My sister, who does math, just forwarded me an email reminding her to celebrate the “international day of women and girls in science”. Which I feel can best be celebrated by an epic fanfic about how hard and ultimately rewarding it can be to be a woman in science.
Vidya Balan Nobel Prize Winner Marries Purab Kohli
This turned into a really long one, so I think instead of a Hindi film like I usually picture, this should be a limited TV series, Pakistan TV style or AltBalaji. So picture that in your head with this very very long plot.
Vidya is the lead of my imaginary TV series, but I want to make sure you are picturing the right guy for her top co-star. You know Purab Kohli? Cute guy in Airlift/this TV ad? He seems like the kind of guy who would be a great supportive partner to a successful woman.
Here is how I see it. We start with Vidya’s life. We see her as a child, stealing her cousin-brother’s IIT test prep book and being punished for having filled out the practice exam. We see her father tell this story over and over again, people laughing at her for being silly, until finally her cousin tells this story to the professor who is mentoring him, who asks why he couldn’t just reuse the practice exam, at which point the cousin says he couldn’t because all her answers were correct. The professor (Amitabh, obviously) takes the book from him, and then asks if he can meet her. Vidya’s family doesn’t understand, but it is important for her cousin to stay close to his mentor, so they agree to what is asked. And warn Vidya that she must be quiet and polite and respectful and not spoil things for her cousin-brother. Lil’ Vidya (played by Aaradha, because that would be cute) is taken in to meet Professor Amitabh who gently asks her about the exam questions, and then some other questions, and shows her some problems he wants to work with her on. Her father is waiting outside and finally Amitabh calls him in. He asks about Vidya’s mother and is told that she died a few years back without giving a son. Amitabh tries to tell Vidya’s father that he has a very special daughter and Amitabh wants to work with her. Vidya’s father is resistant, since he doesn’t want Vidya to “waste time” and she is needed to help around the house, until Amitabh threatens that unless he can work with Vidya, he will stop working with her cousin-brother. Vidya’s father is furious with her and shouts and hits her when he gets her home, but he has to let her come to Amitabh. Happy Ending of episode One.
Montage song! Vidya grows up, at home her aunts pester her and make her cook and help around the house, pull her away from her books, her father ignores her or is angry at her, her many older cousins have their own lives and don’t pay attention to her, but she comes alive when she is with Amitabh, laughing and joking and happy. And then, finally, she comes home one day and is ambushed by a “first meeting”. Her family flutters around, trying to sell her to the fairly boring guy, how she is so “smart”, she could even go to med school if she wanted to, and so on. Shy awkward Vidya lets this all happen, but is miserable. And then we cut to a brief sad song, Vidya feeling like everything is happening too fast, sitting and watching while her family picks out jewelry and everything else, and Amitabh gets the wedding card from her beaming cousin-brother but looks sad himself. Finally, the day of the wedding, Vidya is dressed up and proper and so on, sitting at the fire. When suddenly, someone bursts in! It’s AMITABH!!!! He is here to stop the wedding! For once, not because she is in love with someone else, but because she simply shouldn’t get married. Amitabh ignores everyone else, walks over to Vidya, holds out his hand, and tells her “daughter-of-my-soul, you were made for something different than this. Stand up, come with me, and walk away.” And of course, she does. And we see Amitabh fighting for her over and over again, taking her with him to England to study with his old colleague at Oxford, staying up late to feed her tea and snacks while she works on her research, surprising her on her birthday with a cake at her office, and then when she collapses after working too hard, taking her to a house he bought for them in Shimla to go when she needs to just be herself for a while. And we see Vidya blossom, give lectures, write books, fulfill all the promise he saw in her. End Episode Two.
