I don’t know why nobody seems to know what to do with Madhuri. She is so wonderful and amazing, and ever since her post-children return to the industry, she isn’t getting the platforms she deserves. But I have ideas!
I was already planning to do a Madhuri-themed post for her birthday, and then I remembered it was Mother’s Day too! So I am combining the two themes.
Which I think works really really well! Everyone keeps trying to make Madhuri’s comeback about her being the amazing and wonderful MADHURI. But we don’t love her and care about her characters because she is MADHURI, we love her and care about her because she is struggling to become MADHURI. You need to give us a flaw, a weakness to be overcome. And what could be better than playing an overlooked mother who finds purpose! In multiple genres.
Madhuri as Mother in a Comic Spy Thriller: Madhuri is an elegant mother of an NRI family. At the beginning, her husband is leaving town on business, her boys are sad to see him go, he makes some joke about how he has to go out and earn a living because their mother certainly couldn’t handle his job. After he leaves, we see a bit of Madhuri’s day to day life, she goes to school meetings and makes breakfast for the kids and goes grocery shopping and all that. And then one day she comes home to find the house ransacked. She calls the police from the neighbors, and then calls her husband and can’t get through. The police come, and also mysterious people in suits who refuse to tell her who they are. But, Madhuri is so smart, she spills something on one of their jackets, and then plays the “pleasant motherly housewife” card and convinces him to let her clean it, and checks the pockets. Finding an FBI ID card!
With this to inspire her, she waits until they are all gone, and then starts hunting through all the little places of the house where she has seen her husband acting oddly. Finally finds an ID and a phone hidden in a tree trunk. He’s a RAW agent!!!! Madhuri calls the number on the phone and pretends to be her husband. She gets enough information to find out he was chasing down a mysterious agent from New York to Bombay, before the voice on the other line realizes she isn’t her husband and warns her off of trying to find out more. Madhuri says she just wants her husband home, the mysterious voice tells her that isn’t a priority for RAW, they need to save thousands of lives, not just one.
And Madhuri’s off to Bombay to save her husband! She leaves the kids with the neighbors and hops a flight. In Bombay, she stays at a tiny guest house with gossipy owners who keep making double takes as she arrives home in various disguises, beaten up, dragging a witness, etc. She has an assortment of napkins and guest soaps and matchbooks that her husband brought home for their boys’ collection, and uses this to go through the city chasing down clues. Which involves her accidentally being pushed on stage at a nightclub, having to charm a bank clerk, getting caught in a street fight, etc. etc. Periodically she calls the RAW phone to give them an update on what she has found out, and they keep telling her to leave it alone.
(Nightclub number like this!)
In the end, she learns that the friendly man she shared a table with at the first restaurant she went to (Anupam Kher) is the head terrorist. And hiding in his modest apartment in a backroom, is her tied up husband. She is trapped herself, but just when all seems lost, manages to use her house wife skills (I don’t know, squirting orange juice in his eye or something?) to free herself and her husband, who then beats up all the guys, with Madhuri occasionally braining people on the head, and the RAW agent back-up arrives to find everyone neatly tied up, and the two of them holding hands on the couch billing and cooing. Needless to say, her husband is played by Akshay Kumar.
Fast-forward 3 months. Back in her happy home, sending the kids off for school, reminding them to go over to the neighbors after, and then she and Akshay go into the garage together, hit a secret button, are taken to an underground office, and jointly get there assignment, as Mr. and Mrs. Spy (possible title of the film?), since Madhuri is clearly better at the knowledge gathering and Akshay provides the muscle.
so, comments? Suggestions? Casting change for terrorist, or husband? Who should be the cameo as head of RAW, Amitabh or someone else?
Madhuri as Mother in a Serious Political Drama: Madhuri is the respectable wife and mother of two politicians, her husband who keeps her out of his business, when she picks up a paper in his study and asks about it, he snatches it away and snaps “Don’t ever look in here! Keep to the kitchen and the clothes closet, don’t interfere with my business!” He is not a nice man. But Madhuri is a good traditional Indian wife, and she just apologizes and promises not to do it again. We see their wedding photos, her bright-eyed and very very young, him already looking middle-aged. Obviously she was married off too young to think for herself, and has spent the past 25 years blindly following her husband.
