN Words are my beauty.
HORSHEED Beauty? Look at yourself. You don’t even
dare move in front of me. And I accept your detestable adoration, because it’s the adoration of a dog. Before you came, I was pure. I never thought of skin and toes. For staring at a patch of skin and at ten toes you lost your mind and made me lose my purity.
He protests feebly.
RAHMAN You keep going on about purity.
HORSHEED Oh, yeah? In what state of mind do you think
I was when taking a bath and knowing that you would drink the water? That you had lost all natural disgust and self respect? Listen: the man who will be my husband will have to have seen my soul; he will not be one to abandon himself to such a violent vision of my shape. You are just a dog!
Pause. Both are breathing heavily.
HORSHEED But you are my dog.
He is so struck that he seems to faint. He suddenly falls on his fours and advances towards her feet with his head lowered.
HORSHEED Don’t you dare touch me!...
He looks up at her.
RAHMAN “A man who would have seen your soul!...” And
you think I haven’t seen it?
HORSHEED Get up. I know you did.
He gets up slowly and keeps at a distance.
HORSHEED (CONT’D) And I have seen yours. I know how you are
inside. You are a faithful and devoted dog. He has an ecstatic expression.
RAHMAN Oh, thank you, thank you...
He swallows hard.
RAHMAN (CONT’D) I will adore you from afar. Do not worry,
for me you are perfect as a virgin. If you were losing this quality, you would become someone else. (pause) This future husband of yours, what a responsibility for him, the day when his rights will become your duties...
He fixes her with his stare.
RAHMAN (CONT’D) But I feel myself extremely guilty. Listen:
I’m gambling now with the happiness of my life, but I have to tell you, in order to deserve being your dog. No, I can’t say it if I keep looking at you.
He shows her his profile, looking away.
RAHMAN (CONT’D) I hope my sincerity will protect me from
your wrath. I felt like dying when you ordered me to leave the city... I didn’t want to die without seeing you again. So... apart from the food, I also obtained some of the objects you are using... and I transmitted back into them a part of the magic that irradiated inside me... So... I want you to know that your presence here that you attribute to your free will... is the result of your own magic... because I am your mirror...
Her face is suddenly deformed with rage. She shouts.
HORSHEED You did what? You invoked the demon? Oooh,
you are really worse than I thought. You, my mirror? I hate my image in this mirror!...
He falls again on his knees, silent. He doesn’t dare look up.
HORSHEED (CONT’D) A filthy animal with a filthy mind. I should
kick you in the snout. On his fours again, his face is close to her toes.
RAHMAN Yes, I’ve eaten all the bits of nails, and
other things. I wanted to throw back to you some of the spell you put on me.
HORSHEED But that’s black magic!... You invoked the
devil?!... You... You... Coward!... She pierces him with an angry look, lips trembling.
HORSHEED You have almost sold your soul to the devil
because of me. (on a sweeter tone) So you were really suffering, wretched animal. Well, you deserved that suffering.
HORSHEED (CONT’D) (lowering her voice)
You are my dog. Will you be my dog? He gasps for breath.
Be my dog.
He is slowly starting to cry. His rash breath touches her naked foot, and tears fall on her toes.
HORSHEED I might be cruel, especially when I see
weakness, but I am loyal. I can’t reject someone who risked his soul for me. You were sick; I made you healthy again. I will not let you lose your soul. Poor soul, you abandoned yourself like others give themselves to God. Don’t cry, I’ll keep you. I’ll keep you on an invisible leash... mad, noble animal.
A close-up of his face, crying now calmly, his face almost touching her toes, but not daring touch for good.
HORSHEED You do well not to touch me. I swear to God
that you will never do. I am a virgin and I will remain one. The rest... we’ll see.
INT. MUSEUM’S WORKSHOP – DAY
Horsheed rushes in with a happy look, whistling, wearing sunglasses and jeans under the burqa.
Spojmai is putting together the pieces of a statue, which form the head of a Greek-Indian female goddess.
Rahman is sorting out bits of broken stone. They look at each other with huge silent smiles.
HORSHEED Ah, finally a Friday without the perspective
of being bored to death.
SPOJMAI (pointing to the statue)
Should we start with this one?
HORSHEED Wait. I have to feed my dog first.
She walks to him, takes something out of her bag and dangles it in front of his face.
He opens his mouth and thrusts his head forward to get it, but she pulls her hand back and teases him.
They repeat the game a couple of times.
Suddenly, she throws the bit of food in the air and he adroitly claps it with his mouth, slamming his teeth and making a dry sound of closure and swallowing, just like a dog.
HORSHEED I always hesitated having one of these
unclean pets; now I would miss him, were I to lose him.
Spojmai puts her pieces of stone back on the table.
SPOJMAI My children... I know, I feel, that you will
not deceive me... but you should never forget that the danger in this relationship comes less from the outside, than from yourselves.
HORSHEED Don’t worry. We’ll stay pure. Otherwise, it
would be not only deceiving you, or my father, but it would also mean deceiving God. We are just soul mates.
RAHMAN We are real, profound believers... because we
see the beauty of all this...
HORSHEED Please, no Rumi.
SPOJMAI Still... Horsheed... How many days are there
since you wanted to chase him from the city? And now you started telling your father that you would like to spend the nights at the museum again, because walking back home at night would be dangerous...
HORSHEED Well, it would be, wouldn’t it?... And taxis...
Pfff... Taking a seat in a stranger’s car at night!... And driving with my father could be even more dangerous.
Rahman is just looking at them, silent, with an unchanged smile.
HORSHEED Look at him. He masters the word, but when
he sees me he is like a drunk!... He delights in everything I say or do. This dog, if I beat him, it would make him happy, because I would touch him...
SPOJMAI Sometimes you scare me, both of you.
(to Rahman) Do you consent to being called a dog, a thing, a fetishist and a drunkard? Are you happy with these insults?
He looks at her as if hearing these words for the first time.
RAHMAN Dear Spojmai, if you had listened to the
intonation of her voice, you would have understood... When she said “You are my dog”... I don’t think any other man will ever hear anything like this from her mouth...