Cut to 15 years later. Vidya is winning the Nobel prize, by Skype. She thanks her “Father” Amitabh for everything, and then cuts off the Skype connection and we see she is sitting in a hospital room at Amitabh’s bedside, he is dying. Vidya chats away with him about her work projects and the vacation she will take him on next month and gently wipes his forehead and holds his hand and generally keeps him comfortable. Amitabh has an oxygen mask on and can’t talk, but his eyes follow her everywhere and we can see how much he loves her and vice versa. Finally, Vidya falls asleep in a chair with her head on his chest, Amitabh wakes up enough to gently put his hand on her head, and when Vidya wakes up in the morning, he is gone. Sad funeral song. But, when it is over, Vidya meets with Amitabh’s lawyer, Zarina Wahab, who gently explains his will. He left all his money to a scholarship fund for female students, he left his family home in Shimla to her, and he left her a letter.
(Yes, this is very similar to Amitabh and Rani’s relationship in Black, but without the creepy incest vibes)
Vidya travels to Shimla (pretty Shimla travelogue) and opens up the vacation house, we see memorabilia of her life with Amitabh everywhere, pictures she drew for him as a little girl up on the wall, photos of them together everywhere. Finally, she goes into his bedroom and sits on his bed, looks at the photo of her as a little girl in pigtails and a school uniform that he kept by his bed, and reads the letter.
Amitabh starts off by telling her that she has said many times how he “rescued” her, but she may not have realized how she rescued him. Years ago, when he was a young man, he lost his family in Partition riots (oh, Amitabh is Muslim, did I say that?). He was taken in by a charity school and his own intelligence helped him succeed in life. As a young man, he fell in love with a beautiful Hindu woman, but her family took her away from him. He had 50 lonely years of life without a family, and then one day a little girl walked into his office and stole his heart. He had a daughter, without every having a wife.
But, he says, he realized in the past few months after his cancer diagnosis that he hadn’t fulfilled his responsibilities to his “daughter”. He had never thought about how he would be leaving her, like he had been, an orphan with no family. And he doesn’t want her to wait 50 years to find a family. So he has found a family for her. In their little local Shimla orphanage. There is a girl he met on a walk over a year ago who reminds him of how Vidya used to be. Bright and happy and smart. She needs a family, and so does Vidya. So he is charging Vidya to take a break from her work, to find this little girl, and to make a new home for the two of them in his house in Shimla.
Cut to, little girl! Who is someone spectacular. Maybe Sara Arjun from Annmariya Kallippilaanu. And End of Episode Three.
At the start of the next episode, we come back to Sara. She is in her house with her brother Purab Kohli, he is trying to make sure she has all her books and everything she needs for school, she is making fun of him for being so worried because she is confident she has everything she needs. She goes to school, and realizes she forgot her homework. And just as she is panicking about that, her teacher calls her out and sends her to the office. She is terrified! But it is just because someone “very special” wanted to meet her. And of course it is Vidya. The teacher leaves them alone to get to know each other, Vidya is awkward at first, but Sara Arjun is confident and asks her a bunch of questions about who she is and what she does and if she is married. Finally, Vidya asks Sara about her schoolwork, and Sara lights up. Explains that she loves math class, but English is hard, and so on. They are hitting it off great, and then the teacher knocks on the door to interrupt, and Purab is there, holding Sara’s homework. Sara runs to him saying “Bhaiyya!!!!” and Vidya’s face falls as she realizes Sara has a family after all.
Vidya goes home, looks at the photos of Amitabh and the letter he left her, and doesn’t give up! She goes to Purab’s tiny house where he is washing clothes shirtless, which embarrasses them both. And she talks to him. Finds out he is a distant relative of Sara’s, he is an orphan too, it took him a while to get word of her parents’ death, but once he heard he came to take care of Sara. Vidya gently explains that Sara is a special little girl and she wants to take care of her too. That Sara would have her own room, would have her future secured, could be anything she wanted to be. She is such a smart little girl, she deserves to use her brain where ever it takes her. Vidya goes so far as to fold her hands and as Purab “please” to let Sara come to her. Purab, a nice humble young man, is shocked by this and tells her to stop, and that he will think about it of course and let her know. Vidya leaves, Purab looks around their little hut with new eyes, and also looks at the books on the table, opens them, and then closes them in frustration, and we realize that he is so uneducated, he can’t even read. END Episode Four
(He does look good shirtless, in a kind of soft natural working man sort of way)
The next day, Purab gets Sara dressed up special, and has her pack her favorite things in her backpack, but refuses to tell her what is happening. He brings her to Vidya’s house, and tells Vidya “take care of her”, and leaves. Sara runs after him, but he pretends not to hear her, she keeps crying and Vidya can’t comfort her. Finally, Vidya takes her in the car back to Purab’s place. Purab is thrilled, but hides his joy to ask what Sara did wrong, why she is back. Vidya says that she just lost her father, her only real family, she can’t do the same to Sara. Vidya wants Sara, but she will just have to take Purab too.