(Maybe the husband is Rishi Kapoor? Even if not, this is the kind of age gap I am picturing)
But her son is better, loving and kind and she lights up when she sees him. Let’s say, Varun. And he is extra excited, because he has fallen in love with a college girl and is planning to be married. Madhuri’s jerky husband objects, Varun storms out and declares that he is done with him and starting his own life. He stops on the way out to beg Madhuri to come with him, she wavers for a moment, but sees the wedding photo out of the corner of her eye and can’t quite do it. Varun understands, says that he will write, and she can come to him when she is ready to leave this house.
And then in the middle of the night, they get a phone call. Varun is dead! NO!!!!!! Only, the story the police tell doesn’t add up. He died in a car accident, but he was sitting in the backseat, and Madhuri knows he would never do that because he had terrible motion sickness unless he was in the front seat. And there is a wallet with his ID in it, only it doesn’t have the photo of Madhuri and himself that he always carried, which makes her think it isn’t really his wallet and the real wallet is taken.
Madhuri is still thinking over all of these things at the funeral, when she sees a young girl in the crowd and instinctively knows it is her son’s fiancee. Alia! Madhuri goes to talk to her, and pulls her aside to give her the bangles she has set aside, and Alia breaks down crying. The two women bond, and share their doubts. Alia says that Varun was investigating something big, and he said he was coming straight to her place that night, there’s no reason for him to have been in that car.
(See how great she is with both of them? It’s perfect casting!)
Investigation-investigation-investigation. I don’t have all the details for this, but I know the ending has to be Madhuri discovering it was her own husband who caused Varun’s death. Not directly, he is just as upset about it as she is, they even had a couple of nice bonding moments in their grief. But he had given the okay to get rid of “the young reporter” who was getting close to the cover up of his graft and bribery. Not knowing that it was his own son. So Madhuri shoots him. And then calmly puts the gun in his hand and forges his name on a suicide note, taking responsibility for everything.
6 months later, Madhuri is in her own office, with her chief of staff, Alia, preparing for her first day as the new Chief Minister. Her husband’s partners come in to see her, tell her how nice she looks, and how grateful they are to her, the tragic young widow who has lost her son was easy to elect to office. And now they have a list of things they need her to do. Madhuri takes the list, and then elegantly lights a match and sets it on fire and drops it the trash. She then calmly thanks them for coming and requests that they leave her office. They immediately stand up and start to threaten her. Madhuri listens to them shout for several moments, until Alia comes in from behind them and hands each man a newspaper. In which Varun’s expose has finally been printed. Alia goes to stand next to Madhuri and tell them that their concerns have been noted, and Minister Madhuri will take them under advisement. Now, they can stay in their boardrooms and their mistress’ bedrooms, and keep out of her business. The men file out, and the camera zooms in on Alia and Madhuri’s faces as Alia says, “the session is about to start. Are you ready?” And the camera keeps zooming in as we watch Madhuri pull herself together and put fire in her eyes and say “Yes.”
Does this work? Who should be the jerky husband? Should Varun be a reporter or a social worker or something else?
Madhuri as Mother in a Small Indie Romantic Comedy: Madhuri and Irrfan Khan should absolutely play a couple, right? Madhuri is the single mother of a daughter. We start by seeing their happy life together. Breakfast every morning with joking over stories in the paper, then the daughter is off to school while Madhuri goes to her job that she hates, working at a call center for a credit card company. Then picking up her daughter from school, home for a happy laughing evening making and eating dinner together, watching TV soap operas, and curling up together in bed.
