I’m excited about this! In spitballing back and forth in the comments on last week’s post (which was more about Christmas as a festival of lights and social experience and sexy holiday romance), it was suggested that I should just do the whole story. And I think I can! If I break it into 3 bits.
Biblical Note: These are the 3 pieces the story is generally broken in to, and they are supposed to be this way for ultimate impact. Our Holy Family at the middle of society (carpenter was a good trade). And King Herod and the “Wise Men” at the top of society. And the Shepherds, the very lowest of the low. And all 3 parts came together on this magical night, the lowest and highest joined together to worship this new baby born to a couple who was not that impressive, not that notable, but had a lot of love and faith and therefore deserved this gift.
We Three Kings: The Thriller
I am slightly rewriting it to give King Herod, and therefore the 3 kings, a bigger part. 3 men each receive a phone call, telling them that a favor is being called in. One is an aging respected lawyer Amitabh (we see him walk down the street to his humble home, being greeted with respect and greeting in turn everyone from the sweeper to the man who stops his fancy car to say hello). He has never taken a bribe or done anything illegal. But he is reminded that he does “owe” the man on the phone something.
Next to receive a call is Sanjay Dutt in his gym. He is giving advice to a young fighter and finally offers to step in and show him himself how to do it. Everyone cheers him on and of course Sanjay is awesome in the ring. He is a former wrestler who now runs a gym for bored city professionals who want to work out in a new way. He is haggard and sad and Sanjay like, but seems happy, until he gets his own phone call.
And finally, Rishi Kapoor! An angry newsreader type at a news channel. He is yelling about the latest copy he has been handed, doesn’t like the way they are sucking up to the corporations, and when the camera roles, he goes off script to confront them. He doesn’t care when his producer yells at him, points out his show brings in more ratings than any other, they can’t afford to get rid of him. But he goes silent when he hears he has a phone call.
On the other end of the line, talking to each of them, is Anupam Kher saying simply “I believe you owe me a favor”.
(Anupam Kher really needs to play evil more often)
All three men are brought together in Anupam Kher’s living room. They look at each other awkwardly, and then Anupam comes in and introduces them one to the other. And says that he has a job for the 3 of them. It must be strictly confidential, so he is bringing together 3 people with so much to lose they would never risk talking about it to anyone about what they have done. There is a person blackmailing his son. He needs them to track this person down. It is up to them how they do it, but they must make sure by legal means (Amitabh), physical threat (Sanjay) or public exposure (Rishi) that the blackmail threat is ended. He can’t given them much to go on, just an address from a letter.
The 3 mixed group goes on the hunt together. There is much irritable sniping between them, for instance on how Amitabh can never just come straight out with what he wants to say but has to go on and on with his elaborate Hindi, and how Rishi is so vain and hates to go out without just a little make-up to brighten up his face, and how Sanjay is so slow and never talks at all. And at first they don’t want to work together, prefer to pursue separate investigation. But their investigations all land them in the same lowdown bar at the same time, and they end up having to work together to get out of a sticky situation (after an item song, of course, with Malaika Arora dancing sexily at each of them in turn while they all look uncomfortable). They bond after escaping from that situation and go back to Sanjay’s gym and get drunk together.
(Song kind of like this)
Amitabh gets very drunk and sad, and finally tells his story. Years ago, he discovered his wife (Deepti Naval in flashback) was a drug addict. She would put on a good face when he was home, but during his long hours working to save the country, he had forgotten the woman at home, and in her loneliness she turned to drugs. At first alcohol, but then something stronger. She owed the dealer in the neighborhood, he was threatening her, Amitabh didn’t know what to do. Amitabh went out that night and ran into Anupam Kher, a witness in a complicated case he was trying, a manager at a factory. In despair, he admitted what had happened to Anupam, he seemed so friendly and harmless. Anupam was shocked and sympathetic and suggested that he might be able to find some workers at the factory who would be willing, for a little money, to make the dealer go away. Amitabh didn’t say yes or no, but two days later, the dealer was found dead. And that night he got a phone call from Anupam, all the friendliness gone from his voice, saying “Remember, you owe me a favor.”
The other two men comfort him while he sobs out his carthasis and the next day they are more determined than ever to work together and finish this business so they can move on. They start to get more information, the address on the later was the address of a floating nightclub/brothel, that’s where they were the night before. They return and talk to the cleaners, find out that at the time the letter was sent, a young woman was temporarily renting the backroom. They track down further, traveling to the village where the woman said she was going next. While they spend the night sleeping in the fields under the stars, Rishi tells his story.
