This is such an indulgence of myself, even more than my Golden Girls post. But I have now finished my dozenth rewatch of the entire run, and I can’t resist. Partly because I want to add songs and stuff, but also because I really really want to tighten up that plot. And make Phoebe end up with the guy she is meant to end up with, not Paul Rudd.
So, Friends! Obviously the biggest problem with the show is that it went on way way way too long. There were still some good plot lines and jokes in the later seasons, but the main plots felt really really stretched. But in my three hour film version, it’s all tight tight tight!
Only I can only write Indian style films, not western, so I have to make some monumental changes to the backstory so that it makes a little more sense for the Indian sensibilities. And all of this has to be done before I can even think about casting! So I think I’m going to start by re-writing, with the original character names, and then giving us some casting options and slight tweaks depending on the era.
So, my movie version of ten seasons, all tightened up and Indianized!
First, cousins! Let’s make them all cousins! Or mostly cousins. Ross and Monica are cousin siblings, raised in the same household but Ross had the more indulgent and supportive parents. Phoebe is their weird cousin. Her father had a wild period in college and had a fling with a backpacking hippy. Phoebe was raised by her maternal great aunt in her hippy friendly cafe, but still hung out with Ross and Monica at big family events and stuff, so the three of them know each other. Chandler was Ross’ roommate at boarding school and used to come home with him all the time for holidays, he’s almost like another cousin. Rachel was Monica’s best friend from school, and she came with her to the family home when they were little kids. Lil’ Ross used to kind of follow her around. Joey is the odd one out, Chandler’s friend from work who he shares an apartment with.
(Yep, I’m Bangalore Daysing it.)
The reason they are all living alone in the city is because they aren’t “really” living alone in the city. Phoebe is living with her great aunt still and helping at the cafe. Ross has the good job and the nice apartment and all, Monica is living with him so her family won’t worry. Chandler lives in his family home in the city, but his parents are never there, so it’s like he is living alone. And he invites Joey to stay with him when Joey gets thrown out of the guest house where he is staying, and Joey just sort of stays because Chandler is lonely although he can’t admit it.
And then Rachel appears! Spoiled rich girl, who got tired of going out to the country house for vacations and running around barefoot and hasn’t bothered to get in touch with Monica in years, even for her wedding. But at the last minute, she realized she couldn’t do it and ran away, going to Monica instinctively. Or, since I am tightening this sucker up, is it that she was subconsciously really going to Ross? Yes! In my version, YES! We can even have a flashback to him faithfully following her around as kids and her suggesting that he can be her husband, because he always does what she tells him, and they have a tiny little kid marriage ceremony.
Monica, Ross, and Rachel form a household. Which is all secret from their parents, because Rachel isn’t supposed to be there, and Ross’s wife is still supposed to be there (even though she has left him). Phoebe stops by a lot, and after her grandmother dies, moves in too. Chandler and Joey live next door, Chandler helped Ross find the apartment with his wife when they were first married.
Okay, first half:
Phoebe: Lives with her grandmother and is slowly attempting to build a connection to her cousins. Falls in love at first sight with a man who is at one of her shows when she sings folk music, a shy scientist. But lets him leave when his work takes him away. And ends up resolving part of her conflict, because by the interval, she has realized she isn’t really alone even when her true love is gone, all her cousins have come to comfort her, she does have people in her life.
Monica: Never really comfortable with herself, always trying to please her parents even when it means lying about living with Ross and his wife and going to college, when really they are two single people living alone and she has quite school to work in a restaurant. She finally starts to be happy when an old friend of her parents comes by the restaurant, tells her she is wonderful just as she is, and they start to fall in love. She is even able to confront her parents about it, with his support, and be confident in her life decisions at once. But that very confidence drives them apart, because she realizes he doesn’t want any more kids and she really really does. And she has the strength to leave him (also comforted by the cousins when it falls apart).
Rachel: At first struggles and complains about everything including putting her clothes back in the cupboard. But after some fights (during which she starts to look at Ross in a new way as he yells at her and then patiently shows her how to use a water filtration unit when she admits she’s never done it, because he is all strong and kind and stuff), Rachel begins to understand how she needs to pull her own weight and all. And also begins to think she doesn’t just want to be a useful member of the household, but wants to do something in the world. She volunteers to work for no money in the lowest possible tasks at her favorite interior design store, and after 3 weeks is thrilled when she is promoted and put on salary. But, this causes issues in the romance that has started between her and Ross. The break up, and Ross moves out to stay with Chandler and Joey. But they are still meeting in the hallway and stuff and it looks like both happy households will have to break up. Until Monica and Phoebe have their two romantic breakdowns, and Ross and Rachel realize they are able to work together as a team to comfort their friends, and there is a way they can manage to live together.