But then her daughter is accepted to a boarding school. It’s a wonderful opportunity, her daughter is ready to turn it down because she doesn’t want to leave home, but Madhuri convinces her to take it. They say good-bye with many tears, and the days rapidly go by, sliding one into the other. Madhuri rushes home every night for the daily call, but the call gets shorter and shorter. She has a hard time sleeping, staying up late every night and falling asleep in front of the TV, skipping breakfast because what is the point, and finally getting snappier and snappier on the phone. Until finally she gets too rude, to Irrfan Khan, who asks to speak to her supervisor. Madhuri is told that she has received her 3rd costumer complaint, and will be fired if she gets another. She hates her job, but she needs the money for tuition, and panics.
She pulls up Irrfan’s file and finds his home address. She goes there, and suddenly gets nervous and decides to leave without talking to him, but had skipped breakfast and faints on the way out. Irrfan arrives home just then and of course helps her inside and gives her chai and is generally very nice. And also clearly immediately besotted (it is Madhuri, after all). He learns she skipped breakfast, because there didn’t seem much point to eating alone, and hesitantly suggests that perhaps they could have breakfast together tomorrow. Sweet romance montage! They walk around Bombay, and talk.
(Song like this, but with Madhuri instead of Dips)
Madhuri learns that Irrfan is a bachelor, he was responsible for his younger siblings, and then he was too old. His younger brothers are all overseas now, his sister sometimes talks about finding him a bride, but he always kind of thought he would like to marry for love. Silly, he knows, but it’s what he wanted. Madhuri just listens to it all, and doesn’t let her feelings show, but at home, she keeps a scrapbook of all their dates together.
Conflict! Irrfan’s sister comes to visit, Madhuri is nervous about meeting her, Irrfan insists on it. The sister is protective and aggressive (Konkona Sen Sharma), in a nice way that Irrfan doesn’t even see but Madhuri does. She wants to know why Madhuri just “happened” to be walking by Irrfan’s apartment, how she knew his full name, why Madhuri never married, where is Madhuri’s family, why does she live alone in the city? Irrfan jumps in to tell her that Madhuri has a daughter, who is very smart and goes to a good school outside the city. Konkona pretends to be impressed, but is obviously thinking to herself “where did the daughter come from?”
Konkona tracks Madhuri down to her job, and then her home, and finally confronts her and the truth comes out. Konkona accuses that she found out Irrfan’s address, and knew he was rich, from her job. She has just been seducing her poor innocent brother for his money! As she must have seduced another man in the past, there is a daughter, Konkona found that out, but there is no husband. Madhuri is some loose fallen woman, thrown out by her family, and looking for a new meal ticket. Madhuri doesn’t deny any of it, just waits until she leaves, and then breaks down in tears.
The next day, Konkona and Irrfan have a showdown. Irrfan asks if Madhuri called, Konkona says no, and she doesn’t think she will be calling again. Irrfan asks why not, Konkona ducks the question, and instead suggests a nice young woman, younger sister of her friend from college, just got her degree, can make a delicious Halwa… Irrfan cuts her off and tells her that he doesn’t want a young homely girl, he wants a woman he can talk to, who makes him feel young, and that’s Madhuri. What has she done?
Irrfan rushes to Madhuri’s apartment, finds that she has gone, but Konkona told him the neighborhood Madhuri is from, where her daughter’s birth certificate was registered. He goes there to try to track her down, and gets the whole story in flashback. Madhuri was an orphan, raised by nuns. She was going to be a nun herself, but then her best friend from childhood, a wild rich girl who went to the convent school, got in “trouble”, with a boy who meant nothing to her, right before she was supposed to marry her childhood friend that she really cared about. And Madhuri made the ultimate sacrifice. She had no family to humiliate, no future to lose. The baby was born, and Madhuri said it was hers. She never wanted the shame to follow her daughter, so they moved to a new area and started a new life. Madhuri never let herself get close to anyone, for fear the truth would come out. But Irrfan is the one exception, she couldn’t resist spending time with him. Irrfan is told all this by the kindly mother superior, who then takes her to the room where Madhuri has been staying, once Irrfan promises to “do right by my daughter”.
