I am sure you will all have Thoughts in the comments about what I should have included and did not, along with what I included and shouldn’t have, and various other changes I should have made. And that’s fine, think of this as just a starting point!
Warning: if I haven’t mentioned it before, my non-Indian taste in films is firmly pre-1960. And my taste in fiction is firmly pre-1920. So these may be a bit old-fashioned.
1.1. An Affair to Remember
I know I know, we already had the Mann version. But I want the real version, going all the way back before Cary Grant, to Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer. The idea was supposed to be two people who thought they were done with romance, who had lived lives and done things and were ready to settle down and settle for comfort and safety. And were surprised by one last affair that made them feel again, and turned them into silly children, and gave them a second chance.
So, new version, Shahrukh is an aging actor/playboy. He has run through all his money enjoying his life and now, at age 45, he is finally ready to settle down. With a spoiled rich girl who wants him for the fame and status, plus has a crush on him for his old fame. Heck, it can be meta, we can see them together and she asks him to say the “Senorita” line and he forces himself to say it, but clearly hates doing it. Obviously, she is played by Lisa Haydon.
Before their marriage he has to do one more job, a celebrity appearance cruise type thing, another super rich family has hired him for their private cruise/wedding party and he is too honorable to leave the contract. Also hired for the cruise is a former item girl who hasn’t done much in recent years, Deepika. There are other entertainers, an aging character actress Kirron Kher and some others. Shahrukh and Deepika spark immediately, but also make it clear that they have each other’s numbers. Deepika is clearly a kept woman now, not a “dancer” any more, and comfortable with that, just taking this job because she had a fight with her boyfriend and wanted to punish him by leaving town for a while. And Shahrukh is an experienced playboy about to be married, maybe tempted by one last fling and trying to flirt a bit, but Dips is too smart to play that game. However, as the cruise goes on, they start to bond. Shahrukh helps her out when she stumbles in her dance routine, she helps save him from amorous older women. They enjoy each other, and he invites her to stop off and visit his elderly friend, the woman who played his mother in one of his first movies, Waheeda Rahman.
(This old woman is okay, but Waheedaji would be better)
Deepika is touched seeing him with her, and has her own moment of understanding with Waheedaji, and their relationship deepens and they start to fall in love with the big wedding parties as a background (eyes meeting during the nuptial rounds and so on). They say good-bye the last day on the boat, being practical and adult about it, but then change their mind as the boat is pulling into Bombay, Dips runs down to talk to him, and they agree that they will both try and see if they can be “better” people, walk away from everything and start fresh, but no judgement if they can’t. In 6 months, if they still feel the same way, they will meet at the lobby of the Taj Hotel.
Dips goes home and tells her married boyfriend (Bobby Deol) that it is over. He is a nice guy, he is sorry but takes it well. Dips goes back to working as a dancer, no big fancy item numbers any more, just performances at weddings and stuff, but it’s honest work. Shahrukh has a very awkward conversation with Lisa Haydon, accidentally caught on TV camera, in which he has to break up with her and she goes amusingly insane in response. But once he is free, he goes back to his fancy flat and starts selling things off. Finally starting over in the tiny apartment that he has kept from when he was first starting out in the film industry. And he paints and starts selling his paintings in an art gallery run by kindly Anupam Kher.
6 months later, they are both slightly excited, Deepika gets dressed in a new sari, a modest silk one, not the sexy kind she usually wears. Shahrukh puts on a suit and carefully puts the mangalsutra he has purchased in his pocket. His apartment is clean, with the dishes stacked by the sink and fresh flowers by the bed. And then, of course, Deepika gets caught in traffic, gets out of the cab to run the rest of the way, and is hit by a car. She wakes up to find a sympathetic doctor telling her that she can’t walk any more. Bobby Deol steps up, a friend called him, he helps her home and helps her get another job, teaching at a charity school where she can at least still do the hand gestures to her dances. And then one day months later, they run into Shahrukh at the movies, he is noticed by a few people and stopped for autographs, doesn’t notice that Bobby has gone to get her wheelchair, thinks she is just being selfish and not even willing to stand to greet him. And she lets him think that, that she is back with Bobby.
Familiar ending, Shahrukh shows up at the door of her small apartment just as her neighbor is leaving, having settled her on the couch with a blanket over her legs. He still thinks she is rude for not even standing or offering him anything, but is so lost in his bitterness that he doesn’t look for a reason beyond that. He explains that Waheedaji died and left her dancing anklets to Dips, as promised. Dips is clearly upset but trying to hide it, lets Shahrukh continue to believe the lie that she is still with Bobby and doesn’t really love him. But it is beginning to fall apart, Shahrukh starts to see her reaction and pushes for more by telling his bitter story of having waited for her all night at the Taj, finally getting drunk, being thrown out, landing in jail, spending weeks trying to find an explanation, giving up on love, etc. etc. Dips is now trying to hold back tears, tries to change the topic, asks about his painting.