Purab moves into Vidya’s house and it is happy but awkward for a few days. Purab figures out what Vidya likes to eat and makes her coffee in the morning and picks up the place, but Vidya is shy and not used to people and doesn’t really know what to do with this. But when Sara is there, it is all fine, and they are happy, Vidya and Sara work on math problems together and Purab is in the background taking care of them. Until of course the village gets word. First the vegetable man who delivers sees that Purab and Vidya are living together, and then word spreads. Finally, Sara’s schoolmates start teasing her and she gets into a fight. Purab and Vidya are called into the school office, the principal says this cannot continue, it is setting a bad precedent for the other students, she will give them until Monday to resolve it, and if not Sara will be expelled. Vidya and Purab go home together, put Sara to bed, and then while Vidya is sitting up editing a journal article, Purab comes to find her and asks if he can speak with her. She invites him to sit down, he says he prefers to stand, and then with a lot of dignity says “I know you are a big important lady, and I am just a village boy. But we both want what is best for Sara, and I hope you will not take what I say as an insult, but perhaps we should be married”. Vidya is stunned into silence, Purab leaves her. Late that night, she comes into the kitchen where he sleeps and gently wakes him and says “yes. Let’s do it.” END episode Five
And so they are married. In a registry office with only Sara as witness, but Vidya is touched to see that Purab thought ahead and brought a mangalsutra with him to use for the ceremony. Post-marriage, at first, not much changes. Sara comes to school with sweets for the wedding, and so that her classmates know her parents are married now and will stop teasing her. The family continues the same. Until that same vegetable salesman sees that Purab is sleeping in the kitchen. Word spreads through the village, and Vidya from inside the computer cafe sees how Purab is teased in the street. She goes home that night and, after Sara has gone to bed, stops Purab from going into the kitchen and tells him that he is her husband and he deserves to spend the night with her in the bedroom. They have an awkward night at first, with Vidya putting on a heavy loose Salwar and a sweater, clearly embarrassed, and Purab casually stripping down to just shorts, but in the middle of the night (Jab Harry Met Sejal style), they find each other rolling together, and Vidya wakes up, embarrassed, to discover she slept in his arms. Which works perfectly because the vegetable seller is knocking on the door and Vidya answers it looking rumpled, and followed by a shirtless Purab coming out of the same room. So the village rumors are ended.
(not quite like this, but sort of like this)
The next change in the relationship happens when Sara casually let’s slip that Purab can’t read. Purab is obviously embarrassed, Vidya pretends not to notice, but surprises him that night by bringing Amar Chitra Katha comics to bed and telling him she will teach him to read.
They spend the night cozily reading comics together, during the day he brings her coffee and their hands touch, Sara arranges for them to go to a village fair, Purab surprises Vidya by buying her jasmine flowers and helps her put them in her hair, it is all super cute. At some point there is a pause for conversation and they briefly describe their lives to each other, Vidya talks about how Amitabh was her only “real” family, after her mother died when she was 5, it seemed like her father and cousins and uncles saw her as more of a burden than someone they loved. After she walked out on her wedding, she wrote them once a year on her mother’s death anniversary. No one ever wrote back. And Purab talks about how he can remember his mother, she died when he was 12, she used to sing him to sleep at night, and take him with her to the fields in the day. He never knew his father. That is why he wanted to be there for Sara, to make sure she had a family with her, she wasn’t alone like he had been. End Episode Six
Finally, Purab reads a whole page by himself, with Vidya leaning close to follow along, and he looks up at the end all happy and Vidya is so proud of him that she kisses him without thinking. And then moves away, embarrassed. But Purab stops her, and gently pushes the hair out of her face and tells her she is so beautiful and kisses her back. And there is a soft fade out as they sink into the bed together and implied sexy times happen.