Wedding! Big huge wedding just like Madhuri might have had when she was young, and Irrfan gave to his siblings. Only this time it is Konkona and the other siblings proudly and happily hosting. And Irrfan and Madhuri looking a little embarrassed doing all the things young newlyweds are supposed to do. And of course Madhuri’s daughter is there too, and is clearly part of their new family. Happy happy!
Is Konkona good, or should it be someone else? How about the daughter, one of the teenage star kids or a nobody? And who should play the pregnant friend?
Madhuri as Mother in Big Huge Yash Raj/Dharma Style Romance: Let’s make this as sappy and melodramatic as possible, shall we? We open on Diwali! Madhuri and her in-laws are happily singing and celebrating, with her little boys running in and out. They are waiting for her husband to arrive at their huge mansion. The song is supposed to be the love story of Ram and Sita, but it is intercut with Madhuri’s love story with her husband. They were childhood friends and neighbors, she used to always wait under the tree in front of the house for him to come home from school. He came back from college to find her beautiful and glamorous and still waiting under the same tree. He proposed, they were married, went on honeymoon, had two sons. And now she is waiting for him again. Only, he doesn’t come. Instead, there is a lightening crash, and the tree falls, Madhuri is dragged away by a late arriving guest who is stunned at her beauty. Before she can fully thank him, her mother-in-law comes running up, her husband is dead! NOOOOOO!
(Yes, this is almost exactly the same as Baabul)
Naturally, Madhuri becomes depressed. The years pass by, the boys grow older, she buries herself in them. But her mother-in-law hears her crying in the long nights. Finally, the boys have to go away to school (they are twins). They take their leave, but give her a going away present, they don’t want to picture her sad and alone in the house, so they have arranged for a trip to Switzerland. Her in-laws are behind this as well, they want her to go off and have some fun, to come home their happy daughter-in-law again. Switzerland!
At first it is all sad song, this is where she went on her honeymoon and she keeps seeing her dead husband everywhere. But then while she is bleakly looking out at the view from an observation point in the mountains, someone says “excuse me”, and it’s the guy who saved her from the tree! She tries to stop talking and avoid him, but he just keeps chattering away no matter how much she tries to walk away. Turns out, he is staying at the same hotel! And he offers to give her a ride anywhere she wants the next day. Finally he bothers her so much that she lets loose and yells at him. Which makes him just laugh and laugh, while she is horrified at what she has done. He explains that he had a bet with himself as to how long she would put up with him. He could see how sad she was, and just wanted to make her stop crying, even it if was to yell at him. Madhuri laughs, and thanks him, and happy tourist song!
At the end of which, they end up caught in a snowstorm, on a lonely road. He finds an empty house and breaks in, Madhuri protests, but he argues that it’s the only thing to do. Alone in the house together, he starts a fire, and then suggests that they dance to keep warm, more as a joke than anything. He does a silly little dance and Madhuri laughs and says “Let me show you how it is done”. She goes into the bedroom and raids the closet for men’s pajamas, puts them on, rolls up the cuffs and ties a scarf around the waist, and gives an amazing performance dancing all around the house, smiling wider and wider and moving faster and faster, with him following her with fascinated eyes, until they finally end up in the bedroom, and she falls into his arms as the camera fades out.
The next morning, he wakes to find her gone. He rushes outside and into the car, to find her stubbornly walking along the side of the road. He gets her to get in the car and accept his offer of a ride by promising not to say a word the whole time. But as soon as they arrive at the hotel he jumps out of the car and loudly proclaims “I love you, will you marry me?” Madhuri is horrified, while the tourists around them laugh and smile, not understanding the situation. Madhuri tries to get away, but he follows her through the lobby and to her room.
