FILM: The Heart of a Murderer

[caption id="attachment_24947" align="alignleft" width="300"]Samundar Singh Samundar Singh[/caption]

The ?Heart of a Murderer? is a documentary film scripted, shot, directed and co-produced by Catherine McGilvray. The film shot with real characters on actual locations in Madhya Pradesh and Kerala took four years to make. The film was an attention grabber at the recently held Jakarta International film festival. Eighteen years after Samunder Singh stabbed and murdered a Catholic nun, Sr. Rani Maria, the former prisoner who served 12-year jail term has been invited to meet Pope Francis at the Vatican.

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for Family, invited 40-year old Singh after the pope Francis expressed his desire to meet him. A Catholic priest who helped Singh while in jail to experience forgiveness, and a nun, the younger sister of the slain Rani Maria declared a Servant of God, the first major step toward canonization, in 2007, will accompany Singh.

The docufilm tells the story of a Hindu fanatic who kills a Christian missionary in Jabua district of Madhya Pradesh some 18 years ago. Her family forgives him, obtains his release from jail, accepts him as a son and brother with a sacred Hindu ceremony. What happens in the heart of a human being who has received unconditional forgiveness?

A man on a train is looking out of the window. His name is Samundar Singh. The train is travelling across India, heading South, to Kerala. Samundar was once a convict. He had committed an awful crime. Through his voice and recollections, his story slowly unfolds.

Central India, prison of Indore, year 2002. Samundar is serving a life sentence for having stabbed?to death a young Franciscan missionary, sister Rani Maria. An elderly man, white-haired, barefooted and dressed as a sadhu, warmly embraces Samundar saying: ?God has forgiven you?. This man, in spite of appearances, is Father Michael, a Christian Sannyasi, called Swami Sadanand by all.

On the train, Samundar remembers how he was caught in the trap of religious fundamentalism, and how, abandoned by all his family and friends after the murder, he was forgiven and helped only by the family of his victim.? He also remembers the day when, still in jail, he celebrated the rakshabandan, a Hindu rite in which a woman ties a bracelet (rakhi) around the wrist of a man, symbolizing the bond of sacred brotherhood. The woman who tied the bracelet was Selmy, Rani Maria?s sister. Selmy, a Christian nun, and Samundar, a Hindu, are now brother and sister.

Rani Maria?s family had forgiven Samundar immediately. After the rakhi, with Swami?s help, they asked and obtained a pardon for Samundar. Samundar was released from jail after 12 years in 2006.

Samundar is now a free man and lives in his native village. However, his wife had abandoned him while he was in prison and many in the community there barely tolerate him: some because he is a murderer, others because he now associates with the Christians. But Samundar is not afraid of them, nor does he take offence at their provocations.

He visits his sister Selmy at the convent before starting his journey by train to Kerala, where he will meet Rani?s mother and brothers. The only thing that matters for him now is the love of his new family. The mother?s embrace will be for him the start of a new life.-?By? C. M. Paul


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