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Dialogue in Some Early Scenes From Ken Taylor's Raj Quartet Screenplay

by John Cobley

Thursday May 24th, 2018



This article attempts to illustrate how closely Ken Taylor’s Raj Quartet screenplay follows Paul Scott’s original dialogue in The Jewel in the Crown. A good friend recently and correctly pointed out that Scott uses dialogue sparingly in his novel. This means that when he does use dialogue he intends it to gain greater attention and hopefully be remembered. Indeed Scott sometimes repeats short pieces of dialogue in a different part of the book, repetition thereby emphasizing its importance.


It would seem likely that a screenplay of Scott’s novel would need to alter his dialogue drastically, bearing in mind that a lot of the story’s detail is conveyed in prose, especially in this case of a dialogue-sparse novel. Thus it is significant how closely Taylor retains Scott’s dialogue.


To make this point, I have printed below the dialogue of four important scenes from Taylor’s screenplay. I have employed distinctive colours and fonts to differentiate between 1) the words used from the novel--bold black; 2) the words added by Taylor—blue italics; and 3) the words from the novel’s dialogue that Taylor rejected--red.


A  Removal of Kumar from the Wasteland

This scene is the first in the film, but it doesn’t appear in Jewel in the Crown until p. 135. Thus more exposition is needed in the screenplay: for example, Taylor inserts the names of Sister Ludmilla and de Souza four extra times—to get these two names into the viewer’s minds. Taylor also inserts extra Sister-Ludmilla dialogue: background information on the local men in huts, on her religious nature, and on Kumar’s the anger in Kumar’s face. Three other short comments are added. Note that only two words of Scott’s dialogue are cut. 


B  Merrick’s Visit to Sister Ludmilla’s Sanctuary

There are more changes in this scene. Some of the additions/cuts are required by the different medium; others are made to fine-tune the characters of Merrick and Sister Ludmilla. There are significant changes in the initial encounter between Merrick and Sister Ludmilla. Taylor softens Merrick’s first words by adding “Good morning.” Then he cuts the rather insulting “the woman who calls herself.” As well, Taylor adds five more questions from Merrick during the tour of the clinic to make the conversation sound more like an interrogation. Conversely he adds material to show Merrick is trying to be polite:  “As I’m sure you’ve guessed, Sister Ludmilla, we’re looking for a wanted man.” Lastly, Taylor adds a sentence to emphasize the important point that Merrick is especially interested in Kumar.


Taylor makes Sister Ludmilla even more savvy in dealing with authority: “Of course, we are used to visits from the police. But not, Mr. Merrick, that you should come yourself.” She immediately acquiesces to a search with “Of course” and  “Wherever you want” (Both these added). She is buttering him up; Scott makes her noticeably wily in his prose; Taylor has to show this wiliness in her speech. Taylor also adds through Sister Ludmilla some material about the Sanctuary, material that is given in prose by Scott.


The main cut by Taylor in this scene is a fairly long speech where Sister Ludmilla explains the role of de Souza and some of the organizational aspects of the clinic. This is somewhat redundant; Sister Ludmilla states as much to Merrick in the novel—“You must know most of these things.” 


C   Merrick’s Interrogation of Kumar

Taylor adds very little for this scene; instead he cuts and fine-tunes. He shortens Sister Ludmilla’s lecture to Kumar (“These  are the police….”) from 66  words to 46. He also cuts Merrick’s over-polite thanks to Sister Ludmilla (“Thank you for your cooperation”) and his threat to her and Kumar (“Obstructing or resisting the police is also an offence”). Further, Kumar’s initial response to Merrick is softened with the addition of “I’m sorry” and “Look here.”


D   Bibighar Rape

What is remarkable in this scene is that Taylor uses every word in Scott’s novel. There are only two minor word changes (“see” for “take” and “say” for “saw”) and the cut of “No.”  However, Taylor adds quite a lot of dialogue (in blue italics). “I went to the sanctuary” is useful added context; this sanctuary visit was described by Scott in a previous section. Daphne’s added request of a cigarette from Kumar, which leads to the important issue of their touching, was covered by Scott in the prose between his dialogue, as was Daphne’s explanation of how she had come to the Bibighar. The final important addition is clarification about their leaving behind Daphne’s bicycle, which becomes crucial evidence against Kumar.



