Someone asked on one of my Rani posts if I thought she would ever act again opposite one of her 90s costars in a rom-com. And I think she might, but only if it was a really really good script. And to help the scriptwriters along, here are some suggestions! (of course, she could always just do my K3G sequel idea with Abhishek, or my Taming of the Shrew idea with Aamir)
When we say “90s” in Indian film, we don’t usually mean 1990-2000, you know? More sort of 1995 to 2005, the NRI romance era that got a jumpstart with DDLJ and then kept going straight through to 2007, the infamous Yash Raj Year Of Flops. Looking at Rani’s most successful and popular films of this era, I am seeing the co-stars Shahrukh, Aamir, Salman, Abhishek, Hrithik, Saif, and Vivek that one time. So, you ready for 7 separate plot ideas?
Rani Mukherjee and Shahrukh: As I mentioned when I discussed Chalte Chalte, one of the best things about Rani and Shahrukh is that they feel like they are the same age. Even though she is really much much younger than him, Rani has always had a kind of dignity and maturity that makes her feel like an equal even with a major star, or a more experienced actor.
So, let’s build on that! I want them to meet as mature equals who like each other because they are equals. What if they are both lawyers (because I don’t think Shahrukh has played a lawyer yet, and Rani was so cute in Veer-Zaara). Shahrukh is very successful and confident in court. And at home, with his family (many many younger siblings), he is respected and beloved. But any time he has to talk to a woman in a social situation he gets all shy and tongue-tied. We can even explain it by saying that when he was a young man, he was supposed to get married, an arranged marriage to a beautiful woman who he adored. And then she eloped at the wedding and killed all his confidence. And then his parents died and he had to raise his siblings and marriage never happened for him. Meanwhile, Rani is a working woman who lives with her mother (Kirron Kher, obviously) and her teenage daughter. Her husband left her years ago and she loudly proclaims her happiness with the single life, she has her daughter and her mother, she doesn’t need anything else.
(Rani doesn’t really get a song in Veer-Zaara, but imagine her character in the background here as the heroine, and Shahrukh as another lawyer who is middle-aged but has better make-up)
Her teenage daughter signs up for a dating site and sends an email to Shahrukh’s college age brother. Shahrukh sees the email and is furious with his brother for emailing with a high school girl, and writes back a nice note saying that she shouldn’t be wasting her time on boys, she is clearly a smart girl and so on, and also he wants to talk with her mother about this. Naturally, Rani is touched by his kind advice and writes back right away saying that she is taking care of the situation. And then they start falling in love over email, and meanwhile in “real life”, they start talking to each other because he kind of awkwardly asks her advice about what a woman would like about him. Their conversations don’t always go very well, he accidentally insults her, and then his sister tells him he has to buy her a gift, and she is so surprised she forgets to say thank you, etc. Eventually of course they touch hands and get all sparky in real life, but then there are the emails too, and both of them are torn as to whether they should go with the email lover or the real life lover. They both decide to meet the email lover just to break it off since the night before in real life they finally admitted they were in love and agreed to be married. And then of course they find out the email lover is the same person, have one more fight, and then make up and get married and Shahrukh gets to be a father to Rani’s daughter.
Rani Mukherjee and Aamir Khan: We already kind of had this reunion with Talaash, but there wasn’t enough of it!!! I want something like Talaash, but entirely focused on their relationship. And since Aamir is all outside of the box and artsy, lets do something radical and rule breaking and make it an extra-marital affair!
(I want this same tone and realistic middle-class look to them, but with a totally different plot)
Aamir and Rani are neighbors. They know each other to nod at when they are getting the newspaper or the groceries, but naturally they are both closer to each others spouses. But not really, Aamir doesn’t much like Rani’s husband, avoids him at the colony parties because he always drinks a little too much and talks about the pretty young women in his office. And Rani doesn’t much like Aamir’s wife, because she always seems to be running off to a beauty parlor or bringing in new furniture, and sometimes her little girl gets lonely and comes over to Rani’s because “Mummy never has time for me”. That is how Aamir and Rani really meet for the first time, he comes home late, his wife is gone, but Rani left a note that his daughter is across the hall. Aamir thanks her for taking care of his daughter, Rani says it is no problem, she misses her own daughter now that she is away at college, and she gets lonely at night since her husband has to work late so much. Only then Aamir’s wife never returns. She sends him a note saying she is following her dreams and can’t live in his little life any more, she never should have married him (naturally, it was an arranged marriage, she was beautiful and much younger, Aamir was responsible and settled with a good job).
