Remember way way back when I asked for suggestions/requests for Sunday posts? Pride and Prejudice (here) and North and South (here) were tops. And then neither of those posts ended up getting many views, so I sort of veered off that list. But I don’t have any fresh ideas this week, so I am veering back to it and taking the 3rd one down, Persuasion.
This is such a perfect plot, I can’t resist casting and remaking it multiple times with minimal changes. So be ready for a bunch of short options!
The basic plot (if you haven’t read the novel), is this:
Our heroine, Anne Elliott, is “old”, 27, part of a very old and aristocratic family that doesn’t have as much money as it used to. 7 years earlier, when she was 17, she fell in love with a young sailor, Captain Frederick Wentworth. But was “persuaded” by an older woman she respected Lady Russell, a friend of the family, not to risk eloping with him and giving up everything. Now, the sailor has returned. Fabulously wealthy thanks to war trophies and looking for a wife. With the support of his similarly wealthy brother-in-law and older sister, a wonderful older couple who provide an example of a marriage as a true partnership. He starts romancing a much younger relative/friend of our heroine (Louisa) while she has faded into the background as the spinster aunt who takes care of the young children. A distant cousin of their family, William Elliot, very appropriate suitor, starts romancing our heroine and she is initially tempted, but then learns he is not moral and turns him down. Meanwhile, an older widower ends up falling in love Louisa and taking her away from Captain Wentworth. This brings up discussion among the social circle about whether the older widower is being faithful to his first love still even if he is remarrying. Our hero overhears our heroine telling someone else that she thinks women never really stop loving their first love. He takes a leap and writes her a note confessing that he has loved her all along and couldn’t forget her and asking if she feels the same. They finally get engaged for real. But, and here’s the interesting twist, it is not treated as a tragedy that she was “persuaded” away from eloping back then. They are both older and more ready for marriage now in every way than they were back then. And there love is deeper for waiting. And stronger, because older people can love more deeply than younger in some ways.
Okay, cast/film 1! Ideally we use a time machine and make it around 2007/2008.
Captain Wentworth: Shahrukh! A struggling college student in the past, now returned as a successful NRI businessman, with the unspoken understanding that he is visiting his sister in order to find a good Indian wife.
Anne Elliot: Rani! I know, you think Kajol, but I don’t think she can ever play “quiet spinster aunt who blossoms”. But Rani would be perfect for that!
Lady Russell with the bad advice: Rekha! I just think it would be a kick
Louisa, young-woman-who-is-obviously-too-young-for-SRK: Amrita Rao! So we have that feeling of “wow, he really should be with Rani, he is just fooling himself and everyone else is pushing him onto this inappropriate woman” feeling.
Evil Charles Elliot: I kind of want to do Arjun? Is that okay? Can turn on a dime from charming to cold? Can make us believe that he sincerely is interested in Rani but is also trying to get close to her family? Yeah, I think it works.
Nice older Admiral couple: Amitabh and Jaya! We will call them Shahrukh’s Aunt and Uncle instead of sister and brother in law.
Widower Guy Louisa ends up with: Shahid! Obviously
Plot is real simple because it can just follow the book almost exactly. Rani is introduced as a kind of dreamy and homely type girl who likes taking care of their big house (song sequence!). She is surprised to learn that her father has decided to rent the house without consulting her and take the family to stay in Shimla to save money while it is rented.
Before going to Shimla, she goes to visit her married sister (Raveena Tandon? Is that too wild?) at another large farmhouse type place next door (her sister married the boy next door). Her brother-in-law (Mohnish Behl? He is the best brother-in-law, after all) and his sisters all clearly adore her, as do the two wriggly children of the family. But, dun dun dun, Shahrukh appears! His aunt and her husband, his only living relatives, are the ones who are renting Rani’s house. And Mohnish Behl and Raveena are all pushy about getting this new young wealthy NRI to meet their very young marriageable sister. Awkwardly, at the unofficial first meeting of the couple to see if they hit it off, Shahrukh and Rani meet again for the first time, neither of them realizing the other would be there.