(Is there any chance we could get Gauri to play herself as Rachel’s boss?)
Ross: He married his college sweetheart who left him. Which no one in the family knew until his cousin-sister Monica landed on his doorstep because she left the hostel at college when she quit school. He and Monica bond as adults, after drifting apart as teenagers, when he agrees to keep it a secret that she is no longer in school and she agrees to keep it a secret that he is no longer married. Ross has always been a little shy and slow to open up, and with his wife leaving him in such a horrible way it has just been worse. He would never have been able to win over Rachel, only since they are living together, he slowly gets used to her and stops putting her on such a pedestal, and she starts to see his good qualities. But he also gives up on ever having the perfect romance he dreamed of with Rachel and decides to date a woman from work instead. Which of course makes Rachel jealous enough to finally burst out with her feelings, and they get together. For a brief happy time until she starts working and they start fighting about it all the time. And then Ross goes out and has a fling with an item girl, big fight when Rachel finds out, they break up. He is offered a job overseas and plans to take it, just to get away. But then, as mentioned above, they find a common ground when comforting their friends later.
Chandler: Poor little rich boy type. Always clings to his friends because he doesn’t feel like he really has a family. And quick to grab onto even new friends, like Joey, when he gets lonely. Perfectly happy when they were all living in the same building on the same floor. His biggest conflict comes when Ross and Rachel break up, he runs around trying to get them together, and is the most upset when it looks like Ross might be moving away. And at the interval sad part, he instinctively reaches out to comfort Monica as she admits that she just broke up with Richard.
Joey: Half-heartedly working in an office but really wants to be an actor. His family is far away, let’s say the Punjab, and he misses them, so he is quick to pick up a couple of dorky little brother types he can give advice in Ross and Chandler. And, although he comes on to them at first, he is also quick to turn into a protective older brother towards all 3 girls. He has his first serious romance ever right before the interval, when an older actress who has been helping him at work starts a secret affair with him. She leaves town after being offered roles in the south Indian industries, and he comes home sad, but hides it when he sees that everyone else is already sad, because he is secretly the most mature of them all.
Ross: We jump straight to his wedding. Little surprise for the audience, we think the bride will be Rachel, but it’s not! And also, she suddenly stands up in the middle of the ceremony and leaves, saying she just can’t do this, she can’t marry a stranger her parents’ picked out for her. All the friends stick around and go with Ross to the reception venue anyway. Rachel isn’t there because she is on a buying trip for her job, she got another promotion. Ross admits the whole thing was a mistake, he thought he could just get married and that would solve everything, but there was more to it. He decides he has to track down and make his peace with his first wife first. He finds her, they talk, she admits that she always kind of felt like he didn’t love her, Ross realizes that was true, that it’s always been Rachel, and he was afraid to admit that and kept trying to forget her by running after other women.
Rachel: She admits to her friends that the buying trip went really really well and she was offered a huge job, but it’s in Calcutta not in Bombay and she doesn’t know what to do. She debates it with everybody, and finally decides that she has to do it, it’s not regressing and being selfish, it’s what she has to do. But, just as she is about to leave, Ross arrives back from his own little journey and learns she is about to leave and chases after her. Happy ending for them is Ross giving up his job in Bombay and following her to Calcutta where they Skype in to a friend reunion in Bombay.
(I’m OK Kanmaniing it! The woman’s career is just as important and he ends up moving to be with her, not the other way around)
Phoebe: Her grandmother dies, and she moves in with Monica and Chandler. Fastforwarding a bit, she is now extra close with Monica, and so when Monica and Chandler admit that they are having a hard time conceiving, she offers to be their surrogate. Explaining that Monica has been so wonderful giving her a family, she just wants to do the same. Only while she is heavily pregnant, she bumps into her one true love! The scientist! Who misunderstands the situation, and Phoebe doesn’t bother explaining it because she thinks no one would want a pregnant woman. But Monica and Chandler find out about it because they see a note in her pocket from him, chase him down and explain the situation, and Phoebe is surprised by a big romantic proposal, and they have a hurried wedding while she is still pregnant.
