SYNOPSIS — ZAKHM
("THE WOUND")

  1. Communal riots are tearing apart Bombay. The military may be called in. Ajay (Ajay Devgan), a famous music composer, is disgusted. His wife, Sonia (Sonali Bendre) emerges to ask what he was singing last night. (SONG: HUM YAHAN TUM YAHAH). Flashback to Ajay asking Sonia to marry him. In the present, he retires to the bedroom and asks her not to leave him. Sonia says, "Do you know how much I love you? I'm not leaving you. I'm leaving this place, for the sake of our unborn child." Ajay argues that thousands of children are born here, and that this is the reality of their country. He accuses her of never really forsaking her home in England, never giving India a chance. "You always kept the door half-open so you could go fleeing back to England." Sonia: "Yes, I did! What's wrong with that? I didn't want our child to be born in a place where knives are drawn in the name of religion!" She begs him to leave with her. He refuses: "This is my home. If it goes up in flames, I'll put the fire out, or burn in it myself."

  2. Ajay gets a phone call from his brother, Anand, the youth leader of the local chapter of a right-wing Hindu political party. In the background, the party leader is agitating against Muslims. Ajay warns Anand that the leader, Subodh, is going to drag him into trouble. Anand grows defensive: "I'm no longer a kid; let me make my own decisions." He asks to speak to their mother. Ajay is astonished and wants to know if he's been drinking — "You took Mom to your place yesterday." Ananda tells him that their mother left at 5 AM to go pray. Ajay says he'll find her.

  3. In the lobby of the apartment building, a Muslim tenant, Issa Bhai is telling the landlord, Gurdial, that he's decided to leave. Last night a paper was thrown through his window telling him to go to Pakistan or the graveyard. Gurdial blacks out the list of tenants names so no one will know who belongs to which religion.

  4. At a police blockade, Ajay is informed by a policeman-cum-fan that the area he wants to go to is shut down. Some old Hindu lady got torched outside the church just this morning by a group of Muslim boys. Ajay, horrified, heads to the hospital where she was taken, only to discover that the victim is indeed his mother. Anwar Hashmi, a journalist, tells Ajay that he's seen six Muslim corpses in two days. "I don't understand something," he says to Ajay. "You're Hindu, but your mother was calling upon Allah. Is she not your real mother?" Ajay says, "I'm in great pain right now. Please leave me alone."

  5. Flashback to Ajay's youth. His friend Hari wants to know why, if he's Hindu, he comes to the church to pray. Ajay explains that his mother conceived him only after praying to Mother Mary; hence, whenever he wants to ask for something special, he prays to the Virgin as well. "What are you asking for?" Hari wants to know. Ajay prays to Mary: "My father is coming home tonight after many days. Please don't let him leave ever again; tell him to live with us forever."

  6. At home, Ajay's mother (Pooja Bhatt) prepares for his father's visit. (SONG: SAARI RAAT). But his father doesn't show up. "He must have gotten caught in traffic," she speculates. "Or maybe the shooting's run late. Call the studio." Ajay does, but his father's secretary, Baadal, informs him that his father's gone home. Ajay's mother tells him to call his dad at home, "but if anyone else answers, say it's a wrong number and hang up." Ajay's grandmother answers, but he goes ahead and asks for his dad. His grandmother is infuriated: "If you ever call my son your daddy again I'll cut off your tongue. And if you call again, I'll cut off your fingers, you son of a whore." Ajay is upset; he demands to know why everyone calls his mother a concubine. His mother tells him to let the world say whatever it will; Daddy loves them a lot. Ajay: "If he loves us then why doesn't he live with us?" His mother replies, "You love your mother, and so you live with her. Same for your daddy." Ajay tells her not to lie to him: "Hari's mother says he didn't marry you." "We married in the temple," she argues, "and when his mother finally consents, we'll marry publicly too." "When?" Ajay demands. "In five years? Ten? Fifty? In your next lifetime?" His mother assures him that her god wouldn't do her injustice; everything will be fine. Meanwhile, his father, Raman (Nagarjuna), tells his mother that he's decided to bring his wife and child to live with them. His mother tries to kill herself, and later vows that as long as she lives, the concubine and her bastard child will never live here.

  7. The next morning, Ajay tells his mother that the god Ganapati has come in his dreams and told him what to do. Later Ajay seeks out Hari and convinces him to come to Raman's studio, where Ganapati has recommended that Ajay ask his father to marry his mother. At the studio, however, they find something very alarming, which leads them to a shocking discovery.

  8. Present day: Anand arrives at the hospital full of rage. His friends inform him that they've found some Muslim trying to sell a mangalsutra (wedding necklace worn by Hindu women), and to come see if the mangalsutra is his mother's. Ajay runs after them, and saves them from killing the criminal. He drags the Muslim inside the hospital, where the man admits to putting petrol on Ajay's mother, but not lighting it. Ajay loses his temper, and later apologizes to a policeman, who comforts him by saying that he is a great man for saving the wretch's life. A higher-ranking police officer shows up in the company of other Hindu fundamentalists, and taunts the good police officer. The journalist, Hashmi, watches and records all of this.

  9. Hashmi writes an editorial, opining that as long as brothers cannot see eye to eye on such issues, the country won't progress. He praises people like Ajay Desai, "who saved his mother's attacker from the policeman's bullet." But he predicts that in the hospital is a time bomb ready to detonate. Meanwhile, Anand says he will never forgive Ajay for protecting the criminal. "You're nothing to me," he says, and retreats to his political friends. "These people are my family now. Go ahead, try to save that bastard, but when Subodh-ji comes, I'll send him where he belongs, or I'm not my mother's son."