SPOJMAI Children, I see you are playing with sin,
which might be in the nature of youth, but please don’t play with your reason.
RAHMAN There will be no sin. We will never touch.
Spojmai has spread a carpet in the middle of the room and covered it with food.
HORSHEED Look at this dog’s face!... He has such an
art of receiving that I find it useless to give.
SPOJMAI Dear, dear, be careful. Both of you. Shugufa
is faithful, but you shouldn’t scandalize her too much. Ok, let’s chat for a while. Let the dog walk around us for a while, instead of forcing him to stare at you with these white eyes.
HORSHEED Yeah, one can only read stupefaction on such
a face. Believe me, I tease him for his own good.
Horsheed picks up a slice of watermelon, passes the purple flesh of the slice along her lips, like a flute, and hands it over to Rahman
Rahman starts munching it like a rabbit, swallowing the crimson juice, which is slowly dripping down his chin and chest.
Horsheed takes another slice, repeats the game, but this time she licks the flesh of the fruit.
Rahman takes it, rolling his eyes like he was fainting and starts eating it ecstatically.
They both engage in biting slices of fruit and passing them to each other.
HORSHEED See? Dogs have no feelings of disgust.
She picks up a radish, bites half of it, examines the other half, holding it by the tail. She bites the remaining half and hands him just the green stem.
HORSHEED I touched it, and that should be enough for
you. He eats the green stem.
She chews, thoughtfully. She gathers some breadcrumbs and rolls them into a dirty-looking grey little ball.
HORSHEED Just think of it: this little ball made of
breadcrumbs is worth nothing. Nobody would want it, not even a beggar, but my dog would implore me to give it to him. Is there anything viler than this, or more insignificant? I didn’t even put it to my lips, but I touched it. Nobody on the whole planet would want it, but since I made it, for him it is precious.
Spojmai looks silently at her and nods slowly.
HORSHEED If you can explain this mystery to me, I
will give you the little ball.
RAHMAN You put some of your soul into it. And if it
would come out of your mouth, it would be the sweetest of kisses.
HORSHEED No, that would be too ecstatic. I’m not sure
you would survive.
She rubs it and rolls it on the skin of her forearm. She wipes drops of sweat with it.
RAHMAN That’s what the alchemists were doing.
Transmuting vile matter into eternal youth.
She bites the top of a hardboiled egg, which proves to be not so hard, because a yellow liquid pearl remains hanging on her lower lip.
She hands the egg to Rahman.
He rubs it against his lower lip, smearing it with the yellow moisture of the yolk.
SPOJMAI Be careful, children. You promised. Don’t
get intoxicated with sensuality.
HORSHEED Believe me, I could sleep alongside this dog
without the slightest worry.
RAHMAN And I would have no personal merit in this.
Your trust is the greatest protection against any false step.
SPOJMAI Anyway, my boy, you are more serious when
you contemplate her than when you pray.
HORSHEED Oh, you’ve seen him praying!...
LATER The three of them are praying silently, bowing on the carpet. They get up with happy faces.
HORSHEED Since he looked at me in the bazaar with
those hungry eyes, I am a better person, and even... I... I think I pray better.
She leans forward and whispers into Spojmai’s ear.
HORSHEED What will become of me when he leaves?
Spojmai is stony faced.
HORSHEED Go away! I will make you mad!...
Rahman shrugs. INT. THE MUSEUM’S WORKSHOP - DAY Horsheed is patching together the head of a statue. Rahman is watching her doing it, transfixed.
RAHMAN Can I film you doing it?
She shakes her head, slightly smiling. HORSHEED
Not my face.
RAHMAN Of course not.
He unpacks his camera. He starts filming her hands.
PAUSE She smiles.
HORSHEED Are you already tired of my toes?
RAHMAN Your toes were only a promise of what was to
HORSHEED Nothing will come.
HORSHEED (CONT’D) Everything is there already.
Rahman is beaming while filming. The camera pans slowly from down up, from her feet to her hands.
It stays there, on the fingers carefully pushing bits of mortar into a crack on the face of the statue.
HORSHEED I can make you suffer...
She thinks it over.
HORSHEED No, I can make myself suffer.
INT. THE ATTIC – EVENING Horsheed comes in trembling, with a triumphant air.
HORSHEED My father said there would be no problem if
I wanted to sleep with my aunt. He is unable to say anything, looking at her as if in fear.
HORSHEED (CONT’D) Spojmai is panicking. I told her we would
place some knives between ourselves. They spread blankets on the floor.
HORSHEED (CONT’D) You will have half of my nights, if your
love reaches the devotion necessary to be able to sleep with a virgin.
They place food all around them and sit in the middle.
HORSHEED (CONT’D) Both she and Shugufa love me so much... if I
came to them with a dead baby, they would just take a shovel and follow me without asking.
She points to the victuals.
HORSHEED I’m thirsty. Hungry. Feed me.
RAHMAN What would you like to eat?
HORSHEED Whatever you would cut with your teeth and
would give me from your lips... She lies on her back, opens her mouth.
He presses the flesh of a couple of red oranges in a glass, fills his mouth with the juice.
He comes over her and, without touching her, lets the juice drip into her mouth...
Some of the juice spills from the corners of her mouth and, blood-like, is flowing down her neck in thin rivulets...
She throws back her head and makes gargling sounds. She sits up and wipes her mouth.
HORSHEED Can you save me from my instinct?
RAHMAN We will have to fight every day.
HORSHEED We? What are you here for? You have to
protect me. She gets up.
HORSHEED You worry me... You seem to control me too
They lie face to face on different blankets. Their heads are close.
HORSHEED There surely couldn’t be anything wrong in
feeling someone’s breath.
RAHMAN Of course there isn’t. Otherwise God
wouldn’t have made us aspire the air into our lungs. Every second we breathe atoms from someone else’s breath. The atoms of the air are so delicate, that maybe at this very moment we inhale something that was breathed in by Alexander the Great.
