This popped into my mind during a discussion in the comments on posts about Davos and I just had to write it down. I’m very excited!
Acid Attack Survivor Romance (with SRK cameo!)
We see two girls going to school. One of them is “pretty”, make up on her face, has a kind of sparkle inside of her. The other one is not, doesn’t move as gracefully, is a little chubby, her uniform isn’t as perfect, just doesn’t have that sparkle. They are talking about a boy who is bothering the “pretty” one, the other one is saying that she wouldn’t know what to do if a boy was bothering her, not that it is ever likely to happen, boys don’t notice her. The “pretty” one is saying that she isn’t afraid, she is going to tell her father and get him in trouble. The other one is all impressed, says something about how her friend’s life is so dramatic. And then she trips and drops her bag, bends down to pick it up, and stands up suddenly just in time to take the acid to the face that was aimed at her friend.
(Heck, we can just re-edit footage from Lucky: No Time For Love, if we cast Meher Vij)
5 years later. We see our hero, a charming handsome young actor, maybe Ranveer or maybe Sushant Singh Rajput, strolling into his office. He works at a Dharma/Yash Raj type studio, but in the production offices. He is greeted by his friend who asks where he has been, didn’t his secretary call him? Sushant (I’ll use him as a placeholder) says he was at lunch, he didn’t get a call, which is typical, his secretary never does anything, what’s up? His friend says there is someone very important in his office, he has to go there right away. Sushant asks for more information but is rushed in before he gets an answer to discover…..Shahrukh Khan!!!!!
Sushant is over-whelmed and overly friendly and asks if it is about their co-production, was their an issue with his budget projections? The production office wants to do everything it can to help him! Shahrukh is friendly, says “no no, it’s nothing like that”, he is here to ask a favor. Normally he would talk to the head of the studio, but he is on vacation this week, and it couldn’t wait, so he is talking to department heads instead. There is a young woman he would like Sushant to hire. Sushant asks for a resume, of course he will consider her, and Shahrukh shifts slightly and explains that she hasn’t exactly worked before. Or been through an official training program. Or even finished the 12th grade. But she is very bright and eager and very close to him.
Sushant thinks he gets it. He suggests, if this young woman is “close” to Shahrukh, and has no particular training, perhaps they can find her a job in the actress training program? Some ad films they are producing need a lead? Shahrukh smiles and says “I’m not sure if she has the right look for your ad films. I should tell you before you meet her, she has had half her face damaged in an acid attack.”
(This is Khushboo Devi, who was attacked by her father for reporting him for human trafficking. this is also the kind of scarring I am picturing. Definitely there, but limited so the actress would still be able to act with her mouth and eyes behind the prosthetics)
Sushant is put on the backfoot. In his embarrassment over the misunderstanding, he rushes to make up for it, says that of course he will hire her, and train her personally, send her over whenever she is ready to start. Shahrukh says that’s not necessary, any small job in the department would be wonderful, but now Sushant feels like he has something prove and insists that he will supervise her personally, it would be an honor. Shahrukh gracefully gives up on this point and agrees, says he will send her around tomorrow.
The next day, Sushant comes into the office, nods at his secretary who is playing on her phone and ignoring him, and then goes into his private office and sees a woman in a salwar kameez with a scarf over her head sitting facing his desk. He is surprised, says “who are you?”, and she rises and turns and he recoils and lets out an exclamation as he sees that half of her face has been burned by acid. And then immediately controls himself and says, “I am so sorry, that was very rude”. The woman smiles and says “Don’t worry, I have the same reaction when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror in the morning….my hair has just terrible bedhead!” Sushant lets out a laugh in spite of himself and says “come to think of it, I have the same problem. We’re a perfect pair.” And then he moves on to the practical conversation, that she will be working as his assistant, asks if she has ever worked with budgets before or spreadsheets. She just keeps saying “no” and “no” and “no” and smiling. Finally Sushant gives up and says “if you don’t mind, if you’ve never done this kind of work before, why was it you wanted this job?”
The woman, let’s say Meher Vij? Someone like that, who would never be stunningly movie star beautiful even without a scar, turns serious for the first time and says “Shahrukh puts most of us to work at Red Chillies. I started there, in the casting department, they had me reading lines with the actors auditioning. I can’t do much else, but I can read! Only, there was an actor who had a hard time working with me. He said some things, and Shahrukh dropped him from the movie. He had a lot of friends, and I guess they kind of blamed me for it. So Shahrukh said he would find a place for me somewhere else where I would be appreciated. I guess he thought you would appreciate me!” Sushant can’t help smiling back, because she is so happy and endearing, and says “I will DEFINITELY appreciate you!”
