I looooooooove the Rocky movies. I came to them late, my father had me watch the first one with him when I was a kid, but then I really got into them in college. It was after my Indian period had started, but the Rocky series was one of the few American products that I could still enjoy. I don’t necessarily want them to be remade, because they are so perfect already, but it’s kind of a fun thought experiment anyway!
The Rocky movies have steadily decreasing quality as the series went on, so I don’t want to remake all of them. And they are also a lot shorter than you realize while you are watching them. So let’s say Rocky I and II combine to make one Indian film. And then Rocky III and Creed (which is SO GOOD!) combine to make a sequel. Skipping Rocky IV and V, because there isn’t really much plot there.
Rocky: this is easy, it HAS to be Salman.
Adrian: Tricky! Really really tricky. I am torn between Juhi and Revathy, with maybe a small thought of Karisma. Yes, I think I am going to go with Karisma, just because I love her and Salman as an onscreen couple.
Mickey: Hmmm. Somebody who was older but still working in the 1990s. Oh! Pran!
Paulie: Can’t stand Paulie, never could. Very tempted to use Jonny Lever. But no, there has to be a better option. Maybe Anupam Kher? If anyone can make Paulie likable, it’s him.
Apollo Creed: Hmmm. Oh! Mohnish Behl!!!! YES! They were friends offscreen back in the day, so there will be that interesting vibe to it, and we know they can fight each other believably from Maine Pyar Kiya.
Mary Anne Creed: Here’s where we can use Juhi Chawla! I think she would be a great partner with Mohnish Behl, and could do well in the sequel where she has a larger part.
Adonis Creed: Amit Sadh. Because I love him, and he kind of played that role already in Sultan.
Feel free to disagree and make alternate casting suggestions in the comments, the only thing I am firm on is that it HAS to be Salman.
In case you couldn’t tell from the casting suggestions, it also has to be Salman in the early 90s through today. Ideally, I want the first movie to come out around 1994, and the second movie any time between 2010 and now. Back in the 90s, Salman had a kind of rare beauty and vulnerability in his face that I’ve really only seen in Stallone. And today, as we saw in Sultan, he can bring in this amazing tired strength to the role.
Okay, it’s 1993, we’ve got Salman and Karisma and Anupam and Pran. Mohnish has the second lead part because Salman suggested him. And Juhi shows up for a little bit in the second half as a favor to the director. It’s the early 90s, so you can still make a movie that is kind of deep and emotional and sincere, not the crazy over the top big budget romance extravaganzas we got later.
The film opens the same way as the original, with our hero losing a boxing match in a tiny smokey gym. He stumbles home to his lonely apartment, casually takes a blessing from garlanded photos of his parents (Salman in the early 90s was the king of casual natural looking gestures like this). He says goodnight to his turtle and goes to bed.
The next day, he goes to the pet store to see Karisma. He sees her through the window, wearing glasses and her hair pulled back and a dowdy oversized skirt and blouse. And immediately starts imagining a love song, full own Swiss Alps fantasy. She is gorgeous, long hair and chiffon sari, he is confident and poetic and they are perfectly in synch. And then someone bumps into him from behind and he comes out of the dream and back to reality. The awkward conversation at the pet store, with him trying to tell jokes, and Karisma hiding her face and eyes from him, is even more painful when compared with the fantasy version we just saw, the way Salman feels they are inside, but can’t make happen in reality.
Salman leaves the story, unhappy, and meanwhile back in a big fancy office Mohnish Behl is meeting with Random 90s Character Actors and talking about how his opponent for the big match in 6 weeks has fallen through, they need to find someone else in a hurry. Mohnish is in a fancy suit, he is an international star athlete. But he started in the streets of Bombay, and he declares that, for publicity, he should fight someone else from those same streets. Past Mohnish versus Present Mohnish, that’s the way to publicize it. And Salman is perfect, because his picture looks exactly like Mohnish’s old photo from when he was starting out.
Salman doesn’t know any of this. He is going about his daily business, threatening in a kind of regretful way people who owe money to the local mob. And then going over to talk to Paulie (Blech! Paulie!) who is played by Anupam Kher (yay! Anupam!). Anupam is kind of a fast-talker and confuses Salman, who is more sensitive and instinctive. But he convinces Salman that Karisma really wants to go out with him, she’s crazy about him, just show up at the house that night. Salman awkwardly stands in the front room of their tiny apartment while Anupam yells at Karisma in the backroom, and she finally comes out, wearing the glasses and the dowdy loose clothing and the hair pulled back.