No, your breath is so pure, that it seems to be a unique matter, something that only you can produce.
HORSHEED Do angels kiss?
RAHMAN All the time. And because they are not made
of earthly matter, but of something ethereal, they fusion when they do that. They have a fluid envelope. They pass into each other.
HORSHEED I would love to come into you.
RAHMAN The rent is very high.
They blow warm and cold into each other’s face. They make funny faces.
HORSHEED And what would the angels say if they saw us
RAHMAN They wouldn’t be too happy. I am sure they
HORSHEED You confuse me. You take my soul so quickly
from lust to sainthood!... How then can I love you without offending the angels?
RAHMAN Stay a virgin. You will thus be loved both
by them and by me.
HORSHEED Why then did you talk about that forbidden
fruit? Do you want me to offer it to you?
RAHMAN When I breathe you, I don’t want anything
else. They blow again into each other’s face.
HORSHEED Funny. You desire me so much that you are
RAHMAN I do not think that everyone could feel what
we feel now. Otherwise this world would be ruled by kissing.
HORSHEED What is your power? Where does it come from?
Could you make me be as strong as you are?
RAHMAN But you are strong!... You abstain yourself
from everything impure as much as I do.
HORSHEED If you only knew what is in my soul!... How I
am overwhelmed by desire!... RAHMAN
So am I.
Are you? They approach their heads.
HORSHEED It is like drunkenness.
RAHMAN What do you know about drunkenness?
HORSHEED I once emptied a full glass of vodka.
They lie very close, face-to-face, and, with their mouths open, they breathe each other’s breath.
RAHMAN Open your mouth.
She opens it and roars like a panther.
RAHMAN Stay like that.
She remains with her mouth open, making noises as if gagged. He examines the interior of her mouth.
RAHMAN Yes, everything is there.
Staying with her mouth open, she tries to pronounce correctly.
HORSHEED What do you mean, “everything”?
RAHMAN All your teeth and all the pinkish rest.
She shuts her mouth and pulls herself up on one elbow.
HORSHEED Now show me yours.
He shakes his head.
RAHMAN I have some missing molars. I wasn’t raised
on a scientific diet, like in your rich family.
HORSHEED Good. I couldn’t stand you if you were
perfect. I’m sure you would be vain. You would look at other women.
She falls silent.
HORSHEED Maybe you did already. I hate your past.
RAHMAN You can’t hate nothingness. You can’t hate a
void. There’s nothing there, don’t worry.
HORSHEED Have you ever been attracted to another
girl? I hate her already. Are you still... pure? Are you like I am?
RAHMAN The purity of a man is different from that
of a girl. I didn’t leave anything behind. There’s nothing there worth remembering. My heart is a page with only your name stamped on it...
HORSHEED Yuck!... That should be so boring, reading
such a book…
RAHMAN Behind me, in my past, there’s only work and
yearning for God.
HORSHEED But are you like I am?
RAHMAN I could answer yes, but then you would come
with other questions and get into places in which someone like you has nothing to do.
I want in.
RAHMAN Listen, this is the first time that I say no
to one of your demands. I forgot everything from my past when I first saw you. I refuse to remember. ...
HORSHEED Did you ever look at other women? The way
you look at me?
RAHMAN I don’t know... It might have happened, in
the world outside. But I never...
HORSHEED I hate you!... Why did you need to look at
other women, when all you hoped for was that someone like me would exist? I can’t accept that. I’m leaving.
He stares at her, as if dumbstruck. She gets up, walks toward the door, opens it. She stops, her back rigid.
HORSHEED If you let me pass this threshold, you lose
me. He gets up, walks to her and slams the door shut. She turns and faces him.
HORSHEED That’s the way, bravo. But I still have to
punish you. You need to suffer a little bit. Be fair and choose yourself your punishment. Don’t force me to choose for you.
RAHMAN I don’t want to be punished when all I did
was being honest with you. She stomps the earth, impatient.
HORSHEED You can’t be more honest than I am. Give me
the means to torture you, Rahman. Come ooon, I’ve done so much to please you, can’t you give me a little pleasure in return?
RAHMAN Do you really want to see me suffer?
HORSHEED If it’s a suffering invented by yourself, it
will be sweet for me. He closes his eyes, thinks hard, with a painful expression.
RAHMAN Take out your handkerchief, kiss it, rub
yourself with it, put it inside your garment, rub yourself with it down, down, in the secret of your sweaty skin... and then, instead of giving it to me, throw it away.
Her eyes spark with a malicious expression. She takes out her handkerchief, licks it, smells it, and sticks it slowly inside her bosom.
Her hand dips deeper inside her garment. She is now apparently rubbing her belly. She closes her eyes.
HORSHEED Is this still spiritual?
HORSHEED This is how you should talk to me, my
Her hand comes out with the handkerchief. She examines it with an indifferent expression and then she throws it away.
He starts crying silently. She falls on her knees.
RAHMAN What are you doing?
HORSHEED I didn’t think it was possible to love you
more than I already do. But when I see you crying like that, I see the magic being that you are. You... beautiful creature. I tried to torture you... I don’t know why... and you conquered me again with your weakness... I know now that you are as much of a coward as I am... How could I not love you? Death, only death could be stronger than you.
She lifts her both hands behind her head, letting her hair fall down.
HORSHEED Before you came, I didn’t know what a boring
life I was living. Oh, how you made me lose myself that day, when you ate the apple that I had thrown away...
RAHMAN Get up, dear soul...
HORSHEED If I get up, I won’t be humble anymore... You
know, when I called you a dog, I was biting you in my head... But also... You are a dog, because I am not allowed to touch you... Were you happy, when you were my dog?
RAHMAN Yes, I was... but who am I today for you?
She reflects in silence.
HORSHEED The man to whom I give myself every day.
RAHMAN Beautiful... And who else?
HORSHEED The man who will leave me here and go away
when his film is over. He groans, not knowing what to say.
HORSHEED When you leave me, I will be this monstrous
thing: a widow and a virgin at the same time.