He had been having an affair with a young reporter (Sushmita Sen), it wasn’t serious, they both knew that, but he cared about her. She had been kidnapped by gangsters who were demanding a ransom and for Rishi to lie in a news statement about the case she had been investigating. The studio wasn’t willing to pay, he couldn’t gather together the money himself. And that day he happened to be scheduled to interview a rising businessman Anupam, who had just bought the company where he had been working after all the funds were lost in a lawsuit. Anupam was so sympathetic and friendly and harmless. Rishi found himself opening up to him. And Anupam offered him a deal. He would give him the money, no questions asked, Rishi would make the lying statement on the air and pay back Rishi when he could. Rishi agreed. Sushmita was released, went on to a wonderful career and two adot two children. And he bumped into Anupam at Sushmita’s award ceremony years later (song!), Anupam shaking his hand and saying “remember, you owe me a favor” while significantly looking at Rishi’s unaware wife (Neetu, obviously).
(Sush could totally handle a friends-with-benefits affair with her boss, along with a hardhitting investigation into mobsters)
Rishi explains back in the present day that he had never cheated again, he knew it was wrong to let himself get that close to a colleague and risk hurting his wife. And he had never lied on air except for that one time in his whole career. He doesn’t regret what he did, not when he sees Sushmita on the air as the future of Indian reporting, he wouldn’t mind the truth coming out and his career being over, but he can’t break his wife’s heart.
The investigation continues, they go from the village, where they learn the young woman stayed for two days, and then left saying she was going back to her family, back to a middleclass neighborhood in Bombay. They ask about the woman and learn she has recently been married, it was a bit of a scandal, she was visibly pregnant. And it certainly wasn’t the groom’s child, he had been out of town for 6 months before the wedding and everyone knew it. Probably for the best that they had to leave town, to travel to a remote area where her groom was sent to help build a small bridge for the government.
Back on the road! They travel through the night, with a nice slow friendship song in the background, and arrive to be directed through the small village, there was no place for the young couple to stay, so they were put up in a stable. They go in to find a man and his wife and a newborn baby. The three men immediately fall in love with the child, because all babies are miracles. Amitabh promises to give him the best education he can, once he returns to Bombay. Rishi promises to introduce him to all the right people, teach him how to be charming and powerful. And Sanjay touches his little first and promises to make him strong and teach him to fight. And then Sanjay gets a phone call. He hangs back and to take the call by himself while Amitabh and Rishi stay with the baby.
Sanjay says to Anupam “I know what you want. I won’t do it. I’m not that man any more. And I won’t ask them to help me cover up my crime”. Anupam is all “you know the consequences”, and Sanjay says “yes”. Flashback! Sanjay was the man who killed the drug dealer for Amitabh and delivered the ransom money and rescued Sushmita!!!!! He was Anupam’s “man” since he worked at the factory. He got drunk one day and made a mistake at work and caused a man’s death. Anupam covered it up, helped him get clean, encouraged him to join the wrestling team, changed his life. And every once in a while, he would ask a “favor” in return.
Sanjay hangs up the phone and slips away, traveling by truck back to the city. He goes in to see Anupam who runs through all the reasons Sanjay must help him. What will happen to him, the evidence against him in case after case, he will never see clean air again or get out of his jail cell. And his new friends, they will suffer too. The honest lawyer whose wife was a drug addict. The reporter who seduced and put into danger young colleagues. Sanjay listens to it all and then says “But you haven’t thought, what if I don’t care about all of that?” And then he kills him. And calls the police to turn himself in.
Happy ending! Amitabh appears in court, announcing he has come out of retirement for this one case because he believes this man is innocent. Rishi is on air giving a blasting account of all the secrets of Anupam’s business empire, and ending by sincerely apologizing for his own sins which might come out, having an affair with a bright young woman who has remained a friend and a colleague, and then he looks across at Neetu who smiles encouragingly and acceptingly, clearly having forgiven him. Finally, Sanjay in jail is told that he has a visitor. He comes out, reluctantly, to discover Sush!!!! She is sitting awkwardly across from him, says she is here to investigate his case, but first she has to say thank you. She always wondered who the man was who rescued her, and now she knows. Sanjay is all “I’m not as good as you think I am”, and Sush just smiles and says “Neither am I.” Sparks! Romantic sparks.
(so cute! How have they not been cast opposite each other yet?)
So, what do you think? Does that work? Should Sanjay forgive Anupam? Should Sanjay have a juicier secret?