The Rocky first date is absolutely one of the most romantic scenes in the history of film, American or Indian or anywhere else. There’s no way we can even hope to come to close to it. So instead, we will go a different way. Salman takes her to a roller skating rink (no ice-skating in Bombay). And there is a slightly comic song, with him skating around her, and her falling down over and over. She is still shy and scared, but seems to be loosening up a little, stealing little glances at Salman, and maybe reacting when he has to grab her to lift her up. And her glasses fall off a bit too, and her hair comes down a bit.
After the song, Salman and Karisma walk along Marine Drive (a 90s romance has to have a scene where they walk along Marine Drive). He talks to her non-stop about everything in his life, his parents who are dead, his boxing career, the little bit of enforcing he does for the local gangster, everything. Even the first time he saw her in the shop window and right away knew she was the prettiest girl he had ever seen. Karisma is very slowly beginning to warm up to him, looking at his face while he talks so long as he doesn’t look back at her, walking more closely with him, and so on. Finally they reach his tiny rooms. He stands in the doorway and keeps talking and talking, trying to get her to come in. Finally she does, but stands right by the door while he gives her the tour. Again, Salman is the master of the casual gesture, so we see from the way he says the lines and gentle little hand movements, that this is a big moment for him, sharing his lonely little home with this woman he has been dreaming of for months, the only woman he ever really wanted, the one he wants to someday come live here with him.
Now, I am torn about the next part. Usually, I admire Salman’s refusal to kiss onscreen, and the purity of the 90s love stories that have no physical element. But on the other hand, the Rocky-Adrian love story all pivots around that first kiss, followed by sex. Adrian wants him, loves him, but is terrified of him at the same time. Because she is terrified of everybody, so shy it’s like a physical infirmity. They need that physical moment together for her to be able to feel close enough to him to reveal her full self.
I’m not going to make Salman kiss onscreen in my imaginary film, but I am going to still tastefully imply that they have a first night together, I think. Salman gives his whole tour of the apartment, taking off his shirt and jacket as he does, and then slowly moves over to the door where Karisma is still hiding in the corner. He leans in closer and closer, she keeps turning away, and then finally he grabs her and does that classic Salman turn so we see the embrace but don’t know if there is a kiss. And we see Karisma’s hands stiff at her side, and then slowly soften, and finally, carefully, go around his back, until they are gripping and kneading it. And that’s when we fade out.
Stuff continues to occur. The next day at the gym, a fancy looking suit wearing guy comes to talk to Pran about maybe Salman being in a fight with Mohnish Behl. Pran tries to be helpful and give advice, Salman shuts him out and deals with fancy-guy directly. Pran keeps trying, and finally he and Salman have an emotional confrontation, where Salman admits his anger at how Pran has been shutting him out, not bothering to help him with his training, ignoring him. And Pran admits that he did that because he didn’t see anything in Salman worth training, but now he does!
And, training montage!!! Ending with Salman punching the beef at a Muslim butcher shop, a favor from the owner who is a friend of Pran, who is Muslim. But it’s the 90s, so it’s less of a big deal to be a Muslim character. The training is videotaped for an interview, Mohnish watches it and suddenly seems to focus a little and tells his wife Juhi to stop talking so he can pay attention because this guy is good.
Meanwhile Anupum (stupid Paulie!) and Karisma and Salman are watching together at Karisma and Anupum’s little apartment. Karisma is bandaging up Salman’s hands and rubbing his legs. And then in her shy little way, she starts to kind of put the moves on him, kissing his hand and putting her head on his shoulder. And Salman has to gently tell her that Pran has forbidden any romance until after the fight. Does she mind? Karisma says no, of course not, she is happy just talking with him, and they both kind of smile at each other. And then they start talking, and Salman complains about how Paulie keeps asking for a job or trying to be involved and he just can’t be, which of course Paulie/Anupum over hears and makes a huge scene. Salman doesn’t get involved at first, let’s Karisma defend herself, until Paulie/Anupum starts swinging his arms like he is going to hit her. And then Salman stands up and puts himself between Karisma and Anupum, and blocks a few blows, but otherwise lets her fight her own battle. Karisma yells back until finally Anupum says that she is just a freeloader and a loser, and Karisma screams and runs into the kitchen. Anupum storms out, Salman goes into the kitchen to find Karisma standing at the stove looking at nothing. She turns when she hears him enter and asks “do you want a roommate?” and he smiles a little and says “very very much.”