He remains silent.
RAHMAN Your father would never agree for us to get
married. You said so yourself. She sends him an unpleasant stare.
HORSHEED I know now what you are hiding. Do you
masturbate a lot?
RAHMAN A lot!... Why a lot? Of course I don’t... But
why do you think it would be a lot?
HORSHEED Well, a little or a lot...
RAHMAN Of course I don’t.
RAHMAN Of course I do. Why do you ask that?
HORSHEED I think all men masturbate.
RAHMAN Well... don’t you?
HORSHEED I do. A lot. But only in little things.
She gets up from her knees.
HORSHEED I can make you suffer...
RAHMAN You said so.
Better still, I can bring suffering upon myself, and then you would suffer as well.
LATER – NIGHT They have turned out the lights.
Moonlight is coming in through the curtains, drawing the silhouettes of the Buddhas.
They lie face to face, breathing heavily, without touching. Their eyes are wide open. He opens his lips...
HORSHEED Shhhh... I don’t need your words.
INT. THE ATTIC – MORNING They lie in same position. He is asleep, breathing heavily.
She lies wide-awake, watching him intently. He opens his eyes and smiles to her.
HORSHEED You are snoring, my lord and master.
She gets up and goes to the mirror on the wall.
She sees herself and shivers. Swollen lips, black-rimmed eyes, a Bacchante’s face.
HORSHEED It is horrible that happiness can have such
They hear footsteps and start gathering the stuff from the floor quickly.
A light knock on the door.
SPOJMAI’S VOICE Children, get up.
Horsheed runs to the door, opens it. Spojmai enters and throws a quick look around. She sees Horsheed’s face and gapes in amazement.
HORSHEED Don’t worry. I am more proud of this night
than I would be of a crown.
SPOJMAI Do something to your face. Your father is
bringing some foreigners to visit the museum.
She grabs Horsheed by the hand and drags her out of the attic.
SPOJMAI (CONT’D) Rahman, lock yourself inside and don’t move.
INT. BATHROOM – DAY Horsheed washes herself and arranges her hair.
Spojmai, her back to a wall, is watching her with a transfixed expression.
HORSHEED It’s not sensuality, do you understand? I
would be happy to be his sister. I could then kiss him and hug him. I showed him my armpits... and he almost fainted.
SPOJMAI Yes, dear, but don’t forget that he is a
HORSHEED No, he is my dog. Is he talented? Is he a
genius? I don’t even care.
SPOJMAI I think I will become mad before you both.
You don’t even distinguish anymore whether you are happy, or whether you suffer. Are you so sure that you can contain yourself?
HORSHEED You heard him. Yes, I am sure of myself. And
of him too. When I see his moist eyes, and tears dripping down his face, my heart sinks. I wouldn’t mind him seeing my naked flesh... but pity would break me down.
SPOJMAI Dear, dear, I’m afraid for your future.
Where does all this lead?
HORSHEED Last night, I prayed God to reverse all
this, to take me back before I met him. He didn’t do it. My heart remained as warm as before. As long as I can still pray, I am pure.
SPOJMAI And how long do you think you can carry on
HORSHEED I don’t know... Years?
She sees in the mirror Spojmai’s stony face.
SPOJMAI Where will you both be in six months?
HORSHEED We won’t touch!...
She throws the cotton she was using in the sink and screams.
HORSHEED (CONT’D) I swore it!... I want to honour my father...
and also the burden his trust puts on me.
SPOJMAI I, myself, would not be able to live in this
state in which you seem to thrive. Forgive me, but I can’t convince myself that you both can be happy like that.
HORSHEED Suffering, happiness, aren’t they the same
thing, according to the character of each person? Paradise would be for me to live forever here, with you both.
She checks her face in the mirror with what seems to be the beginning of satisfaction.
HORSHEED (CONT’D) Without me, he would have loved you.
SPOJMAI Don’t be silly.
They smile to each other in the cracked mirror.
SPOJMAI (CONT’D) When you were a little girl, I used to take you on my knees and I was asking you: would
you like me to be your second mother, the one which is never harsh to you, the one who only cajoles you and caresses you?... and you were answering yes, yes... Your father was so hopelessly clumsy with you... I became your mother, in a way... No? Yes?
Horsheed turns to her and runs into her arms.
EXT. THE SQUARE IN FRONT OF THE MUSEUM - DAY
Cars are stopping in front of the museum.
Drivers jump out and open car doors.
Horsheed’s father and a number of foreigners go up the stairs of the museum, chatting.
Spojmai and Horsheed wait on top of the stairs. Horsheed shakes the hand of each of the foreigners. The father is chatting happily. Bibi Malalai, limping, closes the cortege of visitors. THE ATTIC’S WINDOW, SEEN FROM THE OUTSIDE Rahman’s is watching intently through the curtains. His face becomes somber.
BIBI MAMALAI’S VOICE You get wireless Internet in my guesthouse.
INT. THE ATTIC Rahman shuts the curtains and starts pacing about the room.
EXT. THE SQUARE IN FRONT OF THE MUSEUM - LATER
The foreigners are leaving, shaking hands again with Spojmai, who remains on the stairs.
Horsheed follows her father into one of the cars.
Before getting in, she turns and waves her hand in Spojmai’s direction, but in doing so she also waves towards the upper windows of the museum.
THE ATTIC’S WINDOW, SEEN FROM THE OUTSIDE
Rahman is watching with his jaws clenched, hidden by the curtain.
INT. THE ATTIC – LATER
He is still walking around the attic, hugging himself as if he were cold, arms clasped.
Muffled footsteps and a light knock on the door.
Rahman opens and she glides in gaily, wearing a light summer dress.
She stops when she sees his expression.
What is it?
He stares at her silently.
RAHMAN You shook their hands!...
She hesitates for a second, with an incredulous expression.
She suddenly throws back her head and starts roaring with laughter.
She stops when she realizes that the laughter is becoming artificial. She looks at him.
HORSHEED Welcome back to reality.
Suddenly, she is angry.