Shahrukh backs off, says he is painting, he even painted a picture of Waheedaji. He never planned to sell it, but his gallery said that a woman came in to see it and seemed to love it so, and he let her have it because the woman was…..Dun dun dun!!!! Shahrukh suddenly figures it out! He ducks behind the screen separating the apartment and sees the painting and the wheelchair, turns back to see Dips crying on the couch, figures the whole thing out, does that little muscle twitch in his cheek to show buried pain, and then comes back and reassures her that it will be all right, gathers her up to him and cries a little himself, and Dips finally says “don’t worry! If you can learn to paint, I can learn to dance again!”
And then over the end credits, my favorite bit from Mann and the only thing I am keeping, they get married with Shahrukh carrying her around the fire since she can’t walk. Oh, and the song playing in the background is the same one that was playing at the wedding on the cruise when their eyes met and they realized they might really be in love.
2. Sleepless in Seattle
Am I the only person who always thinks of these two movies together? An Affair to Remember and Sleepless in Seattle? Oh well, it’s a perfect Shahrukh film anyway! And very similar to Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, but not totally.
Shahrukh is a widower, was married to Aishwarya who we see in beautiful DIALOGUELESS flashbacks. We open with her funeral, Shahrukh’s friends Juhi and Anil Kapoor have gathered around him and are trying to make him feel better, but he is still sunk in grief. He eventually tells his boss that he can’t stay here, where everything reminds him of his wife, so he is leaving Bombay for Calcutta.
Meanwhile, in Delhi, Dips (I don’t know, I’m just feeling her today) is a career woman excitedly preparing for her marriage to Jimmy Shergill (poor Jimmy, something about his face just says “man about to be dumped”). They fly to her family’s place in Bangalore together, but now are flying home to Delhi separately. On the airplane, she is bored and starts randomly listening to a radio call in show. And Shahrukh’s adorable son calls in saying his widowed father needs a new wife. Shahrukh catches him and takes the phone away, but then gets sucked into a monologue about how much he loved his wife and how it was just perfect, in a way that echoes what Dips’ mother (Jaya) was telling her about true love.
Dips gets obsessed with this and can’t help researching more about Shahrukh once she gets back to her newspaper office, with the encouragement of her friend Aditi Mittal who doesn’t much like Jimmy Shergill for her anyway. And while Dips is trying to figure out ways to learn more about Shahrukh and what is happening here, Shahrukh is going on his own journey.
(Seems like someone who should get more jobs as the “humorous friend of the heroine”)
He decides to start dating, with the encouragement of his new friend/co-worker Anupam Kher. He dates someone who is okay, Bipasha Basu, but it isn’t perfect. Dips has now gotten so interested that she has asked a newspaper stringer (Nawazuddin) to check him out in Calcutta and gets photos of him on a date with Bips. She decides she is crazy to keep thinking about this, but Aditi keeps encouraging her, and she finally decides to just say it is a story, that she will fly out to Calcutta and knock on his door and ask to interview him about his experience as a surprise radio celebrity. Only she arrives in Calcutta to see him greet Juhi with a big embrace, and gets confused thinking Juhi is Bips because they look the same from the back.
Meanwhile, she also sent in a letter through the radio station, which was forwarded on with a bunch of other letters. Shahrukh’s adorable son reads it and decides this is the perfect woman. He keeps nagging Shahrukh about it, and doesn’t like Bips, but Shahrukh ignores him. Shahrukh saw Deepika from a distance, coincidentally, when she was in Calcutta, and was immediately struck by her, but stopped himself from going over and doing anything, because that would be crazy.
Finally, at the end, adorable son decides to do something crazy, and goes himself to Bombay to meet her at the lobby of the Taj like she suggested in her letter. Shahrukh follows his run away son. Deepika isn’t planning to go, but at the last minute while having dinner with Jimmy, she is so obviously distracted that Jimmy notices it and breaks up with her, saying that he doesn’t want to be “good enough” for someone, he wants someone who is in love with him, he deserves that. Finally, after a near miss, Deepika and Shahrukh meet and the moment their hands touch, they both know that it is for life.
