There was a comment on last week’s post, by Asmita I think, about liking it when men are surrounded by strong women. Which sent me down this whole rabbit hole in a direction I don’t think she anticipated, and I have come out the other side with a simple plot in mind that can be applied to any hero. I am excited!
You ready for plot GENIUS? A great one size fits all option?
- Our hero is a super manly guy who lives a life surrounded by other men
- He travels to a remote mountain area for Reasons
- He is injured and has to stay at an all girls’ school with a strong feminist principal
- Lesson’s are learned, love happens, etc. etc.
- He returns to his “real life” having learned how empty it is and makes an effort to embrace his feminine side.
So, let’s take this formula and start applying it! First, (in my heart and in all ways), SHAHRUKH!
1.1. He is an aggressive NRI type businessman. His partners and top executives are all male. His faithful middle-aged secretary is female, but he barely seems to see her. Or any of the lower management women. He is all about aggressive conversations with male business rivals, and yelling at or congratulating his male employees. Male male male.
2. He gets a telegram, his estranged daughter has chicken pox. He doesn’t want to deal with it, calls her school and tells the principal to call his ex-wife instead. Principal yells at him that he is her parent too, and his ex-wife is on a research trip to inner India and can’t be reached, he needs to step up. Shahrukh feels guilty, and also wants to prove something to mouthy principal, so travels to the remote hill station where the school is located planning to give his daughter chocolates and flowers and get a lot of adoring appreciation for it. And then leave immediately to go back to work.
3. It does not go as planned, mouthy principal (Madhuri) is not impressed with all his efforts, and his daughter is polite but clearly would rather talk to her friends than to this guy she barely knows. He is about to leave, after one last telling off from Madhuri for thinking he can be a good father thanks to one gesture and his daughter should fall on him in gratitude, when he casually mentions that he has never had chicken pox himself, and immediately is thrown in quarantine. He gets adult chicken pox, complains like a little baby until Madhuri yells at him and points out that all the teenage girls are just as sick as him and are suffering in silence, surely a grown man is at least as tough as a teenage girl? Shahrukh begins to think about this, and then his daughter is brought in, her chicken pox is a little worse than before, her fever is up. For the first time, Shahrukh begins to worry about her and discovers all his fatherly feelings coming flooding over him. And decides to stay, fake still being sick so he has an excuse to spend time with his daughter.
4. He asks for his bed to be moved into the same room as his daughter’s and tries to make awkward advances but really has no idea how. Reads Mills & Boon romances, and then finds out she prefers Manga. Listens to the latest Pritam type hits, discovers she loves class RD Burman songs. Finally, Madhuri takes pity on him and tells him that all he has to do is talk to her, ask questions, get to know her. And, slowly, father and daughter become close. They play video games together, he lets her show him her favorite movies (Telugu and Hong Kong action films), and everything is great.
(Picture something like his relationship with Amrita here, only it’s the whole focus of the film. And she never turns “girly”, she stays all interesting)
Until one day he comes back early from his doctor’s visit and notices her sneaking out of the room. He follows her, she is going to meet a boy! In secret! At first, he is all upset, about to go confront the guy, but then he listens to their conversation, and they are sweetly shy together, talking about movies and books and his daughter is the one who makes the first move, suddenly kissing the guy on the cheek while he looks stunned. And then running away. Shahrukh is thoughtful, and goes to talk to Madhuri about it. She says yes, she knows all about it (she knows everything always), the guy is a summer visitor with his family, he is the same age as Shahrukh’s daughter, they have been meeting in the fields but so far haven’t broken any school rules. She is only meeting him during times when she would be allowed off campus anyway, she would be welcome to bring him back to the common area like the other girls do with their friends, but she seems shy about it. Shahrukh is all pacing and nervous, but he has grown as a person now, so instead of making a big scene, he just asks Madhuri that if she hears through her informants that there is anything he can do, anytime his daughter is in trouble, please let him know. And then a few days later, Madhuri asks him to come back to his office. He is all upset, he knew that boy was no good, he probably broke her heart because he thought she wasn’t feminine enough or something. No no, it’s nothing like that! The boy has invited her to a formal party his parents are throwing, and she doesn’t know how to dance. She asked Madhuri for help, but Madhuri thinks this is something she should really learn from her father. Shahrukh is humbly grateful for the opportunity, but admits he doesn’t know how to dance either. You see where this is going, right? Madhuri teaches him to dance, and then he turns around and teaches his daughter, and love blossoms. Well, different kinds of love.