HORSHEED (CONT’D) If you would trust me, you would have seen
this rare thing. A woman whom everybody examines and admires and whose only thought is: if he saw me now, would he feel how I close myself to these people, how I keep myself for him, for only his gaze counts for me?
He is searching for words, mumbling.
RAHMAN I adore you... You are...
(angry) Idiot. You don’t really know how I am. I am horribly jealous. So jealous, that I could not live for a single more second if I suspected you. So how dare you doubt me?
She checks his tortured expression.
HORSHEED Now, why do you suffer like that?
RAHMAN Your beauty oppresses me.
HORSHEED Why are you trembling?
RAHMAN If you stop loving me, I will lose my
mind... or worse.
HORSHEED If you can’t carry on with this drunkenness,
maybe we should find a form of severance. He groans and moans.
HORSHEED What’s on your mind? Don’t wring your hands
like that, little man, speak up.
RAHMAN I... don’t know... You’re right, it must be
a form of doubt...
(angry) Doubt!... You doubt me?!... You suffer from cowardice, that’s all... Come, tell me your thoughts... What’s that doubt?
RAHMAN I realised that if you were not an angel, I
would become mad. I understood how one could kill out of love. And I am afraid to see to what degree I became your slave.
HORSHEED Some day I’ll be your slave to the same
degree, but I will not let myself be frightened. I will lower my head and accept my yoke. You know, if I were a whore, or an evil woman, you would be lost. In my hands. I could eat your soul.
He throws himself on the floor in front of her, face down, sobbing, lost.
HORSHEED Turn face up.
He rolls silently on his back, arms spread, chest heaving. She knocks away her shoes.
HORSHEED Since I have stockings, it means that
technically I won’t be touching you. She starts walking on him.
She puts a foot on his face... stands on one leg...
She then steps backwards to his chest, examining his expression. She walks on his face again, then back.
She bends over and looks... there’s blood around his mouth and on her socks.
HORSHEED Did you bite me?
RAHMAN It’s my lip...
She steps off him, bends over again and with her finger takes a red drop from her sock and puts it in her mouth.
RAHMAN You love me!...
HORSHEED You lick my feet, doggie... I lick your soul.
She also lies on her back on the floor, her knees up. They are both lying, motionless. She is breathing painfully. His breath is also harsh.
Slowly, she pulls her dress up to her chest and spreads her legs, slightly, while her chest is heaving heavily.
When he realizes what she is doing, he closes his eyes and keeps them tightly shut.
HORSHEED Look. That’s also me.
He shakes his head.
HORSHEED Well, get your camera, if that helps you to
keep sane. He doesn’t move for a couple of seconds.
He then leans to his right and searches blindly along the wall. His hand finds the bag.
He pulls out the camera and starts fumbling with the buttons without looking in her direction.
Look at me.
He doesn’t lift his face.
RAHMAN You scare me.
HORSHEED You think you are weak, but it is me who’s
trembling... He directs the camera towards her.
She remains lying, her legs spread widely.
RAHMAN (through the eye of the camera)
The angel who conceived your body poured into it more light than was necessary.
Horsheed jumps up from the floor and fixes her dress with a bored expression.
HORSHEED That comment wasn’t necessary, but thank you
nevertheless. She walks over to the mirror and arranges her hair.
HORSHEED Once I poured shampoo in a bottle of water
and I asked Shugufa to wait until she would see you drink it. She said you simply drank it, reverently, like it was water brought over from Makah.
LATER They lie on their couches.
HORSHEED (heavy breathing)
I have this mad desire to offer myself to you... to be your thing... like a bitch... like an animal... Giving myself to you, the only irreversible thing... Those moments... when I would be just anybody, panting and moaning like any peasant girl... poor, humiliated, your possession for ever... There’s such ecstasy in being able to give what you have most precious. Like someone who’s insane... or like God...
They turn their backs to each other and start hugging and kissing their respective pillows.
She stops and looks at him.
HORSHEED What kind of a man are you? Why did you kiss
the pillow? Why didn’t you put your lips on mine?
RAHMAN Because anybody else would have done it,
because they would have been driven by instinct.
HORSHEED Oh, you must be an evil man, to be able to
control yourself so much. So you push me to consent to all this spiritually, but you also want me to conceive the consequences of the big caress. You don’t want to take, but to receive, right? This exigency of yours is oppressive. You control yourself too much!... My intuition tells me that you should be less reserved, less lucid, less systematic.
RAHMAN I love you so much as a virgin, that I’m not
sure I want you to become a woman. You would then be a different person.
LATER They lie together in the dark.
HORSHEED Rahman, you did something inside me... It’s
like there was a swamp there, deep inside, in the dark, and you disturbed it and now unknown creatures came out of the slime and haunt me.
INT. THE ATTIC – MORNING They get up stretching and yawning.
He searches for the camera, opens it, pulls out the tape from the previous evening and hands it to her.
HORSHEED What? Oh, no, I don’t want it. I trust you,
Still lying down, she opens her handbag, finds her lipstick and starts dreamily drawing toes on the cassette.
INT. FATHER’S ROOM – DAY
FATHER Do you guess why I called you?
HORSHEED (smiling sweetly)
You want to exhibit me to some more foreigners? It rather disturbs me in my work, you know...
FATHER I would like to exhibit you to your
potential husband... I mean, I wouldn’t really force you, but... Your uncle comes from Australia with your cousin... My only nephew... I would like you to like him.
HORSHEED (breathing heavily)
You would like me to like him?
FATHER You know I would not force you.
FATHER (CONT’D) There is no harm in meeting your own family,
is there? She shakes her head, pale.
FATHER (CONT’D) Good. I almost said no to him in the
beginning. He dared ask whether you were a virgin. I suppose this is what Australia does to people.
She gets up to leave.
HORSHEED Please, don’t bring them to the museum.
INT. RAHMAN’S ATTIC – DAY Rahman is dumbstruck.
RAHMAN Your father wants you to marry his brother’s
son? She keeps silent, fixing him, trembling.