3. My Favorite Wife
It’s not just me that sees Shahrukh and thinks “Cary Grant!”, right? Anyway, this is the last one I promise. And it’s a Shahrukh and Vidya movie, because it’s really more the heroine’s story. And it’s a short one, because it’s all about the set-up more than the execution, you can all fill in the details of whacky hijinks and near misses and romantic moments once you get the set up. Shahrukh wants to declare his wife legally dead because she has been missing for 3 years, and he wants to get married again to Lisa Haydon. But just as he is about to get the papers signed, Vidya Balan arrives at his house while he isn’t there, and tells his children she is their mother, she survived the plane crash and was on a deserted island for 3 years. Shahrukh is already gone with Lisa on their honeymoon, Vidya follows him, he faints when he first sees her, then tries to juggle both women and isn’t sure what to do, especially since he can’t consummate his “new” marriage until he clears this up. It gets even more confused when he is introduced to Emraan Hashmi who was on the island with Vidya the whole time. Vidya is clear on what she wants, she wants her husband and her kids and her life back. But slowly begins to think maybe she can’t have it and should let him have the divorce. Just as Shahrukh realizes that he does want her back and determines that he will woo her. Which of course he does through a big romantic gesture yet to be determined, and she gives in, and Lisa Haydon and Emraan Hashmi leave their lives forever.
(Already remade as Move Over Darling, which was the movie Marilyn Monroe was working on when she died, and then Doris Day stepped in to replace her)
4. Little Woman
Shahrukh as Professor Baird. So we can, for once, not be depressed about Jo and Laurie since this is clearly the better option.
Greatly simplified plot. Anushka is Jo, Kareena is Meg, Kalki is Beth, and Alia is Amy. Laurie is Ranbir. Hema Malini is Mother. Father is dead. Brief prologue section of the 4 girls living together with Mother in Shimla, Anushka is going to school, Kareena is slowly falling in love with Saif, Ranbir’s tutor next door. Kalki is sick, and Alia is a brat. Ranbir and Anushka first bond over trying to get Kareena and Saif together, but then stay best friends all through college. Until Ranbir proposes and Anushka just can’t say yes, and runs away from Shimla to Bombay to get away from him. In Bombay, she finds lodging at a guest house with a bunch of other artist types. She is working at an advertising agency and trying to write at night. And she meets Shahrukh, tormented scholar, thrown out of his professor position for his firebrand political views, but strangely gentle and kind to the young people he now tutors. She comes to respect him, to enjoy spending time with him, to stalk him a little (waiting by the stairs until he comes in, following him when he leaves so she can “happen” to bump into him). Shahrukh puts up with it and sees to be happier as well. They have a big fight when she first shows him her writings, he tells her they are worthless and not worthy of her, but they make up and are closer than ever. Meanwhile, back home, Kalki is getting sicker, and Alia has been given the opportunity to go on a European tour with a grumpy old relative (Kirron Kher). She meets Ranbir again in Europe, they bond at first out of homesickness but then come to really enjoy each other, and he proposes. Anushka returns home when she learns that Kalki is dying, and shortly after her death, Ranbir and Alia return to announce they got married. Anushka is completely alone and unhappy, when out of nowhere Shahrukh appears! He saw a thing she wrote for a website and sensed her unhappiness and dropped everything to come to her.
(I’m picturing a very similar vibe to Jab Harry Met Sejal. Although I also have a small voice that says “Konkona! Make Jo be Konkona!”)
Scariest. Book. Ever!!! And also, very feminist. The real hero is the heroine, Mina, who is totally awesome and way way better than all the men around her. And second in awesomeness, Van Helsing! Who of course would be played by Shahrukh.
Right, so, we start with the boring fiance of Mina, let’s say Arjun Rampal. He is traveling to a remote Haveli on business from his law firm. He is dutifully writing letters to Mina as he goes, they have been engaged for several years, but both of them are poor orphans and are struggling to get into a financial position where they can marry, both working jobs and saving money. Arjun meets his new client, Naseeruddin Shah, who is elderly and ill and a little strangely off-putting, but wants assistance in traveling to a new region of India, Kerala. Over the next few days, strange things happen in the Haveli, and Arjun gets more and more disturbed. Finally he runs away, risking a dangerous climb down the side of the mansion and then over a cliff in order to escape.
(So long as Mina/Rani is stuck with boring fiance, might as well make him pretty for her)
Meanwhile, Mina is clearly Rani. And she is taking a vacation from her teaching job with a previous student, a much younger woman who has become her friend, Alia Bhatt. They are in Kerala together at Alia’s old family home. And Alia is being courted by 3 men. A young intense doctor, Shahid Kapoor. A dignified aristocrat, Ranbir Kapoor. And a somewhat wild adventurer type, Ranveer Singh. She is torn between the 3 of them, but finally picks Ranbir. Rani gently comforts the other two in her dignified wise way.
