I think Shakespeare’s tragedies have been pretty well covered by Indian film, don’t you? And this week we get yet another version of MacBeth. But what about his comedies? Besides Dil Bole Hadippa, have we had any in the past few years? Datablue asked me a question about it on Monday’s post, and that got me thinking. More Shakespeare comedies, I say! Possibly following the lines I lay out below.
(this may turn into part one of many, because Shakespeare has A LOT of comedies)
Much Ado About Nothing: It is criminal that this play has not been turned into an Indian film before! Unless I am forgetting something? But I don’t think I am. If you are not completely up on your Shakespeare comedies, here is the original plot summary, as I remember it:
Benedick and Claudio are best friends (Claudio is slightly younger and kind of looks up to Benedick), and followers of the prince Don Pedro. They are returning to an area where Benedick has visited before but Claudio has not. Benedick immediately starts his “Merry war” up again with local girl Beatrice. Meanwhile, Beatrice’s best friend Hero is beautiful and innocent and Claudio immediately falls in love with her and vice-versa. A marriage is arranged. And, during the celebrations and preparations, their friends arrange for Beatrice and Benedick to fall in love as well by planting false stories to Beatrice that Benedick loved her and is just hiding it in his words, and vice versa. But, shortly before the wedding, evil Don John (illegitimate and jealous brother of Don Pedro) decides to ruin all their happiness because he is evil. He tricks Claudio into thinking Hero is unfaithful. Claudio calls off the wedding at the last minute, horribly shaming Hero who collapses in sickness. Beatrice is infuriated and declares “Would that I were a man, I would eat his heart in the marketplace!” And she demands that Benedick avenge the insult. Benedick regretfully agrees, although it puts his love for his friend against his love for his lover. At the last minute, as Benedick is about to kill brokenhearted Claudio, the truth is revealed, that it was all a scheme and Hero is innocent. Claudio really does want to die now, especially when he learns that Hero never recovered from her faint at the wedding and has died. However, instead he puts himself to the mercy of Hero’s father who suggests that to make up for his mistake, he marry Hero’s cousin, sight unseen. At the second wedding ceremony, it is revealed that actually Hero didn’t die! She is the veiled bride, they just wanted to torture Claudio a little as he tortured her. And it all ends happily with both couples united.
(Also, Keanu Reeves plays the evil Don John in one of the recent film versions, and it is hilarious, but also kind of works?)
So, the main point of the play, for me, is in the idea of contrasting the two central couples. Beatrice and Benedick, who are constantly sparring together and fighting and talking and all that and have to be “tricked” into falling in love, versus Hero and Claudio, who fall in passionate love at first sight.
Only, as the play goes on, we see that Hero and Claudio’s love is in fact built on a foundation of sand. Claudio believes her to be unfaithful, and wishes her dead because of it. On the other hand, when Beatrice swears to Benedick that Hero is faithful, he believes her based solely on her word. And is willing to kill his best friend because of it. The couple that is less “romantic” has the stronger bond and more passionate loyalty. And, it goes without saying, the “tricks” played on them to make them fall in love were no tricks at all, they were in love all along, they just needed the confidence to admit it.
So, who shall we cast in our Indianized version to play the spikey difficult couple with the unbreakable bond, and the shallow pretty couple with a bond made of glass? I have options!
Option 1: Shahrukh and Juhi (or Madhuri?), Shahid and Aditi Rao Hydari
Hero has the smallest part in the play, but she has to have an immediately striking appearance. Which Aditi certain does! Claudio needs to convey sort of shallow handsomeness and youth, but also has some fairly complicated and hard to act scenes. Going from infatuation to disgust to anger to depression. Shahid, I think, would be perfect. The right kind of young handsome untouched by life looks, with some real acting chops.
(See? Immediately striking!)
For Beatrice and Benedict, I would love to see Shahrukh and Juhi or Madhuri try their hand. I can’t decide which actress! They would both be good. Juhi, because she and Shahrukh are such old friends and have such comfortable chemistry. Madhuri, because she is believably sparky and spunky. They are slightly on the older side, but then the characters are supposed to be slightly older. Old enough to feel protective towards their younger friends. Throw in a line about how they are both too difficult to be married to explain their advanced single status, and done! Perfect!