HORSHEED Well, after all we are a good traditional
family... I suppose...
RAHMAN Use Western medical arguments. Tell him your
children will be born blind.
HORSHEED He says we are of a solid stock. It won’t
happen. (dreamily) This might actually be true, you know... (silence) What should I do?
RAHMAN You can’t act on your father. His decision
is taken; it might even soon become public. You have to act on the cousin. From the beginning of your first encounter.
He starts pacing about the room, thinking, fists clenched.
RAHMAN I need to see the man. I’ll be at the
airport to watch them when they arrive. Your father will not spot me. I’ll make a plan after I see him.
LATER They lie in the dark, back-to-back, motionless.
Simultaneously, they both start howling and crying, wetting their pillows.
Their shoulders shake uncontrollably. They both turn and see each other face to face.
They rapidly roll over again, back to back, and start crying anew.
EXT. AIRPORT – DAY
The small, rundown, building of the airport.
A plane is landing.
The façade of the airport is covered with an enormous picture of commander Massood.
NATO trucks, dogs, Afghans dragging around huge bags and cases. INT. AIRPORT – DAY
The father is pacing back and forth in the waiting hall, smoking and answering people’s greetings.
In the crowd of waiting onlookers, Rahman, wearing dark sunglasses, hidden behind some grinning Sikhs.
Travelers start streaming out of the international zone; waiting relatives or friends jump to hug them, greet them, grab their luggage.
The judge’s brother and his son are dressed like Westerners.
The son is slightly older than Rahman, heavily built, a powerful figure.
The two old brothers hug and kiss, clapping each other’s back.
Rahman is watching intently, his lips pressed tightly together into a thin line.
INT. THE ATTIC - DAY
RAHMAN You will have to repel him, contradict him,
and make him feel wrong on everything, be it only the weather report.
She nods silently.
RAHMAN (CONT’D) And talk a lot about religion, faith and
devotion to God... This, normally, should be enough to put most men off.
She nods, smiling sadly.
RAHMAN (CONT’D) Be calm, cold and polite. This kills off
immediately any love assault. He might complain to your father, and your father will reproach you this. Then you come into action. You will complain to your father
RAHMAN (CONT’D) about any possible scene or irritation that
this cousin would display. This will make your father’s patience wear off.
He stops to look out through the window.
RAHMAN (CONT’D) But, first of all and most important: lots
of religion!... You won’t have to lie. After all, we are really innocent and hidden inside God’s bosom.
HORSHEED I told my father that if he brings the
cousin to my workshop here to show me off, I would destroy my work in front of him.
RAHMAN Excellent. We’ll cover some lumps of plaster
with wetted towels, so that you don’t really have to ruin the real stuff, and when they come, all you’ll have to do will be to start throwing away everything into the garbage tank. You’ll do it silently, coldly, without saying anything.
HORSHEED (as if in a dream)
I’ll be introduced this morning. INT. JUDGE’S HOUSE – DAY
The father, his brother and the nephew are seated chatting. Horsheed and Spojmai come in. Old Shugufa enters also, carrying a tray with refreshments.
FATHER So, Horsheed, Jamsheed was asking himself
whether he would still recognize you, after all these years in which he didn’t bother to find time to visit us... and here is Mustafa, a great lad for all I see and a man with a brilliant future.
Mustafa jumps up and thrusts his hand in her direction. Horsheed doesn’t take the hand. She only nods, staring at her own feet.
HORSHEED Uncle... Cousin... Salaam.
A second of surprised silence on all sides.
FATHER Is this how you receive your cousin?
Horsheed looks at him with a perfect expression of astonishment.
HORSHEED Should I jump and kiss him, father?
FATHER Well... You could at least behave in a more
HORSHEED Is this an order, father?
FATHER Well, yes, it’s an order.
HORSHEED (to her cousin)
Sir (aqa), my father has led a mujahedeen group during the wars, so he behaves like in an emergency situation. I am curious to see whether you will accept a friendship imposed by command.
MUSTAFA Why... No... Miss... Sister... this would have
no value at all.
UNCLE I think, Horsheed, that when you get to know
Mustafa better, you will start liking him very much.
HORSHEED From what point of view?
FATHER From all points of view.
HORSHEED A man one likes from all points of view is a
man one is supposed to marry.
FATHER Well, then...
HORSHEED Sir (aqa)... cousin... I don’t know what our
fathers decided, but I suppose that if you had a personal plan, you would be well qualified to present it yourself.
MUSTAFA My dad and your father only told me about
your beauty, which appears to be beyond description.
HORSHEED If this is so, I am not aware of it and I
get no satisfaction from it.
FATHER My daughter is unbearable!... Well, she’s an
artist, what do you want. Come on, let’s visit her workshop...
HORSHEED Father, didn’t I tell you...
FATHER Yes, you did, but come on, you can’t be so
serious on this...
MUSTAFA Sir, I think she doesn’t want to...
FATHER Oh, please, stop this, after all it’s in the
museum... It’s a public place. Spojmai, come on, you have the keys.
INT. THE MUSEUM WORKSHOP – DAY They all come in.
A series of shapes wrapped in wet shrouds are lined on tables and against the walls.
The uncle and Mustafa look around, simulating admiration. The uncle tries to unwrap one of the figures.
Horsheed lifts it, walks to the dustbin and throws it inside with a big BANG of broken plaster.
The Father swears and jumps to her, grabbing her by the arm. Horsheed faces him, her lips trembling.
HORSHEED Are you going to hit me?
FATHER I certainly should.
HORSHEED You hurt me already.
HORSHEED You twisted my arm. I’ll keep the trace of
FATHER That’s not true. Show me.
The father tries to roll up her sleeve.
HORSHEED And now you undress me in front of the
Spojmai intervenes and pulls back the father.
SPOJMAI Come on, stop it!...
Horsheed turns toward the guests, trembling.