But there is another problem, Alia is sick, mysteriously sick. Shahid Kapoor calls his old mentor for help, Shahrukh Khan/Van Helsing. He is a Delhi-type, definitely out of place in slow beautiful Kerala. But he is charming and kind and puts Alia at her ease when Shahid arranges an examination. Rani is there as chaperone and Shahrukh immediately recognizes her as the smartest person in the room, asking her questions about Alia’s nightmares and sleepwalking and stuff. He is reassuring while Alia is there, but Rani catches him sadly shaking his head and looking depressed and determined after she has left.
(Maybe depressed and determined with glasses? I’m not sure)
Alia briefly seems to get better after Shahrukh gives her “injections”, and at the same time Rani receives word that her boring fiance Arjun Rampal is ill and needs her. She takes her leave of Alia, after making all 3 men and especially Shahrukh vow to protect her. She returns with Arjun to recover from his illness in Kerala, and discovers that Alia is dying. No one knows why. Shahrukh looks drawn and strained and gives no hope. Ranbir is devastated, Ranveer is determinedly still cheerful, Shahid is glasses-wearing and resolute. Alia dies, and since she is Christian, is buried rather than cremated. Shortly after, children begin to show up dead or injured with stories of a “beautiful lady” who invites them into the cemetery (seriously, scariest book ever!). Shahrukh gives a long monologue about the dread blood disease that has traveled through history etc. etc. syphilis metaphor, ending by explaining that Alia has become a vampire and is murdering small children, so they need to break into her crypt and stab her to death. Oh, and Rani has to come along because dead-Alia might still trust her.
Alia gets her amazing death scene, they get to the cemetery to find her snacking on a small child, Rani gets her attention, the others carry the child away, and then there is a massive fight culminating in Shahrukh brutally stabbing a stake through Alia’s heart as she screams. And all the boys looking shocked and unhappy while Rani looks cold and strong.
(Oh yeah, she can handle it)
Seemingly they have victory. Only, Van Helsing warns that it might not be real victory. They have just gained the attention of the enemy. Sure enough, a few nights later, Arjun comes into their bedroom to find Rani being fed on by Naseeruddin Shah. Arjun calls for help, the others rush in, Naseeruddin evilly leaves, Rani faints, Shahrukh catches her and tries to treat her, then hypnotizes her and they learn the truth. Naseeruddin has been visiting her for several nights now, long enough to build a connection between them. She fights off Shahrukh’s hypnosis and restraints and keeps trying to go to him. By the morning, they have helped break the connection, but Arjun’s hair has turned white (also from the book. I really need to reread it!).
The team decides to take the fight to Naseeruddin. He has arranged for his coffins to be transported away from Kerala, they don’t know where. Once Rani recovers her strength, they decide to follow, using her connection as a guide. They move slowly overland, not flying because it would break the connection. Finally, they reach a remote Punjabi farmhouse where Naseeruddin is hiding out. The men attack, the young men taking the lead with Shahrukh and Rani staying back and being wise. Naseeruddin’s beautiful female followers try to defend him, the younger men hesitate about hitting women but wise old Shahrukh has no such problem and they soon imitate him. Finally, Naseeruddin is stabbed and killed once and for all, but not before he has fatally wounded Ranveer. Who dies while holding Rani’s hand and asking her to remember him.
In the happy epilogue, Rani introduces her new son to the other men, named for each of them, with Ranveer’s name first, and boring Arjun being happy and proud and handsome with white hair.
(Yes, I considered in my imaginary casting that it would have to be someone who looks good with white hair)
An exception to my “nothing after 1960” rule. Anyway, this is an easy one! Shahrukh is Dustin Hoffman, Anupam Kher is Sidney Pollack, Saif is Bill Murray. Deepika is Jessica Lange. Farah Khan is Teri Garr. Shahrukh is an intense struggling actor, who is brilliant but no one wants to hire him because he is so difficult. His good friend Farah Khan is up for a part in a soap opera, but doesn’t think she can get it. To build her confidence, Shahrukh dresses up like a woman to audition with her. And surprisingly gets the part. He convinces his agent Anupam Kher to support his story and starts working at the soap opera. And begins to have a friendship of equals with Deepika, who plays the vapid weak “daughter” character, not the lead of the show, but an important role. He and Deepika get closer and closer, he spends time with her and her baby, and then Deepika invites him to go home with her for the weekend, and he spends time with her father, Boman Irani, a nice old lonely widower who gets fond of him as well, at least his female persona. But of course it can’t last, in the end he gives a long monologue in character while they are filming live explaining that he was a man acting as a woman, Deepika slaps him, and he is fired. Months later, he has atoned a bit, made his peace with Boman Irani, gotten another job in a play, and he runs into Deepika again outside the studio, and they smile and chat friendly like, and there is a hint that something more could happen between them.