Over the next few days and weeks, they get into a routine of the daughter going to Rani’s after school, and then Aamir coming over after work and having dinner with them and talking to Rani for all hours. This part is all slow and undramatic and sweet. But then Rani’s jerky husband finally comes home from one of his “business trips”, drunk, and starts yelling when he sees her talking alone in their apartment with another man. Aamir tries to explain, but Rani tells him to just go. Only Aamir sits in his apartment across the hall and can’t stop listening as her husband yells and yells, and finally she cries out in pain. And he goes across the hall, punches her husband, and while he is still in shock, orders Rani to pack her things, she is moving across the hall with him. And then we get a nice social discussion for the second half of the romance, as Aamir and Rani become social outcasts for living together outside of marriage. Their sweet romance can continue, including a very discrete moment a few nights after she moves in, when she goes into the living room and takes his hand and brings her into the bedroom with her. But we can also get all sorts of social debates, about how Rani is publicly living with another man, and isn’t that better than her husband sneaking around behind her back with dozens of women? And how Aamir’s wife left him because she didn’t want him, isn’t it better for him to find a woman who does want him? Plus, isn’t it better for two people of the same age to be together, than for a young woman to be forced to marry a man a decade older than her, or for a man to be forced to chase after a teenager with whom he has nothing in common? And it can all come to a head when Rani’s daughter, who hasn’t spoken to her mother after one angry phone call when it first happened, calls and asks for help because it is her wedding day and she suddenly realized she can’t marry a man a dozen years older than her and she suddenly understands her mother’s problems. And we can end a year later with Rani’s daughter coming over for Sunday dinner from the apartment that she shares with 3 other young working women Pink style, while Aamir’s daughter is visiting her mother for the weekend because they have worked out shared custody so she can work during the week and still see her daughter. And Rani and Aamir are still happily and quietly living in sin, since Rani’s husband refuses to give her a divorce.
Rani Mukherjee and Salman: Call me crazy, but I have always gotten more of a “friends” vibe from them than a romantic one. So I want to go with that. But still make it a rom-com, since that was the request. So can we make Salman and Rani best friends who help each other with their respective romances? The rare male-female friendship that truly is just friendship?
How about this? Salman is kind of a charmer who is also a loser in love. He and Rani grew up next door to each other, and while she was always able to protect her heart, turn down all the boys who gave her Valentine’s and stay focused on her schoolwork, Salman was always falling in love, and then passing a note which ended up with the teacher, or doing his girlfriend’s homework so well that she ended up moving to a special class so he couldn’t see her again, or buying a fancy new hair tonic which made him go bald. The getting the girl to love him was always the easy part, it was the rest of it where his bad luck would come in. We see all this in a cute flashback with kids, and then we have like ten minutes of college time when Salman is teasing Rani because she keeps looking at some guy (who we the audience don’t see because he is out of frame), and finally Salman says that he will go talk to the go for her. Rani is all embarrassed and hiding her head, but then we see Salman lean around the back of the guy he is talking to (who the audience still can’t see) and give her a thumbs up. And then cut to fun Sangeet song, at the end of which we see Rani wave good-bye from her wedding car as it pulls off, and then Salman grab his bag and rush to the airport to leave for his job that he delayed so he could see her married.
(See? They totally work as teasing childhood friends!)
And so, as adults, Salman is living in America and still unmarried. He just had a relationship fall apart AGAIN because he invited the girl he liked to go with him on a business trip, and she ended up falling in love with his secretary. But Salman is such a nice guy, that he then arranged and paid for their wedding. And he is calling Rani, drunk, from the reception. Rani is in India with 3 kids and a husband and a mother-in-law and she has no patience with Salman’s complaining about how hard it is to be single and rich and successful. It ends with Salman offering to fly her out to stay in his mansion for a month and she can see how hard it is for a nice guy to get married. And Rani agrees, but adds that he will have to fly her kids out too and will get to take care of them the whole time instead of just being “fun Uncle Salman”.
Naturally, Rani goes a little wild in America, fun shopping montage and getting drunk at nightclubs and all that. And that first night, she also meets the girl who she is sure is perfect for Salman (Katrina, hat check girl at the club who is fired because she gets blamed for some of Rani’s crazy behavior). Only she decides that the problem is Salman feels too much pressure when he starts a romance, so the girl has to get to know him outside of dating. So she hires Katrina to be the babysitter for their kids. And then starts setting Salman up on a whole series of dates and meetings, and then sabotaging all of them so he has more time to get to know Kat while not thinking about dating her. In the second half, Salman has finally realized he is in love, but it is too late because Kat has just confessed to Rani that she has to fly back to India for her arranged marriage. Rani and Salman and the kids fly back to India to stay at her house, and Rani and Salman have various crazy adventures getting Salman into the mansion where Kat is staying so he can see her. And finally, the manage to break up her wedding, and Rani’s husband Shahrukh arrives back from his business trip just in time for Kat and Salman’s wedding.