HORSHEED I regret that I’ve been forced to destroy my
FATHER You’ve “been forced”?!... I can’t believe my
HORSHEED I thought people in our family kept their
MUSTAFA I regret giving you so much trouble on a
HORSHEED Sir, you certainly are not to blame for
this. I don’t know what you have been promised, but my father should have known that I am not for sale. I am a person. I might seem cheap and provincial, for you who come from Australia, but I have a soul and even thoughts of my own.
FATHER Gentlemen, how about a visit to the bazaar?
They all leave in awkward silence.
INT. FATHER’S OFFICE – DAY Horsheed and her father are seated, facing each other, tense.
FATHER Where’s the young man who’s filming the toe
HORSHEED Aunt Spojmai gave him a room in the museum.
FATHER (slightly irritated)
I know that. He was supposed to move out after a while.
He takes her by the arms and looks straight into her eyes. He is tense. Her lips are trembling.
FATHER You took an oath. You swore something to me.
HORSHEED So I did. I always keep my promises.
A stand off for a few seconds.
HORSHEED Nobody has ever touched an inch of my skin,
if that’s what you want to know. No man has
HORSHEED (CONT’D) ever even touched my toes. I am as pure as
when I was born.
FATHER I believe you. Please, understand me... I
didn’t suspect you of anything... It’s just that my brother has been enquiring around, and Bibi Malalai went to tell him...
HORSHEED (with an incredulous face)
Bibi Malalai? I have to put my word against Bibi Malalai’s word? Father, father, don’t let yourself fall so low.
FATHER I’m sorry. I was only hoping that... Anyway,
Spojmai has to get rid of that boy. I don’t want any suspicion surrounding you.
She stands up and walks to the door.
FATHER By the way... I find Mustafa a very boring
person, indeed. But at least I let my brother see that we tried.
EXT. IN FRONT OF BIBI MALALAI’S GUESTHOUSE - DAY Bibi is fiddling with the lock of the gate of her guesthouse.
Horsheed crosses the road from the museum and walks over to Bibi Malalai.
HORSHEED Salaam, Bibi. Have you finished for today?
Would you like to see my workshop? (laughing) You’ve been in the museum, but you must be curious about my atelier.
Bibi arranges her headscarf with a cynical expression. She speaks in a syrupy voice.
BIBI Sure. That would be a real pleasure.
They walk over to the museum.
HORSHEED I’ve only shown it to foreign guests until
now... And to my father... He found it... mysterious.
Bibi climbs the stairs repressing an ironic smile.
She stops on the top of the steps, waiting for Horsheed to unlock the door.
BIBI My dear soul, I knew you were an intelligent
young lady, who can take a friendly advice. I said so to your father, but he wouldn’t listen.
BIBI Oh, but you know very well, you clever
HORSHEED I have no idea what you are talking about.
BIBI No? You don’t?
She threatens Horsheed with an amused index finger.
BIBI (CONT’D) And the toe obsessed young man? The one with
HORSHEED (opening the door)
Come on in, we’ll be better inside to discuss all this.
INT. THE MUSEUM WORKSHOP – DAY Horsheed opens the door and lets Bibi in.
Looking around, Bibi lets out an astonished “Aaaaah!...” only half simulated.
She walks around the workshop, peering at the objects at close range.
She points to a fat, smiling, longhaired Buddha.
BIBI She’s fat and funny, but such a shameful
naked figure!... One can see her nipples.
HORSHEED It’s a man. It’s a Buddha.
You’re kidding me!...
HORSHEED Our ancestors were Buddhists... They used to
revere this fat man’s nipples.
BIBI No way!...
She leans over to see better.
BIBI (CONT’D) Not my ancestors, young lady, not mine.
Yours, maybe. Mine have always been good Muslims. Hm. This place is full of nipples and nakedness... And, you, poor girl, you have to touch all that every day.
She turns over to face Horsheed.
Suddenly, at that precise moment, Horsheed SLAPS her in the face so violently that Bibi is THROWN against the Buddha, which promptly FALLS on her.
Bibi opens her mouth for a howl, but Horsheed shoots with her right foot into the old woman’s belly.
The old lady curls up with silent pain.
Horsheed pulls her up by the hair and twists one of her arms behind her back.
HORSHEED Don’t make any noise, or I’ll break your
BIBI (in pain)
Oh, God... You are... mad... Horsheed twists her arm with more force.
Please... Aaaargh... Stop, no, please!...
Horsheed pulls at her hair even more, forcing the old lady to face the ceiling.
HORSHEED Why? Why did you do that?
BIBI This is horrible... Let me go!
HORSHEED No, you are horrible, a disgusting insect...
Why did you have to do that?
BIBI I can’t speak... I can’t breathe... Let me go!
Horsheed lets hold of the old woman’s hair and arm.
Bibi gulps a couple of times, swallows and suddenly jumps up and runs limping toward the door, SCREAMING hysterically.
Horsheed catches her before she is able to open the door, grabs her neck with both hands and starts strangling her.
The old woman shows the white of her eyes and tries to wrestle off Horsheed’s hands.
HORSHEED Listen, stupid old cow... Stupid, because when
you went around saying things about me you didn’t realize how mean I could be...
Horsheed lets go of the old woman’s throat. Bibi leans her back against the wall and holds her throat, panting.
From one of her pockets, Horsheed fishes out a handful of crumpled bills.
HORSHEED Look here. This is what it takes to have you
killed. I could pay anytime not only to have you shot in the face, but also your idiot of a son, and even his donkey. And, believe me, I would come to piss on your tombs. So... Now you know whom you are dealing with.
She throws the handful of bills into Bibi’s face.
HORSHEED Take this and go away. And when you spend
it, remember... This is how much you are worth... plus a bullet in your ugly face.
She holds the door open.
HORSHEED May God protect you.
BIBI (almost inaudible)
May God protect you too. The old woman runs out limping.
Panting, Horsheed rests her back against the wall. She starts sobbing silently. Rahman appears on the threshold.
RAHMAN You didn’t have to do that, you really
HORSHEED Oh, yeah? And why not?
RAHMAN Now everybody will find out about us. I
don’t think she can be stopped.