3 Kings: Sanjay, Rishi, Amitabh? Amitabh, Dharmendra, Jackie Shroff? Govinda, Salman, Sanjay?
Wives of Kings: Deepti, Neetu? Jaya, Neetu? Rekha, Neetu?
Professional Woman Girlfriend: Sushmita Sen, Juhi Chawla, Madhuri?
Evil King Herod: Anupam Kher? Dharmendra? Anil Kapoor?
The Shepherds: The Comedy
This should be a lot shorter than the last one, because I’m not good with comedy. The point of the Shepherds is that they are the lowest of the low. So let’s make them truck drivers, who are getting drunk at a roadside dhaba. Naseeruddin Shah, Pankuj Kapoor, and Arshad Warsi. They are enjoying a sleazy item song, when a phone rings. It’s one of the cell phones Anupam gave to the 3 Kings, which the accidentally dropped at the dhaba. The shepherds finally agree to share the phone and put it on speaker to answer it. They hear a man saying “I just got word, go to the village of Bethlehem and look for them, and I will reward you”. The Shepherds argue over what to do, try to call back but get a message that the phone has been turned off, and finally decide to go to Bethlehem because it sounds like there might be money in it.
(They’re funny together! Add on Pankuj Kapoor in Matru Ki Bijli Ka Mandola mode, and you’ve got some high class comedy!)
They have a series of comic adventures on the way, and finally arrive just as Mary has gone into labor. Joseph is panicking and the shepherds get him drunk, and run between him and Mary, using their half forgotten knowledge from when they were farm boys and their father had sheep. Finally, the baby is born safely, and they all love it. Joseph starts to ask them how they happened to be there, and Mary cuts him off, and says “clearly, they were sent by God and we should just be grateful to them”.
Mary and Joseph: The Love Story
Finally, the central story! After drifting around the edges. Mary is an average sweet girl. Not Alia or anyone like. Kangana from Queen is the kind of character I am picturing. Very young and innocent seeming. Hmmm. Maybe Jhanvi Kapoor? Or else an unknown discovery. What I really want is Revathy from 25 years ago, but that’s not going to happen. For now I will just call her “Mary”.
Mary is a sweet good girl. She loves her parents and her days are spent going from home to college and back again. Her parents, Prakash Raj and Revathy, love her and dote on her and are in no hurry for her to leave the house. Until Prakash Raj learns that he has cancer. He and Revathy talk together, decide they should keep this from Mary, but should get her married quickly so she will have support. Mary is confused, doesn’t understand why there is this sudden hurry, and they can’t explain it to her. She meets her potential fiance, Madhavan, an older engineer who has never been married before because he had family responsibilities. But he hardly makes an impact on her, she is mostly angry at her parents. That night, she wakes up and goes to their room to talk to them and find out what is happening, and overhears them talking about her father dying.
(Madhavan! Who wouldn’t want their daughter to marry him?)
She doesn’t know what to do, doesn’t talk to them the next day, storms off to college. Her best friend isn’t there that day, she doesn’t have anyone to talk to, and so when a nice young man (Rajkummar Rao) offers to buy her tea, she doesn’t talk to him but doesn’t send him away. He feeds her a lovely line about how he can tell she is upset, she is so pretty, sometimes it feels like people are meant to come together, he is a wonderful sympathetic ear, she should try talking to him, talking it out can make it all better. He takes her by slow steps along the route of practiced seduction. Distracts her so she misses her last bus. Offers to give her a ride home, but gets lost and the car stalls. Suggests they get a hotel room here just until morning. And then that they have a drink, just to warm up and relax. And so on and so on. It’s not a rape (because that’s too much of a downer!), but it’s clearly arranged by him to take advantage of an emotionally vulnerable inexperienced woman.
She returns home the next day to find her parents in a panic, yells at them for the first time in her life that she can have secrets if they can, and finally the truth comes out and they are closer as a family than ever before. She calls Madhavan and explains the situation, apologizes, and says she would rather spend her father’s last days with him, not worrying about a wedding, and Madhavan is wonderful and understanding.
And then of course she realizes she is pregnant. She asks around at college to find out who the boy was, learns he is a friend of a student, very rich and goes to school abroad. She sends a letter to him overseas. And a week later, Sanjay Dutt is waiting outside her college for her. He threatens her, tells her not to bother the family again, she is terrified. She runs away from home, and is found at the train station by a sympathetic young streetwalker who takes her back to the traveling brothel. Meanwhile, her parents are panicking. They call Madhavan in case he has heard from her, he is such a nice guy and is worried about her, so he offers to help look for her. Her parents are so desperate that they have no pride and agree.