(I don’t know, I’m just liking them together today!)
7. Sherlock Holmes
Well, obviously Madhuri is Irene Adler. That’s the easy part. And also obviously, they have respect for each other as worthy adversaries, but no more. I don’t like the whole “ooo, Sherlock loves Irene!” kind of plots. No, he just respects her, and vice versa. Anyway, in my movie version, the Irene Adler plot is the prologue. He is hired to get back incriminating love letters from her, feels a little guilty about it since it is such a petty dirty thing, to steal letters from a woman, but still does the job. Goes to see her perform, then starts a fire in her dressing room, sees her instinctively reach for the safe, is able to steal the letters. Or is he? No, in the end, she wins out, leaving him with just a photograph of herself, while she keeps her letters and her memories and marries another man, Akshaye Khanna, who is the one she really wants.
(Does no one but me remember that is the ending of the original story? Irene bests Sherlock, and her plan all along was to marry a nice young lawyer and get out of this crazy life)
And then the real story starts. How about “The Speckled Band”? I always liked that one. A brave young woman hires Holmes and Watson to investigate the death of her sister, she suspects at the hand of their stepfather who wants their inheritance. Brave young woman can be Anushka, evil stepfather has to be super strong and imposing, Sharat Saxena I guess? Oh! And Watson!!!! My heart says Saif, but can he pull of that “ex-military man” bearing? And if it’s Saif, then I guess the brave young woman would be Kareena. Because I want to fiddle with the book narrative and make her the one he falls in love with, not Mary from Sign of Four. Saif and Shahrukh investigate, save Kareena at the last minute, defeat her stepfather, and Saif and Kareena get married with Shahrukh trying to be happy but actually being a little sad.
8. Doctor Blake Mysteries
Well, this is just a gimme. It’s come up enough in the comments so that I know there are a fair number of you watching the series along with me. Might as well have some fun and recast it!
Shahrukh is a middle-aged doctor who has returned to his hill station hometown after serving in WWII. He has inherited his father’s dull practice, and his father’s proud strong sharp-tongued widowed housekeeper, Sridevi. The town raises eyebrows at him living alone with Sridevi, but they also bring in his young nurse Alia as a boarder/chaperone. And then I guess there could be a murder mystery, but I am much more interested in exploring the slow-burning middle-aged love story between a man who lost his wife in the war and a widowed woman who always over thinks things.
(Sridevi can pull of the right balance of “very proper but with something underneath”, right?)
9. Harry Potter
I’m torn, Sirius Black or Remus Lupin? I think Sirius Black, don’t you? Dark, angry, dangerous?
That’s it. That’s all I had to say. Oh, and Amitabh as Dumbledore, but we all knew that already, right?
Charlie Swan. With minimal time spent on all his daughter’s boring teenage angst, and maximum time spent on his slow romance with his best friend’s widow, and patient love for his estranged daughter.
(Heck, the Billy Burke version was already the best part of the original films! Think how much better it would be with SRK. And the Vampires as the B-story. Maybe not even Vampires, just a teenage daughter who returns to live with her estranged father and falls into a passionate love story that she is much to young for)
11. Kiss Me Kate
Indulge me! I know probably no one else knows this show, but it’s the perfect SRKajol plot and I can’t resist it. Shahrukh is a producer/star who just needs one more hit. Kajol is his ex-wife, a former star who has been talked into playing the lead in his next film. She is engaged to a politician, Abhishek. Shahrukh is having a fling with the second lead of the film, Shilpa Shetty. Unaware that she has a long term bad boy boyfriend on the side, Emraan Hashmi. As filming continues in stops and starts, interrupted by visits from mobsters who are looking for Emraan, slowly Shahrukh and Kajol become close again, and then distant, and then close. Culminating in the finale in which Kajol sings out her love both as her character and for herself, and Shahrukh understands, and they are reunited.
Oh, and instead of the show they are putting on being a modernized version of The Taming of the Shrew, it’s a modernized version of Shakuntala.
(Shakuntala: Prince falls in love with beautiful forest maiden, they are married with the trees as witnesses, he goes home and loses the ring that let’s him remember her, she follows him and is furious when he turns her away and says he doesn’t remember her, she goes up to heaven and raises their son there, shortly after the prince does remember and sinks into despair. Finally, years later, he is called on to do some duty in the heavenly kingdom, meets his young son, and then his wife, and they are reunited)