(I love them together)
Very very very brief flashback. Their eyes meet, and we have one college love song that takes them through an initial meeting with him spotting her struggling in the rain to get from the bus to class, holding an umbrella for her, she shyly tanks him, eating together in the campus canteen, passing notes, etc. etc. Ending dramatically with Shahrukh facing her father (Anupam Kher, of course) who turns him away because he is too poor and he dramatically declares that he will return rich enough to buy this house. And then Rani gets a note from him with a train ticket asking her to elope with him. And she takes it to Rekha who says, as her dead mother’s best friend, she has to advise Rani against it. She doesn’t even know who she is herself, she can’t commit to another person, especially if it means cutting all ties with her past. And so Rani cries all night and didn’t go to the train station. And now Shahrukh is here! Bringing it all up again.
Blah Blah, Shahrukh romances Amrita, she is all dreamy over him, but in the background Rani is steeling herself to hide her broken heart. Then Shahid calls up, old friend of Shahrukh from overseas, he is traveling through India after taking a break from his demanding job following the death of his wife. He arrives in the middle of a big dance number, with Amitabh and Jaya and Raveena and Mohnish and Shahrukh and Amrita all dancing. Amrita ends up dancing with him, which leaves Shahrukh and Rani having to awkwardly dance together with shy little eye glances.
The next day, big family outing to nearby fort ruins. And two important book scenes in rapid succession. First, Rani is playing with the kids while the other adults flirt, and one of the little boys manages to get her into kind of a headlock and she can’t get out and no one else seems to notice. Until suddenly Shahrukh strides over, grabs the kid off her neck, and helps her up. She says “thank you”, he says “you’re welcome”, and it is the first words they have exchanged since she jilted him.
Second, and let’s relate these two, Amrita has noticed that Shahrukh is watching Rani instead of her. And she calls for him to pay attention to her, she is going to walk on the edge of the wall! Shahid is all “she’s so fearless!” and Shahrukh is all “really? why?” And then she does walk, and falls, and breaks her leg and gets a concussion. Shahid is, let’s say, a doctor! He saves her, gets her to the little nearby local hospital, and reassures everyone that he will stick around and take care of her so they can just come back for day visits while she recovers.
And then Rani goes to join her family in Shimla. But imagines she sees Shahrukh waiting for her at the train station in his youthful guise, showing her guilt still tears at her. INTERVAL
In Shimla, she is reunited with Rekha who nudges around to find out how she feels about Shahrukh reappearing. And finally admits that she went to the train station that night (Rekha flashback!). She found Shahrukh, told him Rani wasn’t coming, that it was for the best, he would see that someday. Shahrukh was furious and scribbled out a note and gave it to Rekha, which she is now, finally, giving to Rani. Because she was afraid it was too hurtful at the time.
The note is all angry about how he doesn’t love her any more, she has proved the unfaithfulness of womanhood, he never even wants to see her again. Which is clearly not true since he has already spoken and seen her and clearly doesn’t feel anything, not even anger, any more. Which is what Rani says to Rekha, that this note was from a different person, Shahrukh isn’t that angry young man any more.
Enter Arjun! While they are walking through town the next day, he hails Rani and her father and Rekha, who he claims to recognize from a childhood visit to their house. He is charming all over them, and kind of widdles Rani away from the others and is obviously interested in her. Heck, let’s give them a love song!
(Look! Our love triangle in one photo! And wow, the camera kind of caught them at a moment where they look like my characters)
And then, in the middle of it all, Amitabh and Jaya show up! They are there because they had to get out of the house, too much flirting! Rani looks all conflicted. But then Shahrukh is there too. Wait, who is flirting?
Flashback! Explaining that sad-widower Shahid fell for Amrita, and she for him, and now they are planning to be married. Shahrukh says something bitter about the unfaithfulness of women, everyone looks kind of surprised at him, and Rani looks hurt.
And then Rani goes to her favorite store in Shimla and talks to the nice older man behind the counter who suddenly sees Arjun passing by. And looks sad. Rani asks what happened. The old store owner explained that he used to have a small house, but then Arjun paid off the council and stole it from him for his latest luxury hotel. Rani goes to the hotel to ask him about this, and overhears him talking to an architect about plans for a hotel built on her ancestral estate. NOOOO! And he clarifies, he is sucking up to Anupam to trick him into selling it. Plus, as a bonus, once he has the house, he knows Rani will want to marry him. See, the Rani thing wasn’t part of the scheme, he actually did like her. But she doesn’t like him any more.