Joey: He helps Monica and Chandler through the early part of their romance, and is supportive of Phoebe carrying their child, and helps Ross realize he needs to talk to his ex-wife, and convinces Rachel she should move away. And subtly in the background of his performance, we realize he is in love with Rachel but will never tell her or act on it because he knows she isn’t interested. His career slowly grows, he becomes a regular on a Ekta Kapoor style soap. At the end, as he is at the hospital kind of standing back and watching all his other friends with the babies and their lives moving forward, when he notices a woman standing slightly outside another similar group nearby, they kind of exchange smiles acknowledging that they are both alone and feeling left out. And when we jump ahead to the skype reunion, he is there with her, they are clearly together.
Chandler: At the non-wedding reception, and Monica gets drunk and Chandler offers to take her home. They have a long walk through nighttime Bombay, somehow end up holding hands, and then leaning on each other, and sort of naturally kissing at the door, and falling asleep together. The next morning it is all awkward, but Joey catches him sneaking back to their apartment and freaks out. Followed by kind of encouraging him, pointing out all the little ways he has shown that he cared about Monica all along, and that she can’t be hung up on Richard still if she is kissing him. He invites her out for coffee, and their hands end up naturally meeting under the table, they spend a lot of time dreamily meeting places and holding hands and kissing a little, before finally it comes out when Ross walks in on them and freaks out, and Chandler quickly turns on a dime and asks Ross, as head of Monica’s family here, if he would consider his proposal, he wants to marry her. Monica thinks he is just overreacting, and says “no”, Chandler accepts it and thinks he isn’t good enough. Luckily Joey (as Chandler’s family) and Ross (as Monica’s) work together to smooth out the misunderstanding, and there is finally a big romantic proposal scene, which includes Chandler explaining that he has been carrying this ring around in his pocket since the morning after they got together the first time.
Monica: The Best One! Or at least, my favorite. She finally finds love, she and Chandler have a hurried registrar wedding with just their friends there, because they don’t want to wait. But before they can have their honeymoon night, they find out the reason Phoebe didn’t show up at the wedding and wasn’t answering their calls is that her grandmother just died. Instead of a honeymoon, Monica insists on going to Phoebe and taking her home with them and spending the night holding her while she cries. And then they do have a sweet romantic honeymoon time, getting embarrassed when Phoebe catches them together and all. Until Monica faints! And they go to the hospital and are told that she had a miscarriage and it would be extremely dangerous for her to ever carry a child. Phoebe offers to carry the child for them, Chandler says he can’t let her do that, but Monica understands that it is something Phoebe really wants to do for them. At the end, Phoebe gives birth to their children, and then we jump forward 6 months, Rachel and Ross are settled in Calcutta for Rachel’s career, Monica is happily balancing work and parenting, and they are all gathered at Monica and Chandler’s for a meal.
As for the actual structure of the thing, we would start with a childhood flashback to all of them playing together, plus Joey the strange boy visiting the area with his large family. They promise to always be friends. Moving on to present day, we see each of them separately arriving together. Ross’s marriage breaking up, Monica getting thrown out of her dorm and school, Chandler finding Joey secretly sleeping under his desk and inviting him to move in with him if he needs a place to sleep, Phoebe looking through old photos and digging out a phone number for her cousins, and Rachel popping out the window and climbing out at her own wedding. And then finally we see them all come together at the same coffee house.
Rachel moves in, Ross is awkward around her, but after a few scenes he gets past that. And around that time is talked into meeting a woman from work for coffee, Rachel is surprised by her jealousy, realizes she loves him, gets into a big fight, admits her feelings, Happy Love Song. Meanwhile, Phoebe meets a man singing at her grandmother’s cafe, Monica meets her parents’ old friend Richard at work, their love stories move along. But Rachel gets a job, she and Ross break up, their conflict is in the background as we get our second Song Montage. Monica and Richard, Phoebe and Scientist Guy, Joey and his secret lover, are all happy, but intercut is Ross and Rachel awkward, and Chandler miserable. All comes to a head at intermission when the two romances break up, and Ross is planning to leave town, but then changes his mind.
Second half, obviously big drunk song number with all of them at the non-wedding reception.
Quickly followed by a sweet love song with Monica and Chandler.
(really, Saif is better in this movie than in anything else I’ve seen him in, including Omkara)
And then plot-plot-plot as Monica and Chandler get together, then Ross finally tracks down his ex-wife and goes to confront her/his demons, comes back for their wedding, Phoebe moves in and becomes their surrogate, Rachel gets offered the job, Phoebe gets her romantic proposal, Rachel stays for her wedding, big happy wedding song, Phoebe goes into labor, baby is born, Joey has his little moment with the mystery woman, jump forward 6 months to check in with everybody, and Happy End Credits song.