(Have I mentioned I love Dr. Nene? Platonically, of course, but I love the way he is always so happy when his wife is awesome)
On the day of the party, his daughter asks him to drop her off and pick her up. He anxiously waits outside, watching through the windows the whole night as she has a wonderful time (without changing herself, she dances with the boy, but also plays ping pong and video games with him), and then stays back and hides in the bushes and watches her have her first real kiss. And then makes a lot of noise and is all “I just arrived!” a few minutes later. That night, for the first time, she gives him a big hug and says “I love you Daddy!” Shahrukh is thrilled! But, the next day, Madhuri calls him to her office again, and tells him it’s time for him to leave. He is obviously over his chicken pox, she can’t excuse any more having this grown man stay on campus. Shahrukh is devastated, how can he leave his daughter now that he has found her? Madhuri points out that he doesn’t have to leave her. They have 3 week holidays coming up, his daughter usually travels with her mother during that time, but perhaps, if he asks, she would like to come stay with him instead.
5. Shahrukh gets a tentative promise that she will think about staying with him over the next holidays. And returns to Bombay, determined to fix his life. He is suddenly aware of all the women around him who have made his life easier, leaves a thank you note and a big tip for the elderly cleaning woman who picks up after him every day and leaves him dinner every night. Gives roses to his secretary and tells her he wouldn’t be able to survive without her. Finally notices that the assistant to his vice-president is the one really doing all the work, promotes her and fires her boss. And, at the same time, is making over his apartment and life to be a better father. Calls the school at 5pm on the dot every night to talk to his daughter. Well, he calls at 5pm but half the time he has to wait which means he chats with Madhuri. And finally his daughter admits that she does it on purpose so he and “Principal Ma’am” will have a chance to get to know each other better. He keeps up with watching the films she likes and listening to her music, even when she isn’t there to watch with him so he can understand her interests. Changes his huge bachelor pad sex room/bedroom into two smaller rooms with a connecting door, one for her and one for him. And he is at the airport, nervously pacing an hour early, the day her flight is supposed to arrive. She isn’t there, she isn’t there, the whole flight seems to be emptied, he keeps looking around, and then he turns, and there they are! Madhuri came too! The daughter explains “I hope you don’t mind, Principal Ma’am is spending her holidays with her family in Bombay and offered to drop me.” Shahrukh smiles all happy like and says no, he doesn’t mind at all.
SEE??? It’s the perfect formula! Let’s apply it to someone else. Oh! Varun Dhawan!
1.1. Your first thought would be “campus ladies man”, right? But no! I want something totally male male male. Like, he doesn’t even think about talking to girls. So, Super Army Commando Guy. We meet him working with his team, scaling buildings and shooting bad guys and stuff. Mission over, they relax with manly beers and soccer playing and things. And joke about the one guy on the team who has a girlfriend, how lame, girls are stupid. Until his commander Sanjay Dutt calls him into his office and wants to give him a special assignment because he is the best of the best. And we fade out without finding out what that assignment is.
2. Flashforward, Varun is in a car that crashes on a mountain road! The next day he is found by a girl’s track team from the neighboring school. The goodie-two-shoes girl wants to leave him there and call the police, but the tough leader girl Alia says they can’t do that, they will build a stretcher and carry him back to school. They do that, and school Principal Madhuri backs up Alia’s decision, saying it is against the rules to have men in school buildings, but sometimes there is a greater virtue in breaking the rules. Goodie-two-shoes girl sulks.