Oh, you are so helpful and optimistic, thank you!... Wouldn’t you be a bit of a coward too?
RAHMAN Look, stop that. I really think we shouldn’t
remain here. We should run away. Hide somewhere.
HORSHEED Where to? Do you have any idea? Did you make
RAHMAN (now he is exasperated)
What plans? What are you talking about? You said there was no future!...
HORSHEED I can’t believe what I’m hearing!... I’ll
tell Spojmai to throw you out. Or... No... You stay. I’d better go to Australia, after all. Give me that tape on which you filmed me naked.
HORSHEED What do you mean why? I don’t want you to
RAHMAN (breathing heavily)
You don’t want me to have it!... Do you think I could use it, or what? Post it on the Internet? Watch it together with your father?
HORSHEED What?!... Are you mad? You really have a
RAHMAN Filthy mind!... You knew that all along and
you liked it!...
HORSHEED I was liking it!... I was!... So you are
really convinced that it’s finished between us. Oh, you give up so quickly!...
RAHMAN (changing his tone)
Come on, Horsheed, come ooon... Don’t ruin our love for something like that.
HORSHEED “Our love”!... You are talking as if it were
a child, or something...
Rahman steps towards her and opens his arms with a pained expression.
RAHMAN Horsheed, please!...
HORSHEED Don’t take on that humble expression again.
You really look like a beaten dog. Give me the tape. Give me all the tapes!... I want to be sure. You were never going to make a film anyway.
RAHMAN I will certainly not give it to you.
HORSHEED Then I’ll go and tell my father.
RAHMAN Tell your father? Your father would kill you
with his own hands.
HORSHEED Aha. And maybe a mob from the neighbourhood
will come shouting: “We’ll fuck the whore and then stone her”... And you would run away meanwhile. What a despicable creature!... I’ll go up and get the tapes myself.
With a resolute air, she steps towards the attic. Rahman block her way.
RAHMAN No, you won’t. You have to trust me.
HORSHEED Don’t touch me.
RAHMAN (blocking the passage)
I don’t touch you. See? You are almost touching me.
HORSHEED Aha! I am touching you!... Things only
happen to you, huh? You take no responsibility.
RAHMAN Oh, yeah? Who came to you? Who took the
initiative? Who made a fool of himself in the bazaar in order to attract your attention?
HORSHEED That’s what you are good at: making a fool
of yourself. Spojmai rushes in, alarmed.
SPOJMAI What are you doing? What’s going on?
Horsheed walks resolutely towards the exit.
HORSHEED Make sure you see him off tomorrow. This
time for good... Her pace is heard in the staircase.
HORSHEED’S VOICE I’ll get that tape.
Trembling, Rahman clutches his chest looking at Spojmai.
SPOJMAI No, no, you can’t faint again.
INT. RAHMAN’S ATTIC – LATER
He is systematically crashing all the cassettes with a stone Buddha.
After crushing them, he jumps on them and from time to time he picks up one of them and the tape to pieces.
Spojmai enters and looks at what he is doing.
He stops for a moment, gives her a stony look.
RAHMAN If someone asks, you will tell them that I
SPOJMAI It would have been enough to erase them.
She walks out, carefully closing the door. INT. RAHMAN’S ATTIC – MORNING
He has made up his bag. He walks around the big room, arms folded on his chest, hugging himself.
Spojmai opens the door.
SPOJMAI They are here.
(worried) Are you ready?
He points to the bag. She doesn’t say anything. She holds the door open.
He picks up his bag and the camera and goes past her, walking out and down the staircase.
ON THE STAIRS Spojmai extends her hand to him.
Rahman takes it, looking her in the eyes.
SPOJMAI Well, good-bye then.
SPOJMAI Horsheed sends you her good-bye as well.
RAHMAN How kind of her.
Spojmai gives him her hand a second time.
SPOJMAI Well, good-bye.
EXT. IN FRONT OF THE MUSEUM – DAY
The light is blinding and Rahman, while stepping out, closes his eyes for a second.
The jeep is waiting. The father sits behind the wheel, his brother in the other front seat. Mustafa sits in the back, arms folded, beaming.
RAHMAN As-salaam aleikum.
There is a chorus of answers.
FATHER Get in, boy.
He gets in and crumbles in the back. INT. DRIVING CAR
UNCLE So you are the man with the camera...
FATHER Poor boy. He wanted to make this nice movie
I told you about, but he lost all the footage of his casting...
The uncle laughs, slapping his thigh.
FATHER Jamsheed. This isn’t funny.
He turns slightly his head towards Rahman, while driving.
FATHER (CONT’D) Please, don’t feel offended. It’s only that
we are very happy. We just concluded Horsheed’s betrothal to Mustafa. They are now returning to Australia for the preparations.
Mustafa beams and sighs, seemingly happy.
FATHER And, about your tapes, I think there is at
least one that was saved.
While driving, he fishes the red-smeared cassette from his pocket and waves it in the air.
FATHER My daughter gave me this for you. She took
it by mistake when she gathered some stuff from the museum.
Would she have qualified for the role? I mean, was she any good?
UNCLE Mustafa, please watch your manners. You are
only betrothed for the time being. The father hands the cassette to Rahman, over his shoulder.
FATHER I didn’t check it, of course.
MUSTAFA Anyway, we couldn’t have watched it. I have
a much newer camera, for which I use a totally different kind of cassette.
He picks up one of them. MUSTAFA
UNCLE My boy, I don’t know you, of course, but
believe me, you should get yourself a proper job.
The father stops the car, waits for Rahman to get out.
FATHER I understand you are not flying abroad.
Here’s your terminal. INT. THE KABUL AIRPORT. INTERNAL FLIGHTS - DAY
Long queue of people advancing very slowly. Pilgrims, dignified enturbaned old gentlemen, veiled ladies, screaming children.
A couple of Western military are watching the scene, smoking.
A porter rushes to take Rahman’s bag, but he wouldn’t let go of it, shaking his head absent-mindedly.
He arrives in front of the control booth.
CUSTOMS OFFICER Documents, brother?