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"I am only his humble servant, but the Maharajah usually listens to my advice."
―Chattar Lal[src]

Chattar Lal was the Prime Minister of Pankot in 1935 and a secret Thuggee member.

Biography[]

Early life[]

Born around 1900,[2] Chattar Lal was a graduate of Oxford University[1] who not only heard of Dr. Indiana Jones, but has followed his career closely enough to be acquainted with the notorious side of his character,[3] including some incidents occurred in Honduras[1] in 1933[4] and in Madagascar[1] in 1931.[3]

Joining the Thuggee[]

Prior to 1935, Lal was typically encountered within the boundaries of Pankot Province, acting as the "point-man" to the British authorities of the Raj.[5] After Mola Ram emigrated from Bengal to Pankot in search of three Sankara Stones,[3] he learned that Chattar Lal not only knew of Kali, but was willing to freely join the Thuggee and help the temple. Soon after[6] Lal became a member of the cult,[1] he arranged for the young Maharajah Zalim Singh to unknowingly receive the Blood of Kali, so he too would serve the dark goddess.[6] He used his knowledge and carefully cultivated supply of psychotropic herbs to bend the young Maharajah's will to the service of the goddess,[7] thus allowing the Thuggee to operate with impunity.[1]

By the mid-1930s he served as Prime Minister to Maharajah Zalim Singh. As the Maharajah was still a minor, it was largely apparent that Lal took care of most of the day-to-day operations of the region. Well-spoken and outwardly demure, Chattar Lal seemed to have the makings of an able politician.[1] Lal also traveled freely about India to confer with the Crown's representatives, with whom he had many profitable contacts, and the general reputation of a sensible man who can "get things done."[5] He was well-versed in Western ways and customs, favoring Western styles of attire by day,[7] including a tailored Saville Row suit.[3]

One day Chattar Lal, arrived in the village of Mayapore, escorted by a large number of armed men,[7] where the Thuggee had stolen the local Sankara Stone.[1] He claimed to be an emissary of Mola Ram and explained that if the people of Mayapore would turn to the worship of Kali, then Mola Ram would see to it that no villager suffered from lack of food or water. He was told to leave the village, and never to return, and this he did, smiling as he went.[7]

The Temple of Doom[]

Pankotmeeting

Chattar Lal greeting Indiana Jones.

In 1935 Lal greeted Indiana Jones his friends, who where on a mission to recover the Sankara Stone[1] for the people of Mayapore,[7] when they appeared outside the Pankot Palace gates. Later that day Lal conversed with Jones on the subject of the Thuggee while at a state dinner headed by the young maharajah. At first he dismissed reports of the Thuggee cult as stories Jones may have picked up from his time spent at the village, but when Jones persisted, Lal became outright defensive, recalling some of the archaeologist's disreputable past escapades in Honduras. Jones, realizing the inappropriateness of criticizing his hosts, apologized for shooting his mouth off, but not before the Maharajah made a sympathetic statement that at one time there were indeed Thuggees in his kingdom and their like would not return under his rule.[1]

Later, as Jones, Short Round, and Willie Scott discovered the Temple of Doom below Pankot Palace, Lal was present in his Thuggee worshiping attire. After Jones was forced to drink from the Chalice of Kali, Lal assisted in the main temple. When Short Round escaped from slavery and arrived to rescue Jones, Lal fought with the liberated Jones, and briefly undid Jones' effort to raise the cage containing the sacrifice victim, Willie Scott. Despite wielding a large knife, Lal was defeated, thrown over the large wheel controlling the winch, and was seriously crushed by the wheel, which stopped, keeping Scott from being lowered in to the fiery pit. Lal's body was moved out from under the wheel, so that Jones could re-raise Scott to safety. However, while Jones and Short Round helped free Scott, Lal apparently made his getaway.[1]

Escape from justice[]

Though injured in the battle, Lal escaped the palace with a good amount of stolen treasure. The British then kept a vigilant eye out for Lal should he try to establish another Kali temple.[7][5] Now a wanted man, the British offered a $1,000 reward for his capture. The prince would just as soon forget he ever knew the man and ordered Lal to be put to death if he' ever entered the Maharajah's province again. It was believed that Chattar Lal left the area with several thousand pounds in gold, diamonds and jewelry, some stolen from the Palace. No one believed he had left India, mainly because nearly all the major train stations and ports had security forces watching for him.[7]

Personality and traits[]

Lalwithknife

Chattar Lal in his Thuggee robes.