Rani Mukherjee and Abhishek: Can we all agree that they have the best chemistry of all these pairs? They just seem like they have so much fun together! So let’s put them together right from the start, like in Bunty Aur Babli, even if they aren’t in love yet they are still partners.
Another childhood friend pair, only this time it DOES end in romance! Abhishek is a serious businessman type trying to rise up the corporate ladder. He is in a meeting with his boss when he gets a call that there is a woman in the lobby waiting to see him. He tries to keep focused on the meeting, but his cell phone keeps going off and the lobby keeps calling him and finally he is getting paged too, and he has to go and find out what the emergency is that just couldn’t wait! It’s Rani, in the lobby, she needs to his advice on which wedding card she should pick and the print shop has to know now!!! Everyone teases Abhishek about being the groom, and why didn’t he tell them, and they are both quick to correct “No no, just friends! She would never fit in his corporate life, and he would never marry someone so crazy.”
For the whole first 3rd of the movie, Abhishek keeps helping with the wedding prep, even though he complains about it, and Rani is all happy talking about her wonderful NRI fiance, but also constantly calling on Abhishek to pick which sari she should wear, and what color she should paint her new apartment and all these questions. And then, on the day of the wedding, the groom doesn’t show up. Rani is heartbroken, and Abhishek can’t stand to see it, so he steps up and agrees to marry her instead.
The marriage is a disaster at first, Rani can’t move into her fancy apartment because her fiance had the lease, so instead she moves into Abhishek’s boring bachelor pad, she is crying all the time and looking at old photos, none of her other friends want to talk to her because they were all her fiance’s friends. But Abhishek gives her a cheering up song.
(Cheering up song!)
And when the cheering up song means he misses out on an important business opportunity, Rani crazily manages to stop his business contact before he gets on a plane and convince him to give her husband a chance. Which he does, but only if Abhishek brings his “charming wife” with him to the business conference. Happy Honeymoon-type song in Singapore, where their eyes keep meeting and their fingers touch and they might finally be recognizing their feelings.
(Like this, but with Abhishek)
They return to India, and Abhishek surprises her at the door to their apartment by suddenly sweeping her into his arms and carrying her inside. But just as he dumps her onto the bed, there is a knock, and it’s Evil Fiance! Played by Raj Kumar Yadav, because ever since Queen he has been typecast as Evil Fiance for me. He wants Rani back, it was all a huge mistake, his family told him she wasn’t good enough for him, but now he knows that was wrong. Abhishek backs off, Rani ends up engaged again almost without realizing it. Only she and Abhishek have to keep meeting to finalize the divorce, and they have to have one more dinner with his business contact where they pretend to be happily married, and so on. Until finally on the day of her registry marriage with Evil Fiance, Abhishek is there as her best friend, and at the last minute, she turns and garlands Abhishek instead of Fiance!
Rani and Hrithik: Can we agree that they have THE WORST chemistry of all these pairs? It’s not hopeless, because Rani could have chemistry with a log of wood, but it’s not great. In fact, in most films Hrithik and a really really handsome log of wood have strikingly similar acting styles.
But let’s lean into this chemistry issue! Make it an opposites attract kind of romance. Hrithik is a handsome sports star who has an image problem. He got drunk and did an item song in the middle of London, stopping traffic. And his girlfriend just dumped him and he had an injury plagued season playing whatever sport Hrithik would play. Rugby? Soccer? Something international and hip. Anyway, his manager (Boman Irani) brings in Rani, the best PR woman in the business. At first, they can’t stand each other. She thinks Hrithik is an idiotic drunk, and he thinks she is uptight and boring. But then Hrithik’s girlfriend announces her engagement, and Rani steps up and comes up with the perfect way to counter the story (Hrithik announces he is founding a charitable foundation). And Hrithik starts to trust and rely on her. Rani also starts to open up to him a little, confessing that she was in love once but the guy broke her heart and left her, so now she know show to protect herself and never let people see the truth. Everything is going great until one night Rani has a fantasy dream about Hrithik and realizes that she has caught feelings for him, the one thing she promised she would never do with a client. So she quits.