Happy moving in song! All sweet and cute because they are so happy to be in the same place, and she is putting little pictures on the wall and cleaning it up and all that. And it’s just about being together and making a home and nothing more, because we already had that conversation about not fooling around while he is in training, which makes it all the sweeter.
But, song over, Salman is standing alone in the big empty stadium where he is going to fight tomorrow. And we see, just from his face, that it is suddenly hitting him, everything that is happening and how big it is and all that. And he goes home and Karisma wakes up and comes out to sit with him on the steps, and he tells her that he doesn’t think he can win, but he just wants to last the full 12 rounds, just to prove that he is somebody, that he can do it.
And, fight fight fight fight fight. Karisma can’t watch, so she is waiting in the locker room. There is a montage cutting between her in the locker room pacing, and Salman fighting, with a Lata song over it about praying for her man. And of course, Salman doesn’t win but manages to last all 12 rounds. Karisma comes running out, Anupum semi-redeems himself by helping her sneak into the ring, and she and Salman embrace. INTERVAL
Second half, we open with talky-talky, both Salman and Mohnish confirming to reporters that they won’t fight again, they barely survived this fight. And then the reporters leave, and Karisma helps Salman out of the hospital, and he suggests that they visit the public gardens before they go home. She agrees, and while they are walking around, he awkwardly blurts out “will you marry me?” She says “what?” so he says it louder. And then she smiles and says “yes”, and happy public garden love song!
Which blurs right into their quiet wedding, in a registry office. They exchange garlands, Paulie cries a little, and then they go to a house, which Salman bought with the money he made from the fight to surprise her. She is happy, but also a little worried about money. Honeymoon song, intercut with indications that they have money problems, Salman keeps trying for a job and can’t get one, and finally Karisma goes back to work at the pet shop. Pran hires Salman on to help out at the gym, but it is clearly a pity hire.
Meanwhile, back at Mohnish and Juhi’s house, he is having a very dramatic breakdown, because he keeps getting letters asking if he thinks Salman could win if they fought again, if he is really the champ any more, etc. etc. Juhi tells him not to think about it, to just enjoy his life, but Mohnish can’t let it go. Lil’ Amit Sadh is watching.
And so Salman is offered another fight. He says no, the doctors said it could kill him, and he promised his wife. Pran watches but doesn’t comment. And then when Salman goes home that night, Karisma tells him she is pregnant. The next day, Salman tracks down the promoter and agrees to the fight. And asks Pran to help him train again. Pran doesn’t want to agree at first, but when Salman explains that it’s not just the money, it’s that he wants to feel like a man again, like he is something his son can look up to, then Pran agrees. Karisma has a harder time understanding, but she keeps it to herself, because she is too loyal a wife and too gentle a person. But Salman knows she is unhappy and keeps giving her little secret looks and offering to make dinner and trying to help out around the house.
His worry about Karisma is distracting him, so finally Pran goes to the house to talk to her, and tell her that it may not be what she wants for him, but it is what he wants for himself, and she has to respect that. Karisma listens, but doesn’t respond. That night, Salman shows up with a present for her, and she is sweet and thanks him and clearly things are beginning to get a little better. The next day, at work, she falls over and has to go to the hospital. Salman rushes to her side, but she wakes up just long enough to tell him she understands now, she has to do what she has to do (have this baby) and he has to do what he has to do (go fight Mohnish).
And so we intercut between Karisma giving birth and Salman fighting Mohnish until just as Salman wins the fight, a baby’s cry is heard. Yaaaaaay!!!!! Salman rushes straight from the stadium, fighting through the reporters, to the clinic, where he finds a beaming Karisma and a tiny baby. And, happy ending freeze frame!!!
Okay, I’ll do the Rocky III and Creed versions next week. Or the week after next if I think of something else really good in the meantime. Twilight with the Student of the Year cast? Friends with Rani Mukherjee playing Monica and Abhishek playing Ross? Any other ideas? Or should I keep going with this?