Once upon a time in India
It is a cabaret where the scene is set. A scantily clad temptress dances seductively on a raised platform to earthy and sensuous music. Men crowd around the stage and cheer her on. Others sit at the back, smoking hashish in their sheeshas. The lighting is all wicks and candles. The air is smoky dense and hallucinatory.
A new song begins — aap jaisa koi mera zindagi mein aaye…
A well-dressed man in a pinstriped double-breasted suit walks into the room. He looks around uncertainly. He is out of place in both dress and demeanour. His presence causes a stir among some of the men.
The proprietor — a big bear of a man in a white shirt– notices the stranger, rushes over, greets him warmly. Some of the rowdier elements, initially tempted to greet the babu in their own distinct fashion, back away, returning to their cliques and corners. While the seductive temptress draws roars of acclaims, the proprietor escorts the brown sahib through a nondescript door.
In the next room, there are tables where men throw dice. In other tables, scary looking eyes stare at each other, over a game of poker and a strong drink. Other men lie on couches, inhaling noxious fumes and holding whispered conversations. The proprietor discreetly motions to one of the men here.
The song continues from the other room — baat ban jaye…
The three men walk into a corridor behind a beaded curtains. They walk past the kitchen and the storerooms, then left another corridor, and down a set of stairs to a lone door.
The proprietor unlocks the door, and the three men enter.
The well-dressed man is restive. He lights his cigarette. Fumbles. The brand is shown — colonial. A big drag. He speaks in a grave voice:
‘Traitors walk among us’.
(For Motaseth, who’s about to start a life of freedom).