(Here she is at FilmFare this year)
And then he takes her out to introduce her to his secretary. Who is, let’s say, Lisa Haydon. He tells her that they have a new trainee, she will have to show her the files and how to do things, Lisa barely looks up from her phone. Sushant gets irritated and says, “there’s nothing wrong with her, you can look her in the face, it’s not contagious”. Lisa looks up, glances at Meher, then at Sushant, and says “what?” And Sushant and Meher exchange glances and try not to laugh, because Lisa is clearly so ditzy and air headed that what they thought was specific rudeness was just general disinterest.
Plot moves forward, Meher rescues Sushant when he is getting yelled at by Karan (I’ve decided he works at Dharma) for overlooking something important because Lisa didn’t tell him, Sushant fires Lisa, who sweeps out saying “I was too good for this job anyway” and promotes Meher to his first assistant. They work late at the office that night, and Sushant gives her a ride back home and meets her housemates, all acid victims, all cheerful and happy.
They start to have more and more serious conversations. Late one night, while sharing take out over reports, Meher talks about how she was always afraid of things, worried about how people saw her, about doing the right thing, so much so that she never did anything. The only things that happened to her were by accident, even this (gesture to her face) as an accident, meant for someone else and she got in the way. But the attack changed all of that. Sushant asks if she was a different person before. Meher says “no, I just hadn’t grown up all the way yet. The attack made me grow up, faster than I wish I had. Every girl should have a chance to grow up at her own speed.” Sushant responds “I’m just happy you are the girl you are now, so that I can meet you.” The lights are out in the office, they are alone, and their eyes meet and there is “something” suddenly in the air between them, and then Sushant looks away and changes the subject suddenly, embarrassed.
Love song! Office love song. They laugh together over lunch, they wordlessly work like a perfect machine adding numbers and entering things in the computer, late at night he finds himself looking out at her at her desk, and she sneaks peeks of him at his desk. They both have fantasy moments of dancing through the office together, and then come back to reality to laugh at themselves.
(Kind of like this)
Until Shahrukh brings an end to it. Accidentally. Sushant comes back from a meeting, stops by Meher’s desk to give her her favorite sweets that he stopped off to get from her favorite street seller on the way, doesn’t even notice Shahrukh is also there until Meher points him out. Sushant is all apologetic, Shahrukh says he just stopped by to see how Meher is doing, and asks if he can speak with Sushant about something in his office.
Sushant takes Shahrukh in, asks him to have a seat, says if there is another woman who needs a job he would be happy to find a space for her. Shahrukh looks serious and also slightly uncomfortable and says “the house mother at Meher’s home has come to me with a concern and asked me to speak with you. It seems you have been bringing Meher back late at night, two or three times a week.” Sushant is sincere and a little confused, “yes, we’ve been working late.” Shahrukh says, “her housemother says Meher also mentions dinners? And a movie once?” Sushant says, “well, she works so hard, it felt only fair to buy her dinner. And I thought she deserved to see the end product of all the work she had done on the budget for our newest movie.” Shahrukh says, “of course, of course. the problem is, your attentions could so easily be misinterpreted. Women like this, they have gone through so much and come out the other side of it. I would hate for them to have any disappointment in life, anyone making them feel like they are less then.” Sushant is getting frustrated now “I would never think Meher is less than anything! She is more than anything. Why don’t you come right out and say what you are going to say?” And so Shahrukh stands up and says “You may think you are being kind, but you are distracting her. Meher needs to focus on her recovery now, on rebuilding her life, not on some handsome man in the office. I am going to tell her that there is a job opening for her at Red Chillies as my personal assistant. You are going to let her go.” Sushant stands up to, says “You mean I can’t see her again? Ever? No! We are friends, you can’t do this”. Shahrukh thinks a moment, then says “You can visit her at the home, chaperoned. Not too much, I don’t want you there more than once a week. But if I hear this is causing problems for her, it will be bad for you”. Shahrukh takes a step forward and lowers his voice, “You may think you are an important man, but you will realize just how unimportant you are in this town and just how unpleasant your life can be if you cross me on this. I take the happiness of my girls very very seriously. And I will End anything that threatens it.” Sushant looks him in the face and says “I agree. Not because of your threats, but because I can see how it might be best for Meher. She deserves a chance to grow into what she is meant to be.”
Meher, of course, is devastated. She manages to smile, but she looks at Sushant all confused, and gently says to Shahrukh that she is happy with this job, although of course it would be nice to work for him. But Shahrukh is all smiley and twinkly and charming and says unfortunately she doesn’t have a choice, he is selfish like that, he has heard of everything she is doing here, and he wants her on his team. Who knows, in a few years she might be running the whole budget office over at Red Chillies. And he is going to take her out to lunch right now at the Taj and discuss the whole thing. He sweeps her off before she really has a chance to say anything.