Madhavan tracks her to the brothel/nightclub place, but she has already left. He learns that the sympathetic dancer (Lisa Haydon) gave her some money and sent her to her home village to hide out. And also learns she is pregnant. Lisa tells him that he seems like a nice man who cares about her, and this poor young woman needs someone who cares about her. If he has any decency, he will take her home and marry her, whether he is the father of her baby or not. And she gives him a packet of Sindoor and tells him to think about it.
(Lisa! Wouldn’t she make a great wise but caring prostitute?)
Madhavan thinks about this on the long trip out to the village, and when he finally sees her, visibly pregnant now and looking tired and sad carrying loads of laundry, he walks over to her and pulls out the sindoor and marries here. They return home, her parents are thrilled to see her, and don’t care that she is pregnant. Madhavan listens to them talking about how they don’t care and how much they love her and so on and starts to sneak out the door. But Mary calls him back and tells her parents she is delighted that they have accepted her and her baby, but she can’t stay with them, she has to leave with her husband. Madhavan is all touched. Prakash Raj is tentatively happy about this twist, but says he has always dreamed of his daughter’s wedding, please let him give them a real marriage.
Big wedding! With everyone looking sidewise at heavily pregnant Mary and Madhavan nobly not even acknowledging it. And helping her to stand and carefully helping her around the fire and all that.
(Like this! And maybe Aditi Rao Hydari for Mary?)
Until finally, their wedding night, Mary is all sweetly shy and so is Madhavan. He offers to let her rest, she must not feel like being with him right now. Mary looks down and says very softly that actually he is all she has been thinking about for the past two weeks. He is touched, reminds her that he is a lot older than she is, he knows he is lucky a woman like her would want him, that she doesn’t have to feel grateful or anything. Mary keeps looking down and says even more softly “It’s not gratitude. I like your hands…and your eyes….and your smile. And I am so sorry that I ruined everything by letting someone I didn’t like half as much touch me first.” And of course Madhavan has to go to her then and reassure her “you didn’t ruin anything”. And fade out to a sweet love song.
They leave the next day, traveling to the remote region where he will have to do his surveys. They are greeted by a nice older woman who blesses them and congratulates them on being pregnant and Madhavan doesn’t say anything. After a few days, he finally has an outburst when Mary asks him to pick a mango for her, says “Have the father of your baby father mangos for you!” Mary is hurt but hides it. He apologizes, she says he doesn’t have to say sorry, he is right. She has been thinking about it, it isn’t right for him to raise another man’s child, she is going to give the baby away. Madhavan doesn’t say anything, just drives on in silence.
(I love this carol, because it makes them seem so human)
That night, there is no place to stay at the village where they are, so they stay at a stable. And Mary goes into labor. Madhavan panics, rushes around to find a midwife, is told she is gone, when coincidentally 3 truck drivers arrive and offer to help. The baby is born safely, Madhavan rushes in to kiss Mary’s forehead and hold her. He tries to thank the truck drivers, they refuse to take thanks, say that they were sent by God and don’t want any thanks or money or anything else, just to give the baby some blessings and leave. Madhavan settles Mary and the baby for the night and watches them sleep. The next day, the 3 Wise Men arrive. They are struck by the baby and make their offers, Mary smiles and ponders these things in her heart, but prepares herself to say that they won’t be raising this baby, when Madhavan leaps in and says “Thank you. On behalf of my wife, and my son” and Mary looks up at him and he smiles at her like “it’s okay” and then bends down and kisses the baby’s forehead and says again “my son”.
Happy epilogue! Madhavan and Mary bring the baby back to see his grandparents, and his godfathers. The 3 Shepherds randomly run into them in a Bombay park and get to give blessings to the baby as well. And we end with Mary and Madhavan bringing the baby to see his godfather Sanjay in jail, and Sanjay holding him with tears in his eyes. I just want Sanjay to be happy! Which, I guess, is a very Jesus thing, loving and forgiveness and hope for those who thought they were hopeless.
Big question, Mary!!! WHO????
Joseph: Madhavan? Akshay Kumar? Who is boring and responsible and wonderful?
Wise Prostitute Angel: Lisa Haydon? Madhuri? Hema Malini? Rekha?
Evil Impregnator: Rajkummar Rao? Siddharth Malhotra? Arjun Kapoor? Varun Dhawan?