Big public event song! I don’t know, a temple festival? Something that gets all our characters together in one place. I want to see Arjun heavily coming on to Rani, Rani looking conflicted, and Shahrukh looking bitter and angry and sad at them. Song over, Arjun dramatically proposes to Rani in public, everyone smiles at her waiting for her answer, and she says “no thank you”. Her father looks furious, Shahrukh starts to move forward to support her, but before he can get there, Rekha pops up and takes her arm and says she can stay with her that night.
The next day, hostel dining room, no one wants to sit with Rani but Jaya and Amitabh make a point of going over to her. They make pleasant conversation, including about Shahid and Amrita’s surprise engagement, especially considering that his first wife JUST died. Rani says that she isn’t surprised, men don’t have the temperament to be faithful in love, whereas women can remain faithful for their entire lives. Shahrukh in the background, seems to have no reaction. But when he stands up, he drops a note in Rani’s lap. He does love her! She rushes out of the dining room to find him waiting at a scenic point outside, they embrace!
Okay, cast/film 2! Present day:
Captain Wentworth: Saif ali Khan
Anne Elliot: Kareena
Lady Russell with the bad advice: Juhi Chawla!
Louisa, obviously-too-young-woman: Parineeta
Evil Charles Elliot: Akshaye Khanna
Admiral and his wife: Rishi and Neetu
Widower Louisa ends up with: Aditya Roy Kapoor
Plot: mostly the same
Kareena is the nice daughter of the family, family has to rent the house, Kareena goes to visit her sister and brother-in-law (I don’t know, Suniel and Swara Bhaskar?) who live next door for a few weeks, and surprise! Saif’s sister and brother-in-law Rishi and Neetu are the ones who are renting the family house and Saif is staying with them looking for an Indian wife. And is brought over to Suniel’s house to meet his little sister, Parineeti, and is shocked to see Kareena there.
Flashback change! Small one. Still a very quick song montage romance, but I don’t see Kareena needing help in the rain. I see her surrounded by friends, super popular, and Saif noticing her from the distance and vice versa. And then slowly he gives her a love not in some clever way, like leaving it under the chair she always sits in, they go out for chai, they talk, they fall in love. And then confrontation, except Saif would be less super angry and more just sort of sadly proud as he walks out. And Kareena would be ready to elope and just stop by Rekha’s house to say good-bye, when Rekha brings her in and uses a ton of emotional blackmail to convince her that she cannot leave the house where her mother’s garlanded photo hangs and her spirit lives.
And then back to the present day, same-to-same. Saif romances too-young Parineeti, sad widower doctor Aditya Roy Kapur shows up, Saif rescues Kareena from rambunctious young people, Parineeti tries a dangerous stunt, Aditya has to take care of her, Kareena leaves for Shimla to be reunited with her family.
In Shimla, Akshaye Khanna appears! To be super charming and entertaining to watch. Kareena can’t help responding to him (who could?) but is still holding back a little. Finds out he is a jerk who is using her. And also finds out that Parineeti picked Aditya instead of Saif, and when she finds out, is surprised into calling her a “b—-” for breaking Saif’s heart. Because Kareena is spicy!
And her public proposal refusal is way spicier than Rani’s version, including perhaps a slap. Oh! And that means that after she leaves, Akshaye can look like he is about to go after her, and Saif can punch him! I love fisticuffs in my love stories!
And her response at breakfast can be a lot more fiery too, including some judgement on men who forget love after one little fight. While Saif looks slightly uncomfortable in the background. Oh! And when she goes to him afterward, he can ask if she forgives him and she can pretend to slap him, but then kiss him instead. Cute!
Cast/film 3! Present day, modern younger cast!
Captain Wentworth: Shahid Kapoor
Anne Elliot: Sonakshi Sinha
Lady Russell with the bad advice: Revathy
Louisa, obviously-too-young-woman: Athiya Shetty (I guess she is going to stick around now?)
Evil Charles Elliot: Ranveer Singh (I really am curious about him in a negative role. I know, Padmavati, but we don’t know how negative that will be yet)
Admiral and his wife: Anil Kapoor and Tabu
Widower Louisa ends up with: Arjun I guess?
Let’s modernize this sucker! They are all South Bombay types. The family property is their fancy heritage bungalow. Sonakshi just enjoys the sea breezes and the nice milk delivery man and stuff, not the status. And is heartbroken when her father decides to rent it out.