  10. Subodh counsels Anand to be patient: "Don't touch the criminal. That journalist is watching your every move. Our revenge will be against not only the boy, but against his entire people." On the corrupt policeman, Yadav, he showers his contempt: "Anand is a boy, naive, foolish. But you should know better. If this kid dies, the whole issue will die down. The only death to our advantage is that of Anand's mother. Pray she dies quickly. Our youth leader's mother burnt to death by Muslim youth! When you call with the good news, I'll come for a rally. We'll parade the body to the crematorium and victory will be ours."

  11. Ajay speaks again to Sonia. She insists on coming to the hospital, and agrees to let Issa Bhai and Gurdial escort her. Ajay tells her that he's kept somethiing hidden from her and the world, and now he must tell her. "Come," he says, "and I'll tell you here."

  12. Sonia arrives. Ajay tells her, "I've hidden a wound from you but now I can't even if I wanted to. There's something in my mother's life from before which has taken me a long time to understand." Flashback to his childhood. Raman enters his office to find it trashed by Ajay. He says to his son, "If I told you why I married this woman, you wouldn't understand." Ajay accusatorily observes that even when Raman has come to the house, he's never removed his shoes, never really intended to stay. "I'll come tonight and do as your mother says. But don't tell her."

  13. Raman arrives (SONG: GALI MEIN CHAND NIKLA). Ajay's mother tells him that she can't continue to pretend to be his wife. "I free you from this illicit relationship." She removes her mangalsutra. Raman: "It's true that I got married without telling you. It's true that I couldn't pain my mother for your sake. But this is the greatest truth: I love you more than anything in the world. Don't ever take off this mangalsutra, even after my death. I love you very much."

  14. In the morning, Raman is gone, but Ajay's mother assures him that "I told him to go. He'll keep coming here as usual." When Ajay has a tantrum, she grows fierce: "He can't be ours! I've accepted it. Now you too must learn to live with it." Ajay vows to make Raman put sindoor (vermilion, as worn in the part by married Hindu women) on his mother.

  15. Hari tracks down Ajay and apologizes for not being able to invite him to his birthday party.
  16. "My mother won't even listen to your name." Ajay comforts him. Months pass; Ajay's mother's pregnancy develops. Ajay consigns his father's statue of Ganapati to the sea. [Statues of Ganesha, or Ganapati, are sometimes consigned to the sea in a religious ritual.]

  17. Ajay's mother goes into labor. He calls Raman's home and tells Raman's wife, Nimmi, that Raman has a new son and he must come to the hospital. Nimmi relays the message and tells Raman he should go. Raman's mother freaks out, but finally Raman stands up to her. On the way to the hospital, he has an accident.

  18. Ajay's mother takes her newborn son to Raman's funeral so he can get his father's blessings. Raman's mother attacks her viciously, but Nimmi intervenes, touching the child to Raman's portrait. Her mother-in-law shrieks that she's damned his soul; a Muslim boy has touched his picture! Later, Ajay asks his mother if that's why she could never marry his dad — because she's really Muslim. Can Hindus not marry Muslims? "They can," she says, "but people like your grandmother don't accept it. Your dad tried to convince her, but our love proved weaker than her hate...but my Allah won't do me injustice. I'll meet your daddy in heaven. Promise me you'll bury me when I die, because I am a Muslim, and we can only go to heaven after being buried." Ajay promises. She asks him not to tell anyone else the truth — not even his brother: "Like his dad, he will become a Hindu. He'll never suffer the insult we did today. My being Muslim is a wound on us both. Hide it away in your breast, my son."

  19. Present day: Sonia tells Ajay this isn't a thing to be hidden like a wound; this is something to be screamed aloud for everyone to hear. "This was love. Your mother hoped to meet your father after death...and here I am, leaving you in our lifetime? How much you've endured. I've been worried over such a little difficulty. Forgive me, Ajay. I'll never leave you." The doctor emerges. Ajay sends Sonia inside and goes to tell Anand that their mother is dead. Anand heads immediately to kill the Muslim, but Ajay stops him by saying, "You think his blood is dirty? Then so is mine. So is yours. Mom was a Muslim." Anand is in shock, but his political friends are watching; he calls Ajay a liar. Subodh soothes him. The journalist warns Issa Bhai that now would be a good time to split, but Issa Bhai has had a change of heart: he will stand firm.

  20. Subodh scolds Ajay for announcing before witnesses that his mother was Muslim. "It will only get you killed, and hundreds along with you. You want to take her for burial now, as the city burns? When thousands of our party arrive and find out the truth about your mother, won't they feel betrayed?" Anand tells Ajay that he wants their mother's last rites to fit the form in which he always knew her — i.e., as a Hindu. Subodh chimes in: "No one need know. We'll take care of the journalist. See? If you don't want to cremate her, don't. Give her to some medical school for research. Her body will be used for the welfare of the entire world." Ajay asks him if it's the world's welfare he's concerned with, or his own. "I won't let you play political games on my mother's corpse. Anand, the mother you're so ashamed of today deserves only your pride. After I die, throw my body into a trash bin. But Mom will be treated as she wanted." Subodh warns him: "When it comes to public affairs, we can sacrifice some lives." Ajay: "A man who's just lost the most precious thing in the world isn't going to fear you. And no religion on earth can stop a son from fulfilling his mother's last wish."

  21. Gurdial tells Ajay that the curfew's been relaxed for one hour. This is the time to act. Ajay asks his brother to accompany them to the burialground: "At the final hour, even enemies join together." But Anand refuses. Subodh's political supporters show up to prevent Ajay from taking away his mother. But at the last moment, Subodh knocks into their mother's body, and Anand is outraged by this cavalier treatment. He joins Ajay, and they take their mother to be buried.

  22. Ajay gives his mother's mangalsutra to the sea. Credits.
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