The next morning, just as they are in the awkward blushing shy morning after moment, surprise! There is a knock at the door and it is VIDYA’S COUSIN BROTHER! FROM THE BEGINNING!!! WHAAAAAAAAAAA??????
He is, of course, horrible. Comes in and is overly friendly to Sara, and tries to compliment Vidya on her accomplishments, but it still comes off as patronizing, and casually treats Purab as a servant. Which of course Purab humbly accepts, until Vidya steps in and aggressively introduces him as her husband. Cousin-Brother is even more awkward and rude after that, managing to insult Purab as being lower class, and Vidya as being too old for him, both at the same time.
(Obviously, Randeep Hooda and his stupid face play the cousin-brother)
Cousin-Brother explains that he is here on behalf of the family to “forgive” her for shaming them. Not all of the family was okay with that, but cousin-brother is of course smart “like Vidya”, and was able to explain what the Nobel Prize means to the rest of their backward family. And so, out of the generosity of their hearts and the vast nobility and wisdom of Cousin-Brother, her family is ready to take her back. Assuming she apologizes. And proves her change of heart by helping the family regain their respect through prepping her nephews for IIT. At this point, Sara speaks up and says something about how she is going to IIT too. Cousin-Brother laughs and says “that’s cute. Don’t worry, a pretty little girl like you will be able to have your pick of husbands, no need to worry about IIT”. Vidya is stung and speaks up, saying that Sara in fact is going to IIT, or anywhere else she wants. Cousin-brother without thinking says “mothers always think their children can do anything, but if you knew a little bit more about the world, you would be more realistic.” Vidya and Sara don’t know what to say to this, but Purab has had enough!!!!
Purab stands up and says “I may just be an uneducated villager, but I know that my wife knows more of the world than you or anyone else like you. And I know that I will not sit here and let my family be insulted in my own home”. Cousin-Brother laughs and starts to say something smug and horrible again, and Purab punches him! And then, before he can recover, hustles him out of the house and slams the door. And then turns back inside to find Vidya so overcome that she kisses him in front of Sara, before catching herself in embarrassment.
(Hey, look at that! They were already in a movie together! but this is not the look I want from Purab for my miniseries)
Flashforward!!!! Vidya is giving a speech at another big award thing, again by Skype. Talking about how the last time she gave this speech, she thanked her father, because he had given her the world. She lost him since then, and she still misses him every day, but today she has new people to thank who have given her a new world. Her wonderful husband Purab, and her wonderful daughter Sara. She finishes the speech and turns off Skype and we see she is in a hospital and she immediately starts screaming in pain. Because she gave her speech between labor pains. The nurse says something to Purab about how she had never seen a mother do that before, and Purab proudly says “my wife can do anything”. And then there is a flurry as the baby is born, white coats close up, Sara is sent out to the hall where she paces, and then Purab calls her back in and brings her to meet “her little brother”. The little family gathers around the new baby, and Vidya wipes his forehead and says “see, little Salim, this is your sister, and your father, and I am your mother, and this [pause to lift up photo of Amitabh] is your grandfather who you were named for. We are your family.” END Final Episode
Well, I’m pretty happy with that! Except for casting.
Smart older successful heroine: Vidya, Tabu, Rani? Deepika in Piku mode?
Younger rough looking villager type hero: Purab Kohli? Aditya Roy Kapur? Amit Sadh? Ajay Devgan? Dhanush?
Father/Mentor: Has to be Amitabh
Unloving biological father: Anupam Kher, wildly playing against type?
Punchable Horrible Cousin-Brother: Randeep Hooda. Or, who is most punchable for you?