Now, versions and casting!
Monica: Rani Mukherjee (it is meant to be, I accept nothing less)
Chandler: Saif Ali Khan (not today, but back then, this is perfection. Think Kal Ho Na Ho, funny but with a streak of strength underneath)
Ross: Abhishek (serious, kind of sad, sometimes funny, it’s perfect!)
Rachel: Preity (She can pull it off, right?)
Phoebe: Kareena (really! She can handle a surprisingly broad range of roles, and she has that sort of “off” feeling to her)
Joey: The trickiest part! I want someone who looks like Hrithik, but can act. Akshaye Khanna maybe? Yes! Akshaye Khanna! It’s kind of similar to his role in Dil Chahta Hai anyway.
For other roles:
Older woman who breaks Joey’s heart: Sridevi! I could say Dimple, but then it would just be DCH redux.
Phoebe’s Scientist Guy: Akshay!!! Shy with glasses and kind of awkward. We can put in a comic fight scene for him, maybe on their first date.
Richard: Very very hard! I want to say Dharmendra, but I think that is a bit too old. So, I guess Sunny?
Ross’ eloping fiancee: Mahima Chaudury. She did so great in a similar scene in Lajja.
Ross’ ex-wife: Sushmita Sen! They are so clearly not supposed to be together, we can really by her explanation that it was just never right. Plus, I love Sush as a strong unapologetic independent woman.
Joey’s Mystery Woman: Hmm. Urmila Matondkar? She has the kind of face you like right away, but she could also pull off the kind of complicated expression of “happy for other people but lonely for herself”.
Monica: Madhuri! She would always be the center of any group
Chandler: Anil Kapoor. Kind, supportive, great with Madhuri, perfect.
Ross: Jackie Shroff Older, serious, a little shy.
Rachel: Raveena Tandon. Glamorous, which is really all I need from my 90s Rachel. Not a deep time for films.
Phoebe: Shilpa Shetty. Wacky! If you don’t believe she can pull it off, check out Main Khiladi Tu Anari
Joey: Shahrukh. Indulge me! Plus, I really do think he can pull it off.
For other roles:
Older woman who breaks Joey’s heart: Rekha!!!! The big reason I wanted to do a 90s version, to put Shahrukh and Rekha together.
Phoebe’s Scientist Guy: Akshay! I know I already used him for this role, I don’t care, he’s perfect.
Richard: Can I use Dharmendra this time? Probably not. So a slightly younger Sunny.
Ross’ eloping fiancee: Amrita Singh. She did it already in Aaina, why not?
Ross’ ex-wife: Well, this is impossible! Who does Jackie Shroff not have chemistry with? I give up, Dimple. Because again, strong independent kind of woman.
Joey’s Mystery Woman: Juhi Chawla. That was easy!
Present Day cast (already came up with most of this on this post)
Monica: Anushka Sharma. Skinny, strong presence, could knock the “you just miscarried and can never have children” reaction face out of the park.
Chandler: Ranveer. Funny, silly, but hidden strength again! And I like him with Anushka.
Ross: Madhavan! I am very excited about this. Older, serious, a little shy.
Rachel: I originally said Alia Bhatt, but she just can’t be opposite Madhavan, and I can’t give up Madhavan. So instead, Dips! Playing a little younger than usual, but she can do it. Or maybe Sonam? I don’t know! You decide!
Phoebe: Kalki Koechlin. Perfect role! Perfect casting!
Joey: Varun Dhawan! I was only resisting it because I had Alia as Rachel, but now I don’t have to and he is perfect.
Older woman who breaks Joey’s heart: Kajol! Don’t Kajol and Varun together strangely make sense?
Phoebe’s Scientist Guy: Ayushmann Khuranna! It’s perfect, right?
Richard: Akshay! Tricked, you didn’t I? You thought he would be the scientist again. But now, he would be great as the confident older guy, and he and Anushka were already a pair in one of my all time favorite movies.
Ross’ eloping fiancee: Kangana. got to be. Such a great meta-joke!
Ross’ ex-wife: Rani Mukherjee! I can’t really see them together (which is the point) and I can see her walking out on a marriage and making her own way in life.
Joey’s Mystery Woman: Alia. duh.
As always, if we only had enough imaginary money and power to make one of these versions, which one would you pick?
Also, do you agree with me and all right thinking people that Phoebe was better with the scientist guy than she was with Paul Rudd?
Any casting or plot alterations in general?