Scott’s original dialogue is shown in bold. Red shows Scott’s dialogue cut by Taylor. Blue and italics indicates Taylor’s added dialogue. 

A   Two Night Scenes

SL = Sister Ludmilla; deS = Mr. de Souza


SL        Over there. Flash your torch, there, Mr. de Souza. In the ditch.

deS      No Wounds.

SL        Who is it?

deS      I don’t know, Sister Ludmilla. Some fellow has been through his pockets—from the huts.

SL        Yes, the poor ones pretend to be asleep. But what a fearful place to be without God’s blessing on you. Take him up! Such anger in that face, Mr. de Souza.


SL        If he’s not wounded, he must be ill.

deS      This one is drunk, Sister. It is what I’ve been waiting for all the time I have worked for you. To find that only we have carried home a useless carcase of a drunken man not a dying or maybe the dead, but only a drunk.

SL        This one is only a boy. To be so drunk he must also be unhappy. Let him lie, and I shall pray for him. Good night, Mr. de Souza. 

B       Next Morning at the Sanctuary

M = Merrick 

M        Good morning. I want to see the person in charge. I want to see the woman who calls herself  Sister Ludmilla.

deS      It is we who call her that. Right now she is busy. Can I be of help?

M        Who are you?

deS      I am nobody. Hardly worth your consideration.

SL        It’s all right, Mr. de Souza.

M        Mrs. Ludmilla Smith? My name is Merrick. I am the District Superintendent of Police.

SL        Of course. We are used to visits from the police, but not, Mr. Merrick, that you should come yourself. In what way can I assist you?

M        I should like to carry out a search.

SL        Of course.

M        Then where shall we begin?

SL        Wherever you want.

M        And who is that? Also one of your helpers? The boy there. The boy washing at the pump. Another of your helpers?

SL        He spent the night with us. Mr. de Souza perhaps knows his name.

SL        Mr. de Souza, the boy who spent the night with us…

de S     I only know he has hangover, Sister. As you see he is all right now and making ready to go.

M        I’m afraid no one can go till I say so.

SL        Are we then all under arrest?

M        As I am sure you’ve already guessed, Sister Ludmilla, we’re looking for a wanted man.

M        This building where we are now is Is this what is known as the death house?

SL        I believe that sometimes people who have never been here at the Sanctuary have called it that.

M        Are there any But there are no dead this morning?

SL        No, not this morning, not for several days.

M        The homeless?

SL        No, I do not house the homeless.

M        The hungry?

SL        Those who are hungry know the days when there is rice. Today is not such a day.

M         The sick?

SL        The clinic receives only in the evening. Only people those who cannot afford to lose a morning or a day’s work come to our clinic us here. Mr. de Souza is in charge.

M        And your You have no other medical qualifications?

SL        Mr. de Souza is in charge of the clinic. He gave up paid work as a lay practitioner to work with me for nothing. The health authorities of the municipal board sometimes come to see us. They approve of what they find. As District Superintendent of Police you must know most of these things.

M         And the dying?

SL        We have the voluntary services of Dr. Krishnamurti assists and also of Dr. Anna Klaus of the purdah hospital. You can of course also inspect my title to the lands and buildings. The Municipal Board provides nothing. So the money, while it continues, must come from me. And from God.

M        It is That’s a curious arrangement

SL        It is a curious country. But God allows for that.

M        Who does the work? These are all your helpers? Your regular workers?

SL        Anyone who needs to earn a few rupees. No one is regular here. They come and go. I take on those who need to earn a few rupees or those who need it most.

M        Where are these helpers today? These are your regular helpers?

M        Is And then Mr. de Souza is also irregular?