So she goes to stay next door with her sister and brother-in-law, Amrita Rao (she’s oooooold now) and Akshaye Khanna (they were so cute in Deewar). Only to be surprised when the new tenants come over, and it’s Shahid! Who started a business with his brother-in-law Anil and now the family is fabulously wealthy.
Flashback! In college, they had kind of a prank war after they lead opposing teams in the Holi games (boys versus girls, obviously big song). But the prank war turned into romance, as it does, when he took the blame instead of her in front of the teacher and got sent out of school. And that night he went to her father (oh heck, let’s make it Shatrughan!) and asked for her to marry him and take her chances on a kid with no degree who was starting a risky business venture with his brother-in-law whose last business went bankrupt. Shatrughan was furious, threw him out of the house, Sonakshi got the note asking her to leave with him, went next door to get Revathy’s blessings before leaving, Revathy cried and begged her not to go and told her that her mother wouldn’t want it, and so on. Sonakshi, after a long miserable night, agreed to stay.
And the plot continues! Outing to the Ghats, Shahid rescues her from the kids, Athiya tries to get his attention, falls, sad doctor Arjun who has just shown up rescues her, Sonakshi sadly leaves for……Goa I guess? If we are being fancy? That would be the fancy vacation place?
In Goa, Ranveer appears! Romance, blah blah. And then she learns about Athiya picking Arjun instead of Shahid and looks at him all sympathetic and Shahid doesn’t seem to react. And then she learns the truth about Ranveer, he wants her father’s property and her too. Ranveer proposes in public, she pulls herself together after visible hesitation, and doesn’t just say “no”, but says “no” and then explains the whole thing. Shatrughan is shocked and doesn’t seem to know what to do, Ranveer is visibly insensed, Revathy is trying to support Sonakshi but is a tiny little woman. And then Shahid goes up and sort of blocks Ranveer from getting to Sonakshi, Ranveer gets all “this isn’t your business!”, and FIGHT! With Sonakshi standing looking surprised in the corner, and then reaching out and surprising herself by knocking Ranveer on the head, having regained the spunky Sonakshi spirit from college.
(Happy end song!)
Next day, conversation at breakfast, blah blah. This time, Shahid is waiting outside looking visibly scared of what she will say. And she is the one who apologizes this time, and Shahid forgives her, saying he asked too much of her, she wasn’t ready and neither was he.
Okay, one more! Shahrukh present day and Juhi present day. I don’t care about the rest of the cast. But evil Charles Elliot has to be Akshay Kumar, and too-young woman has to be Anushka. And bad-advice neighbor can be Kirron Kher.
Their flashback isn’t to college, it’s to when she had a job working for her uncle in his office, and Shahrukh had a law office or something across the way, and they used to get tea at the tea stall. She was already a little over the hill to be unmarried, and he was too because of family responsibilities and his business not taking off. But then he gets his big break, big chance, which she encourages him to take. And he is so emboldened be goes to propose, and is humiliated by her father (Jackie Shroff. Yes, I know they were a romantic couple, I reviewed Aaina. I don’t care, I like him as the father in stuff!). He finally finds his spine and is shaking with anger and declares he will “win” against Jackie by taking Juhi away. And Juhi waits until they are alone and then blows up at him for calling her something to be “won”, she would rather remain unmarried than just marry someone so he can prove a point.
(Love them as a more mature couple! Don’t want to see them try to pull off college again)
And then at the turned down proposal scene at the end, Juhi says no, Akshay angrily objects to her humiliating him, and Shahrukh speaks up! And argues that marriage shouldn’t just be about proving a point or pride or humiliation, a woman has a right to be wanted for herself and so on and so on. And Juhi is all athrill because it means he finally understands!
And then conversation at breakfast the next day, etc. etc. But when Juhi goes to him, she is the one to propose, and Shahrukh says half joking “only if it is okay with your father”, to show that he really doesn’t care about that competition any more.
So, as always, if we had enough imaginary money and power to make one of these films, which one would you pick?
Also, is Rani better with Shahrukh or Abhishek?
And am I wrong, is Jackie as Juhi’s father just too weird to accept? They are 11 years apart in “real life”, which is farther than Reema Lagoo was from all her onscreen sons.