(This kind of Alia. Jeans and no make-up and looking straight at the camera)
3. The doctor is called and tells them that Varun has a serious fracture and won’t be up for the winding trip down the mountain for at least a month. There is no other choice but to set him up in the school. Madhuri declares he can stay in an empty room off the common area (not in the dorms near the girls), and the girls will take it in shifts to help take care of him, as part of their chores. And they have to clean out and set-up his room too, since they were the ones who decided to bring him back to the school. A routine is established, a different girl comes to check on him every few hours, bring him his meals, and so on. At first he is a little embarrassed and protests about them helping him with everything, but then starts to enjoy it. At least the flirty younger girls who have a crush on him and make him feel like a big man. Not so much Alia who resents having to take time from her soccer practice to bring him dinner and slams trays around and bangs on his injured leg by “accident”.
4. But, twist! Right before the interval, we see Alia help him to bed for the night and storm off to the girl’s dorm, and then we see Varun stand up and walk! He pulls on a hidden tab in his cast and slips out of it. Then follows her silently. Watches her through the window. Settles down in the bushes for the night and pulls out a walkie-talkie to tell his superior “All clear”. Flashback!!!!
His super important secret mission-protecting Alia!!!! She is Sanjay’s daughter, he has hidden her away in this school under a fake name so his enemies can’t find her. He suspects that she has been found, but he isn’t sure, and sending in an official guard would definitely tip off his enemies. He can’t know who the mole is at the school, so Varun will have to go in under false pretenses. But, he can tell him that his daughter goes running every morning on a particular path. Varun can come up with his own plan from there, no official involvement. Varun cold-bloodedly drove the car into a tree, bracing for impact and avoiding real injury. Then paid off the doctor to lie about his injury, and give him a fake cast. Now, he is pretending to be the whiny patient, while secretly keeping an eye on Alia.
Only, while he is hiding in the bushes, he suddenly feels a gun at his back. It’s Alia, all cold and practical, saying “who are you? Who sent you?” He tries to tell her it is her father, she is all “No, you are trying to hurt my father through me, I will kill you for that”. Varun finally convinces her to check his pocket and she finds a photo of her and a letter from her father giving him orders. She lowers the gun slightly and tells him he is free to go, go back to her father and tell him she can take care of herself. She remembers what he taught her, no need to waste a soldier babysitting her. Varun argues that he will get in trouble if he returns with out her, they go back and forth, and finally reach a bargain. He can stay for 3 weeks, until school break, at which point she will make him take her to her father, because she is tired of hiding away from danger instead of being by his side facing it together. Oh, and it also comes out that Alia is really like 21-22, but is pretending to be younger so she can hide out at this school (it suddenly occurred to me that a romance between Commando Varun and high school girl Alia would be icky, so let’s fix that).
New era begins! Principal Madhuri still doesn’t know what is happening, but one by one Alia brings most of the other girls in on the secret. Goodie two shoes is the last to find out, when she sneaks back late at night and surprises Varun dancing wildly to girl pop anthems with the other girls in the common area. Goodie-two-shoes isn’t even mad, because she is all crying and upset. The other girls and Varun ask why, and find out that Goodie-two-shoes has a secret boyfriend, who used to write her lovely notes, so she snuck out to meet him, and he was all mean and horrible and tried to kiss her. She got away by jumping out of the moving car, and then walked all the way back. Varun doesn’t know what to say, but Alia does. She thinks Goodie-two-shoes should never have been in that situation, a girl should know how to defend herself. And Varun is the perfect person to help them learn! Varun is all “I don’t want to teach a bunch of girls” and Alia is all “oh, I don’t need you to teach, I can do that, I need you for practice.” And then, montage as Alia teaches the other girls self-defense moves, and then brings out an increasingly reluctant Varun to serve as the “attacker” and get beaten up over and over again.