Big dramatic scene! It all comes out, he tells Madhuri that she has to stop punishing herself for being alive, she has to let herself live. Madhuri objects that he is too young, he doesn’t know what love is, she made a terrible mistake last night and he shouldn’t let it destroy his life. Finally he grabs her and pulls her close and points out her trembling lips, her shining eyes, the way her lips quiver when he touches them, is that a mistake? Is the fact that he hasn’t been able to stop thinking about her since the moment they met a mistake? Is the fact that she extended her vacation an extra 3 weeks (he knows because he asked the desk clerk) after they met a mistake? He makes her happy, she makes him happy, the sin would be to throw all that away! And Madhuri elegantly falls onto his chest and gives in. INTERVAL
Post-interval, they have to meet the family. He is all excited, and she is too, against her will. But it is hard to start the conversation, when they first arrive, she somehow ends up describing him as just a “friend” who helped her on vacation. Everyone is thrilled to welcome him, there are some cute moments of sneaking moments alone together as they try to figure out the best way to bring up the subject of their engagement. Before they can manage it, he is called away on business, but promises to return for her. And while he is gone, it comes out in the worst possible way, on Karva Chauth (like I said, it’s a Yash Raj film). Madhuri has celebrated every year, part of her obsessive grief. But this year, she is dancing and smiling and leading the celebration. Everyone just assumes it is that her vacation has changed her. Until she forgets herself at the end of the song and sings the name of the new hero. Shock! Horror! Anger!!!!!
Many many big family confrontations. At first Madhuri holds strong, believing she has a right to her own life. She stands up to her father-in-law, declaring that if he won’t speak to her again, that is fine. She is heartbroken at the thought of hurting her mother-in-law, but makes her peace with it. She moves to a small outhouse she inherited from her husband, and lives a simple life, refusing to ask her fiance for help, just waiting for him to return. The big problem comes up with her sons. They return from school on their next vacation, to find her living in the small outhouse she inherited from her husband. At first they are upset with their grandparents for throwing her out, but after they learn why, they are upset with her. How can she have forgotten their father? She is breaking their heart! Big confrontation, her position as mother is set against her own heart, and she ends by swearing to them both that she will forget her love if it will make them happy. And the two boys move in with her in the outhouse, still unhappy at their grandparents for throwing her out. Our hero arrives the next day, Madhuri takes him for a walk because her boys are still asleep. And tells him that she can’t marry him. He storms and rages, but she holds firm, although you can see it is breaking her heart. He gets her to admit that she loves him, that she was happy again, felt alive again in a way she never thought she would, but it doesn’t matter, she is a mother, and a mother’s happiness is nothing besides her children’s sorrow. Our hero finally storms off, and Madhuri collapses in a burst of sobbing. And we see that her mother-in-law heard the whole thing!
Confrontation scene! The mother-in-law has brought all the stupid men of the family together to tell them that if they really want to honor Madhuri’s dead husband’s memory, than they should honor his wishes. She has a letter from him, from years before he died, speaking of a friend of theirs who is widowed. Saying “why should widows be locked away like this? Their bodies are not dead, why should their hearts be? I hope she is able to love again someday, no woman should live a life of sorrow just because she has the bad luck to love a man who died.”
flash forward, our hero is sadly arriving home, he opens his gate to see the sons and father-in-law standing in front. He sighs and tells them that he is too tired to argue, they can come back another day. The father-in-law smiles and says that they are happy to come back, only they need to leave something for him. And then he steps aside, to reveal Madhuri, dressed as a bride, standing behind them. Teary smiles all around, and happy wedding song!
So, Dead Husband: I am leaning Salman, but I could be talked into Anil. Or Shahrukh or anyone else she co-starred with years ago who is her same age.
New Hero: Shahrukh, Ranbir, Ranveer? Arjun, John Abraham, Hrithik? Has to be someone who seems young and dashing, but also can pull off a powerful emotion scene. Akshaye? They do have good chemistry together. Oh! Or Akshay again!
Twin sons: Again, it could be star kids, or it could be nobodies, I am torn.
In-laws: Rishi-Neetu? Bachchans? Rishi-Dimple? Vinod-Dimple? I just don’t know!
And, over all, if we only had the money/resources to make one of these films, which would you pick?