Coincidentally, Sushant bumps into his friend (the one from the beginning, the one who warned him Shahrukh was in his office). The friend asks why Sushant is looking all gloomy, Sushant says “no reason”, the friend insists on taking him out drinking. And then in a drunken conversation, Sushant let’s slip that he has been thinking about “someone”, but another man took her away from him. And his friend encourages him to move on, it’s the best thing, if she wasn’t meant to be he needs to distract himself. And his friend, coincidentally, has the perfect person. Vaani Kapoor! She’s cool, she’s funny, she works in the industry. Heck, let’s have Vaani Kapoor literally play Vaani Kapoor! A rising starlet, still not so famous, so she is open to starting a relationship with a nice handsome young man with a good management job at one of the studios.
Sushant starts dating Vaani, but also keeps visiting Meher. We see him and Vaani in a montage, doing cool young people things at fancy parties, at night clubs, at hip restaurants, and finally at a film premiere where he is photographed with her. And then Meher sees him on the TV at the home and walks out of the room while her house mother worriedly looks after her.
(Kind of like this, but less French)
The next day, Sushant comes to see her, in what is clearly a routine every Sunday afternoon. And is told that she is sick. He is immediately worried, asks if a doctor has come by, can he take her to the hospital, does she need anything. The house mother tries to come up with reasons but Sushant is anxious and ready to barge past her, until finally Shahrukh comes to the door and says “She doesn’t want to see you, that’s all.” Sushant doesn’t accept this, asks for a reason why, an explanation, Shahrukh says “She doesn’t owe you anything, she doesn’t want to see you any more and that is her right.” And then he stares him down. And Sushant leaves.
The next day he is out with Vaani, she is chattering away about something, and finally she asks him why he is so distracted. And Sushant admits that he wasn’t able to see his friend, the one he always visits on Sunday afternoons. Vaani pushes for more information, and finally the whole thing comes out. After a time jump, we see that it is now night, their dishes are empty, clearly Sushant has been talking a long time, and he ends with “and I don’t know what to do. I don’t even know what I did wrong!” Vaani says, “Look, this girl sounds like she can handle herself. No matter what Shahrukh thinks, he can’t protect her from everything. You know where she works, right? Just go there. Go there and make a fuss and don’t leave until she talks to you.” Sushant is all “really?” And Vaani is all “yes. Only, think long and hard about what you want to say to her when you see her.”
Meanwhile, Shahrukh and Meher are talking too. He has called her into his office, says she is doing a fabulous job. And he wants to give her a promotion and a special project., the pre-production work is starting for his next film, he needs someone to go to London for 3 months with the team to keep track of expenses and projections, and she would be perfect for it. Meher is all “London?”, and Shahrukh is all “yes! It’s a wonderful city, it will be good for you to see a bit of the world, travel can be amazing in giving you perspective on things. We’ll get your passport and visa sorted out right away and get your tickets.” And then he sends her out of his office before she really has a chance to say anything. She goes back to her own office (she has an office now) and her assistant tells her that she has an urgent visitor from Dharma, he won’t leave, says there is a big big problem with the Dharma-Red Chillies partnership. Meher is all worried and says of course she will talk to him immediately. And, of course, it is Sushant.
Meher doesn’t know what to say for a second, but then manages to smile and be confident and all “Hi! What is the big problem with the partnership?” And Sushant takes her hand and says “the big problem is, I can’t go a week without seeing you. I need you, Meher. And I don’t want to make you grow up too fast or make you feel like you aren’t in control. But I also don’t want to miss out on one moment I could possibly spend with you. So please, tell me what’s wrong, tell me what you need, and I will do it if I possibly can.” Meher looks happy and then conflicted, is clearly struggling through some things. And finally after he finishes his speech, says “I need you to go. Go, live your life, and let me live mine.” Sushant looks heartbroken, Meher does too, but he leaves, just as she asked.