SL        No, because the sanctuary is as much his as mine. He sees the point of it. These people are only interested in the rupees. Mr. de Souza is not interested in rupees.

M        In life rupees are a great consideration.

M        Then there is just only your night visitor. Thank you, Sister Ludmilla, I we need take up no more of your time.

SL        Who is the that boy?

deS      His name is Coomer.

SL        Coomer?

deS      In fact, Kumar. A nephew by marriage, I believe, of Romesh Chand Gupta Sen.

SL        Oh, why Coomer?

deS      Ah, why. It would be interesting, if not best, to go down to see what follows. 


C   Merrick Interrogates Kumar 

K         What? I’m sorry. I’m afraid I don’t speak Indian. Look here, Didn’t doesn’t this man understand? It’s no use talking Indian at me.

M        Sister Ludmilla, is there a room where we can question this man?

K         Question? Why question? What for?

SL        Mr. Kumar, these are the police. They are looking for someone. It is their duty to question anyone they find here for whom I cannot vouch we cannot vouch for. We brought you here And last night because we found you lying in a ditch and thought you were ill or hurt, but only you were drunk. Now, what is so terrible in that? Except hangover. Come, come to the office.

M        Is that your name: Kumar?

K         No, but it will do.

M        I see. And your address?

K         What is all this? Can anyone just barge in here, then?

SL        Come. To the office. And don’t be silly.

M        I think, Sister, we won’t waste any more of your time. Thank you for your co-operation.

SL        That will be enough of that. This is my property. In it I will not tolerate such behaviour. And you, stop being silly. They are the police. Answer their questions. If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear. Come.

M        We seem to have got beyond the that stage, Sister, when a talk in your office would have been be a satisfactory preliminary. I am taking him into custody.

K         On Oh, what charge?

M        On no charge.  My truck’s waiting. Now, collect your baggage.

K         But I have a charge. A charge of assault Being assaulted by this fellow with the beard.

M        Then make it at the kotwali.

M        Obstructing or resisting the police is also an offence. Sister Ludmilla, Does Has this man have any possessions to be returned to him?

SL        We found nothing. We turn out pockets, you understand, for the purpose purposes of identification.

K         No, I have nothing. Except one thing.

M        And that?

K         A statement. I come with you under protest. 


D  Bibighar Rape 

D = Daphne; K  = Kumar 

D:        Hari, is that you?

K:        Yes.

D:        Didn’t you get my note? I went to the sanctuary.

D:        I haven’t got a cigarette. Let me try one of those again.

K:        What were you trying to prove? That you don’t mind our touching?

D:        I thought we’d got beyond that.

K:        No. We can never get beyond it.

D:        But we have. I have. It was never an obstacle anyway. At least not for me.

K:        Why did you come to the Bibighar?

D:        I was cycling back to the MacGregor. And I stopped to take off my cape. I thought you might be here.

K:        You oughtn’t to be out alone tonight. I’ll see take you home. Throw that disgusting thing away.



K:        I’m sorry. No. I can’t.

D:        My glasses. I can’t find them.  My stupid specs.

K:        Put your arms round my neck.

D:        No, it’s here somewhere.

K:        What?

D:        My bicycle.

K:        I didn’t bring mine. They must have taken yours. I’ll look for it in the morning. It’s all right. It’s all right. I’ll take you home.

D:        No. I’ve got to go home alone. We’ve not been together. I’ve not seen you. No. Let me go. You’ve not been near me. You don’t know anything. You know nothing. Say nothing.

K:        Listen. You must…

D:        Hari, please.

K:        I’ve got to be with you. I love you. Please let me be with you.

D:        No. We’ve never seen each other. You’ve been at home. You say saw nothing. You know nothing. Promise me.

D:        There’s nothing I can do. There’s nothing I can do. Nothing. Nothing.

K:        I promise.




Scotty Maresca Wednesday 15th February 2023

Hello coppice-gate.com webmaster, You always provide useful information.

Almeda Frier Monday 20th March 2023

Dear coppice-gate.com admin, Your posts are always well-written and easy to understand.

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