Finally, the finale of this section. Well, two finales. First, one of the toughest girls is injured right before the big soccer match. Not to worry! They will put a hijab on Varun and make him play for their team. Varun at first is all confident about being able to do it, but during the match, while he does a good job kicking the ball and everything, he is SHOCKED by how vicious the other team is with hidden finger jabs and elbows. Especially when the captain of the other team figures out he is a boy. At first she confronts Alia, who points out that the game is already underway, to say anything now means that it wouldn’t count. So they agree to keep it a secret from the referee, only the opposite team is instructed to get vicious and hit Varun between the legs as much as possible. Which causes Alia and her team to get furious and defensive, and not only fight back and win the match, but also get similarly vicious with blows to the breasts and between the legs.
And then second finale, the night after the big match, Alia leaves the celebration to check on Varun and see how he is doing, and they have a moment and almost kiss. But are interrupted! By gunfire! The school is under attack. Big Bad Suniel Shetty has arrived to try to kidnap Alia. Varun tells her to hide and goes out to confront Suniel. He fights off all the bad guys single-handed, but is eventually beaten down. Suniel triumphs over him, says “so this is the big bad super commando sent to defeat me?” And just as he is about to shoot him, goodie-two-shoes girl appears behind him and attacks him from behind, throwing him to the ground. At which point all the other girls show up, lead by Alia, and easily defeat all the bad guys, while Varun just kind of lays there tied up like the dude in distress he is. But, just as Alia is about to free him (and possibly they will finally kiss), the REAL big bad shows up! MADHURI!!!! The school principal!!!! She has just been pretending to be the principal all this time, having stolen the identity of the real one. Because she is the international criminal going under code name “Kali” who hates Sanjay. And now she is going to kill Alia in revenge. Alia looks all scared, Varun tries to break free and rescue her, until Madhuri gets close and pulls her gun ready to shoot, and Alia suddenly reaches out and grabs it and throws Madhuri off balance. And, GIRL FIGHT!!!! Alia and Madhuri battle it out, throwing blows and knocking each other to the floor and generally being really nasty about it. Until finally Alia has Madhuri down on the floor, Madhuri looks at her and is all “forgive me! I hated you at first but now I have come to care for you!” And Alia says “No” and pulls out her gun and shoots her point blank.
5. Helicopters! Varun has called for back up, he introduces his commando team to his new friends, telling them that these girls are tougher than they are. In the background, friendships form (not romantic, but like setting up a video game to play together, and sparring, and talking about sports), while Alia goes to talk to Sanjay. Varun tries to leave the room, but Alia asks him to stay. And to back her up when she says that she doesn’t need to be protected, doesn’t need to be a innocent victim, she should be in there fighting with them. Sanjay looks all nervous, turns to Varun, asks “What do you think?” Varun says, “I think she should be leading the team.”
Postscript, another big action sequence. Only this time, it is Alia calling the shots and leading the fight. Along with the other new team member, Goodie Two Shoes! While Varun sits back in mission control listening in and giving back-up. After successfully bringing in the Big Bad (Suniel Shetty, who escaped in the confusion), Varun goes up to Alia and says “Good job”, and she says “You too.” And then grabs him and kisses him, while he does the arms flailing overcome with surprise thing, until he family recovers and grabs her to kiss her back. Fade out.
(This. Ishq is so bad-good, I should really rewatch it)
Okay, I could go on and on, because really the possibilities are endless with this format (Amitabh as a new English professor transferred from an all boys school, Hema as the principal? Akshay as a conman on the run, Raveena as principal? Hrithik as superspy, Kareena as principal? Saif as powerful diplomat hiding out while working on secret project, Rani as principal?), but I am going to stop here.
Of my two options listed so far, which is best? Any suggest tweaks? Recasting? Recasting using our magical time machine so we can take any actor from any era and match them with any other actor from any other era?
Of the potential additional options, which would be best?
Or, what are your ideas following this format that I haven’t even considered?
Also, for minor details, who should play Shahrukh’s cool adventurous ex-wife who is a good mother but also travels to remote areas a lot and therefore put their daughter in boarding school?
Should Pooja Bhatt be the principal instead of Madhuri so the fight with Alia would be between sisters?
Who should play the goodie-two-shoes girl who eventually ends up the toughest of them all?
Should it be Alia or Taapsee opposite Varun?