Sad song! Both of them missing each other. Ending with Shahrukh gently knocking on the door of Meher’s room as she tries to hide tears. He asks if he can come in, Meher says yes. And then he sits down on her bed and says “Soooo. I understand you’ve been crying over some young man. I can have him killed for you, you know.” Meher laughs (which was of course the goal of saying that), and then says “No no, don’t do that, it’s not him that’s the problem, it’s me.” Shahrukh says “no, don’t say that, you are never the problem, you are perfect”. Meher sits up and says “See, I knew you would say that. But I don’t think I am. Or maybe, I don’t want to be any more. Before this all happened, all I wanted was for some cute boy to like me, and give me love notes. And maybe, some day, marry a nice man and have a daughter of my own. I even had names picked out, Ariel and Anjali. Because my two favorite movies were The Little Mermaid and your Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. And then everything went wrong. My own family couldn’t look at me any more, let alone a boy. But it was okay, I survived it, and I came out the other side different and stronger and better. And then you came and saw me as strong and better and started giving me a new future. And I loved that future, I was excited for it. Only now, now I don’t think I want it any more. I think I just want a cute boy, who likes me.” Meher is crying now and Shahrukh is looking upset too, and she keeps going “I always thought this happened to me by accident, but what I do with it is on purpose, you know? This isn’t just an accident, it’s an opportunity. I can use it to be something different then what I was before, and that made me happy. I felt in control again. But now, now it’s all pointless! I don’t want this new life I chose for myself, I’m sitting here crying because the boy I like doesn’t really like me, he likes the pretty girl, just like when I was 16 years old all over again…and all I want is to marry him, and have my daughters, and that’s the one thing I can never ever have, because no one could ever look at this and love it.” Meher is straight up sobbing now and Shahrukh doesn’t know what to say, so he just grabs her and holds her while she cries.
(Love this photo. Hopefully doesn’t embarrass Suhana too much today)
The next day, Sushant comes into his office and finds Shahrukh waiting for him. Shahrukh stands up and starts to say something, but Sushant cuts him off “No. 3 times now I’ve let you talk to me, but no more. I don’t care what you say, I don’t care what you do to me, I don’t care if I never work in this town again, I don’t even care if you call in your connections and have me killed, you don’t have the right to tell me what to do, and you don’t have the right to tell Meher what to do. I love her and I want to marry her, she told me to go away and live my life, but she is my life, I can’t go away from her and keep living. And so I don’t care how long it takes or what I have to do, I am going to make her consider me for a husband. And now you can say what you came to say and then get out of my office.” Shahrukh listens to the whole thing, and then when it is over gives it a moment, and then says “I am here on behalf of the bride’s side to bring you a proposal.” And Sushant looks stunned as he slowly realizes what is happening.
Meher is in the car with Shahrukh. He is giving her the passport and final instructions for the London trip. And apologizing for not being able to drop her at the gate, but security would go crazy if they saw him, so instead he is just leaving her off at the airport. She is listening but also clearly a little distracted, and then finally he puts her out of the car and drives off before she has a chance to look around, she turns away from the car to see they are in a park and she is looking at the gazebo from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai with Sushant standing inside of it. He sort of shrugs and says “You said that Kuch Kuch was your favorite movie. I thought, maybe this way you wouldn’t say ‘no'”. And then he kneels down and does the little dancing gesture while Meher looks shocked and doesn’t know how to respond. He says “You’re supposed to say ‘no music'”, Meher is still too surprised to do anything. Sushant shrugs and says “oh well, I knew I could never do it as well as Shahrukh anyway.” And then, as the Kuch Kuch Hota Hai music swells, he pulls out a ring box and opens it and shows her the ring. Meher still doesn’t say anything. Sushant keeps talking, “I know I should be giving you a perfect reason right now, but I don’t have one. I used to rush to the office an hour early just because I couldn’t wait to see you, and come up with excuses for both of us to stay late just so I could spend more time with you. And a couple of days ago I realized that if I married you, I could be with you all the time. And I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and now it is the only thing I want in the world. Please, please marry me.” Meher is crying but forcing herself to be strong and says “Do you really want to marry me? Do you want to spend all day with me, and also all night? Can you ever kiss this face?” Sushant slowly starts to smile a big smile and says “Why don’t you come over here and let me show you?” She comes, they kiss finally, and then he does a little fake towards the KKHH dance and fingers up the arm and neck and they both laugh. And as the camera pulls back we hear them talking, her asking why this was such a surprise, and him saying that it was Shahrukh’s idea, if she said yes, he gave them a honeymoon in London and she is already packed.
(Just in case you need a reminder of the scene)
And then, happy end credits! The two of them having fun in London, clearly enjoying each other and also having fun sexy times. Ending with the two of them walking up tangled up in bed and Meher looking at him and going “Gah!” and him waking up and looking at her and doing the same, and then both laughing. Because of the bedhead job the first time they met.
Whole thing is the same except Shahrukh is playing the executive, Shefali Shah is the acid survivor and it was aimed at her daughter and her husband divorced her afterwards. But the daughter embraced her and supported her, and it is her strong successful daughter combined with activist Shabana Azmi who play Shahrukh’s role in this, the daughter being overly involved in their relationship, and Shabana throwing her weight around and using her influence.
Huh, huh? Pretty great, right? Casting ideas? And should we do Shahrukh as wise mentor, or Shahrukh as the hero?