(This whole video is amazing, but go to 3:10 for a chemistry explosion)
So, how would the plot need to be changed? I’d still want Beatrice and Benedick to be old acquaintances who see each other rarely. Oh! I have it! Juhi or Madhuri and Aditi run a hotel. They are cousins, Aditi is shy and recently finished hospitality school, Aditi’s father (Juhi’s uncle) Jackie Shroff is the general manager of the hotel and the supervisor of both women. Shahrukh is the young head of the multi-national corporation who owns the majority share in the hotel, and Shahid is his young cousin who he is training. They are there for their annual tour of inspection. And also to help Shahid recover, because his engagement just broke up after he learned his fiancee was cheating on him (I feel like he should have some underlying motivation for being a distrustful idiot later).
(this is a kind of silly song, but see how great their clashing chemistry is?)
Juhi and Shahrukh immediately start clashing, but we know they have an underlying respect because of course Shahrukh is Juhi or Madhuri’s boss and he hasn’t fired her yet. So he must not mind her sharp tongue. Meanwhile, Shahid falls in love with Aditi at first sight and bores Shahrukh with all his talk of her perfection. But Shahrukh agrees to talk to Jackie about an engagement, and the marriage is arranged.
At the Sangeet, Jackie and Shahid get together and talk about how clearly Juhi and Shahrukh are made for each other, if only they would see it. Big complicated song number in which Juhi and Shahrukh are both pulled off by themselves to be sung at about how awesome the other one is and how they are sighing of love for them secretly. Until they finally come together at the end of the song.
(Something kind of like this. Ooo, maybe Priety? Or is she too young for this role?)
But, evil Paresh Rawal is jealous of all this happiness. And also wants Shahukh and Shahid to make him manager of the hotel instead of Jackie. So he decides to break up this marriage in order to get his own ends. He brings in Malaika Arora to do a sexy item number at the hotel bar, against Shahrukh and Shahid’s explicit orders that there be no late night dance girls, and he arranges it so that she is wearing the same outfit Aditi was wearing earlier. So when Shahid sees this on the security camera footage moments before the wedding, he thinks it is Aditi, being loose and sexual and completely unlike he thought she was. Paresh has also arranged for him to get drunk, and paid off a patron to lie that Aditi has been doing these late night “private shows” for months. Infuriated, Shahid breaks up the wedding and stomps on the matrimonial fire and generally makes a huge scene, and Aditi faints. And later, tries to slit her wrists.
(I’m thinking a dance kind of like this)
In the hospital where Shahrukh has come to comfort Juhi (or Madhuri), big confrontation between Juhi and Shahrukh, they both get to stretch their dramatic skills, and finally it ends like it does in the play, with Shahrukh believing her and being willing to prove his love by killing his cousin. Except in this case, let’s not say “kill”, let’s say “fire from the company and banish from the family.”
(See? This couple is clearly made for each other!)
Heart-breaking scene in which Shahrukh breaks up with Shahid, followed by Shahid going out drinking on the beach. Shahid Item song! And at the end of the item song, he recognizes a dance move from the video, done by a sexy lady at the bar, only to discover it is Malaika! Who easily admits that she was hired to dance the night before and given a costume.
(Song kind of like this)
Shahid, now anguished by guilt, rushes back to the hotel. Meanwhile, Shahrukh got a phone call from him while he was being comforted and rewarded by Juhi post confrontation. He has an idea! And so, when Shahid arrives back at the hotel, Jackie tells him that Aditi has jumped off the side of a building out of shame. And then we get a nice little PSA about how even if a woman’s honor is completely gone, she still shouldn’t kill herself, because things could always get better. Shahid agrees to marry whoever Jackie picks, as punishment. Wedding song, sad Shahid on a horse, marriage, and then, yay! It’s Aditi! She’s alive! Shahid falls at her feet, and she sweetly forgives him (which is more than I would do!). Meanwhile, Shahrukh kind of sidles up to Juhi and suggests that, so long as the priest is already there, and so long as the bad is there, they might as well get married as well. Juhi insists on making him actually propose in front of everybody, admitting that he has, finally, fallen in love.
So, what do you think? Does this work? And Juhi or Madhuri?