In conversation, Chattar Lal had a dry, acerbic wit, which he used to deflect any unpleasant inquiries made about Kali-worship or other improper acts taking place in his province.[7] Though unfailingly polite on the surface and unlikely to raise his voice in anger, he sometimes reveals a glimpse of the steely resolve that lies beneath.[1]

Lacking the charisma to command the masses like the High Priest Mola Ram, Chattar tried to exert influence more subtly - the unseen puppeteer holding the strings of power. Though Lal was far from an imposing physical specimen, he did possessed some training in the Thuggee arts, and was more than willing to bloody his own hands for his holy cause.[7]

Behind the scenes[]

Chattar Lal was portrayed by veteran actor Roshan Seth in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.[1] Seth had recently come out of retirement from acting having given it up to write a journal, but accepted the role following his work on Richard Attenborough's 1982 film Gandhi and a David Hare play.[8] Seth later went on to play Sheikh Kamal for The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones TV movie Tales of Innocence.[9]

Willie-and-lal

Willie Scott and Chattar Lal talking in a deleted scene

During the development of the film's script, written by Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz, there was a scene in which Willie Scott would try to inform Lal and Phillip James Blumburtt that the secret tunnel in her room leads to the Thuggee temple. However, Lal and later Indiana Jones, under the influence of the Black Sleep of the Kali Ma, dismiss her claims and Blumburtt leaves the palace with his men.[10] Director Steven Spielberg opted to cut the scene after Harrison Ford herniated a disc on his back, rendering him unavailable to shoot it.[8]

Spielberg originally intended for Chattar Lal to be an "Oxford-educated Indian smoothie who was a crook". However, Seth didn't know how to really deliver on the role in that way. In a retrospective collective interview with Empire in 2012, Seth acknowledged that with his new knowledge by that point, he would have been able to play the role just as Spielberg wished, in addition to how he got "a great deal of flak" for The Guardian of Tradition Dinner scene due to how he was asked how "an intelligent man like him would agree to be in a film which shows Indians feeding on beetles and eels". During filming, Seth felt somewhat attracted for Kate Capshaw (Willie Scott) and praised Amrish Puri (Mola Ram) for his performance.[11]

350x700px-LL-69e5f0ce deleted scene 2

Indiana Jones fighting Chattar Lal in a deleted scene.

In a scene cut from the film, Lal attempts to attack Jones in the Thuggee cavern but is knocked into the lava pit, killing him.[8] This is why the defeated Lal is absent from the background of the finished film.[1] Although not seen in the film, Lal's fate and the above mentioned deleted scene are included in James Kahn's novelization,[12] the storybook[13] and comic adaptations.[14]

Deletedscene

A removed scene of Lal being lowered into the lava.

While Chattar Lal's role in the film's novelization, comic and storybook adaptation is the largely same as in the film, the Read-Along Adventures' adaptation reduced his involvement considerably. Instead, Lal only welcomes Indiana Jones and his friends to Pankot Palace and later disappears without an explanation from the narrative.[15]

In LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures, Indy and Short Round must rescue Willie Scott and defeat Lal whose body bursts into LEGO pieces when Indy triggers the heated floors Lal is standing on.[16] In the sequel, however, Lal is absent on most home consoles but still available to play in the portable versions.[17]

Appearances[]

Sources[]

Notes and references[]

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