At first Hrithik is a little angry, but then decides that he doesn’t even care, his life is great, he doesn’t need some glasses wearing wet blanket telling him what to do. Only as he enjoys his parties and sports wins and new ad campaigns (obviously, we had a humorous scene earlier with Rani teaching him how to emote in front of the camera because he is so naturally stiff), he keeps looking for Rani and imagining he is seeing her. Finally, he gets drunk one night and tells all this to Boman, who diagnosis him as being in love. Boman flies off to find Rani, who is now managing a difficult new client (Alia in a cameo as herself, but a version of herself who gets drunk every night and has a new boy toy every day). Rani refuses to come back, but gets alarmed when she hears that Hrithik got drunk. Boman figures out that she will only return if Hrithik seems to need her. So Hrithik does another drunk item number, makes headlines, and Rani comes rushing to his side. Hrithik acts completely drunk and unhappy (even though he really isn’t) just to keep her there. Finally, he tricks her into agreeing to match him drink by drink in order to get him to leave a club. Naturally, Hrithik is actually drinking water, Rani gets totally drunk, and he has to take care of her after her item song and bring her home and put her to bed and all of that. And she also confesses she loves him, so the next morning he is all happy and bringing her breakfast in bed and ready to give her a huge engagement ring. Only when he goes to find her, she is freaking out and trying to sneak out the door, because she thinks she has ruined her reputation and lost all his respect for her and her life is over. Hrithik calms her down by giving the same speech she gave him when she was first hired, and ending by pointing out that nothing will be as good for her reputation as reforming the “Bad Boy of [Sport]” into a happy husband! And, wedding song.
Rani and Saif: I love them together! But only if it is a little funny. Not if it is serious. Ta Ra Rum Pum Pum is a travesty, and there’s a reason Thoda Pyar Thoda Magic flopped. So let’s do a straight up comedy for them!
Let’s go classic screwball and make Rani an agent of chaos while Saif is the straight man who needs a little chaos in his life. Saif is a wealthy hotelier who likes to check into his hotels in disguise to see how the staff treats an average costumer. We see this in a funny opening sequence, when he is all dressed up as a Guru and makes ridiculous demands on the staff like removing all the furniture from his room, and then finally reveals his true identity after the hotel manager has given up and tried to throw him out. Meanwhile, Rani is the new hire desk clerk at a hotel in Shimla. She talks too much and asks too many questions and is already giving her boss a headache. But, as she says, it is just because she wants everyone to be happy at their hotels! So, when Saif shows up in disguise as a shy scholar who needs absolute quiet for his studies, Rani’s boss sics her on him in revenge. As you can imagine, multiple humorous things occur over the course of the next few days. But at the end of it all, just as we think Saif is about to fire her just like he fired the manager in the prologue, he overhears her talking to another guest and has a change of heart when he realizes its not about being professional or proper, it’s just about caring for people. And instead of firing her, he makes her the spokesperson for their new campaign!
(Rani: Agent of chaos)
Only Rani continues to create chaos, this time in his corporate offices in Bombay. His arranged marriage bride/childhood friend/daughter of the owner of a competing hotel chain can’t stand Rani. His employees start skipping work because they would rather listen to Rani’s stories and jokes. And Saif himself can’t help laughing when he sees her. Plus, lots of funny scenes on his part when he tries to get her to act better. Even taking her home to stay with his family where he can control her doesn’t work, because she just gives his grandmother a make-over and brings home a stray dog, and gets all the kitchen staff to sing and dance. It all comes to a head at the combined engagement party/new ad launch party/merger announcement. Rani shows up dressed all pretty and Saif starts to see her in a new way. But before it can go anywhere, Rani overhears someone talking about how nice it is that Saif invited “the help” and gets all insulted and runs out, not knowing that at the same time Saif is breaking up with his fiancee because they are just too different. Finally, the ending is Saif showing up at Rani’s hometown in the tiny guest house run by her grandparents which she is always mentioning in stories as where she learned everything about the hotel business. Rani’s grandma sends her to go bring fresh towels to that “difficult guest” in room 4, and of course it is Saif!
Rani and Vivek: I really really liked Saathiya and thought they were great in it. In the years since, I have become less fond of Vivek. So let’s make him the man who broke her heart in flashback in the Hrithik movie, and her evil ex in the Shahrukh movie, but not the bad husband in the Aamir movie or the Evil Fiance in the Abhishek movie, because he hasn’t earned that large of a role.
So, what do you think? If you could only make one of these, which would you pick?
Would you keep the casting I chose?
Who should play Rani’s husband and daughter in the Aamir movie?
Who should play Shahrukh’s siblings in the sibling movie?
Is Shahrukh the best choice for her surprise husband in the Salman film, and is Kat the best choice for Salman’s love interest?
Should I forgive Vivek for losing his hair and being a jerk and write a decent part for him?