Much Ado About Nothing Option 2: Varun and Alia, Siddharth and Shraddha
Now, in this version, we lose the age difference. Everyone is a little baby equally. Which also means the whole corporate set-up has to go out the window. Although I think I will keep Jackie Shroff, because I just want him to be everybody’s father.
In this case, I think I am going to go with an inter-school competition. Oh oh! A FLASHBACK!!!! Varun and Alia used to compete against each other in college debate competitions. Their first meeting was at a pre-debate drinking trip to a local bar. Varun tried to hit on Alia’s hot friend, Alia snapped back that her friend is engaged and not interested, they immediately had a war of words and a dance off. Varun wins the dance off easily, because he is all good with dancing and drinking and clubs, while Alia is glasses wearing and “unattractive”.
(Dance off like this, only Siddharth isn’t there yet)
But, while Varun wins at the dancing, the next day he is shocked to see that Alia is his debate opponent, and she easily defeats him. And along the way also declares that 5 years later, while those who work and think will be wealthy and powerful, people who just dance and sing will be living in dark one room apartments.
Cut to, 5 years later! Shahid is waking up in his luxurious bungalow that he shares with Siddharth (his best friend and a goodie-two-shoes who told him over the phone in the flashback not to drink the night before a debate). Siddharth and Shahid are business partners and sons of business partner best friends who founded a fabulously successful corporation, and then gave it to their sons to run and took off on a round the world trip (I’m thinking, Anupam Kher and Jackie Shroff. They keep showing up in phone cameos with backdrops of different global locations through out the film).
Meanwhile, Alia and Shraddha are waking up in the tiny apartment they share, they are cousins and also business partners trying to get their computer consulting company off the ground. And living with Shraddha’s supportive father Shakti Kapoor. They are preparing for their big contract business meeting that could finally get their company off the ground.
And, of course, when they show up for their presentation, Varun and Siddharth are the owners of the company who are giving the contract! Varun and Alia immediately start fighting, Siddharth and Shraddha immediately fall in love. Siddharth convinces Varun later that day to hire them, because what could be more satisfying than seeing his old enemy fail? And Shraddha convinces Alia to take the job, because even if it is pity and spite that inspired the offer, what could be better than taking her old enemy’s money and proving she has earned it?
And then happy falling in love song with Shraddha and Siddharth as they work together! Intercut with Alia and Varun arguing all the time. At the end of the song, Siddharth has dragged Varun with him to their tiny apartment to bring his proposal to Shakti Kapoor. It’s very Sholay-y, Varun keeps trying to talk down Siddharth. But it doesn’t work, because Shakti agrees because his daughter is in love and that is all that matters. But Varun and Alia are still mad about the match and think their friends could do better.
(working together falling in love song like this. Except no one wears a beret)
Shraddha and Siddharth get together and decide that it is up to them to bring Varun and Alia together for the sake of harmony, at least until after the wedding. So Siddharth suggests to Varun that he pretend to like Alia, in order to gain her trust and confirm whether or not Shraddha “really” loves him or is just after his money. And Shraddha suggests that Alia pretend to like Varun so she can find out if Siddharth “really” loves her, or is just slumming it with a middle-class girl. Humorous love song where they are pretending to be in love! But maybe also really falling for each other a little?
(Have I mentioned recently that Hulchul is my favorite Priyadarshan movie?)
Finally, while in their fake-romance period, Varun surprises Alia late at night in her office, and finds her crying. Because he is essentially a decent person, Varun comforts her and ask what is wrong. She admits that it is the anniversary or her parents’ death. That Shakti isn’t really her uncle, Shraddha was her best friend in school and insisted on bringing her home when she was taken to an orphanage after her parents’ death. And so Alia has always tried extra hard to prove herself and do good and work hard to pay back their generosity. Thus her prickly personality and focus and competitiveness. Varun is softened by this story and shares his own story, that he and Siddharth and their fathers were always a happy family (obviously, Jackie Shroff and Anupum Kher are a couple on the Downlow). But Siddharth was always too trusting, Varun learned from an early age that it was his job to protect him. And then a few years back, Siddharth was hurt despite all his efforts when he found his fiancee in bed with another man the day of the wedding. It broke his heart, and Varun will never again let him be hurt.
And then their eyes meet, and Real True Melodic Love Song starts up.
Everything seems great until the wedding. Varun and Alia are all flirty in the background, Siddharth and Shraddha are sweetly excited, and then on the big screen where the family slide show is being played, suddenly it switches to a different slide show! Of Shraddha having sex with another man! !!!!!!!!!
Siddharth is heartbroken as it all comes rushing back to him! He stands up and stomps on the nuptial fire! Shraddha can’t even speak she is so devastated! Varun rushes after Siddharth while Alia pulls Shraddha away to another room! Varun tries to reason with Siddharth, saying that they should talk about this, there should be an explanation, he can’t just turn his back on the woman he said he loved. Siddharth won’t hear it! He wants Varun to go with him as he gets drunk for the first time ever (Angry Drunk Song That Also Feels a Little Gay).
(I’ve never been to a nightclub, but my friends swear to me that it is exactly like this)
The next day, Varun calls Alia, and learns she is in the hospital!!!! Shraddha tried to kill herself! Varun rushes over, and argues that even if Shraddha had a moment of weakness, and her marriage fell apart, that is no reason to end her life. Shraddha is still all depressed and thinks she has no right to live or be respected by any man again. Varun, because he is AWESOME, declares that he respects her, and he takes her as his sister. Alia, of course, is more in love than ever. She thanks him and is all soft and crying and loving. Varun is all puppy-eyed at her. And then, while she is clinging to him, she asks if he really takes Shraddha as his sister, and if so, he has no choice but to avenge the insult to her and cut Siddharth out of his life.
Heartbreaking scene of Varun surprising Siddharth at the office with dissolution of partnership papers. Siddharth, his life in tatters around him, signs the papers. Varun, holding back tears but firm in his decision, signs them as well. Thank goodness, their Gay Dads arrive just then! Siddharth won’t listen to anything Jackie Shroff says to him. But Anupam Kher has better luck with Varun. He makes him think back over everything, and he suddenly remembers! FLASHBACK AGAIN! Shraddha was the girl at the bar that he was hitting on! The one that Alia said was engaged!
Back to Alia, who uses her knowledge and her hacking skills, and the mystery is solved! Now, I was tempted to be all clever and meta and have the footage be from Aashiqui 2 and the explanation be that there is an actress who looks just like Shraddha. But I decided that was cheap. Instead, I’m going to go all Pink and say that the central argument doesn’t even matter. It’s not about “purity”, it’s about trust and treating women with respect. Siddharth should have stopped and talked to her instead of humiliating her.
It really was Shraddha in the photos! She isn’t “pure” at all. She was engaged to her college boyfriend (I am open to casting suggestions. Someone handsome and smarmy. Dino Morea?). They had sex. He took photos using his laptop without her knowing. But then, when they came back from the debate competition trip, Alia and Shraddha caught him in bed with another woman (again, open to suggestions! Maybe Neha Sharma?). He argues that she should forgive him one small mistake, she says no never. And now, in the present day, Evil Boyfriend is a lowly peon at Siddharth and Varun’s corporation. He found out about the engagement between Siddharth and Shraddha and decided to teach her a lesson.
(Dino does have a kind of perfectly punchable face)
Siddharth refuses to listen to any evidence, so instead Jackie asks him to just agree to marry whoever Jackie picks out for him. Siddharth goes along with it. Big wedding, same people invited, same hall and all. And then, just as the ceremony is about to start, video starts playing again! And this time, it is Evil Boyfriend on a hidden camera admitting the whole scheme and how he got back at his old girlfriend in her happy new life. And how did they get this footage? The Cheating Woman from back in the past! Alia tracked her down, she felt so guilty about accidentally sleeping with an engaged man that she agreed to be part of their scheme. And she was also the one person Evil Boyfriend wouldn’t suspect!
(I would say Lisa Haydon for the cheating woman with a heart of gold, but she’s pregnant, so out of the running for now)
Anyway, just as Siddharth is feeling the absolute worst, Shraddha reveals herself to be hidden in the bridal outfit! And then they get married, and Varun surprises Alia by garlanding her in the background so they are married too. And song!
So, who should play the evil boyfriend and sexy lady cameos in this version?
And between the two, which one would you vote for? I can picture the second one more clearly, but on the other hand, the first option has Shahrukh!