Silly Sunday One-Off: Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin in Indian Film

This is really just a recasting and re-writing the characters post, no plot ideas or anything detailed like that.  It will only make sense if you have some sense of the original books.  But for the small subset of us who do know the original characters, this should be fun!

Rex Stout wrote 33 mystery novels featuring genius detective Nero Wolfe and his wisecracking assistant Archie Goodwin between 1934 and 1975.  I highly recommend the series, DO NOT start with the first book, it is terrible.  Start with Golden Spiders and jump around from there.

What’s fun about the series is that it is essentially a “cozy” detective series, the same recurring cast of characters, the same familiar locations, all of that, only set in New York City instead of a tiny English village.  And this is also why it is so tempting to try to recast it with your favorite actors, because over the course of 33 books the recurring characters became so clear to the reader.

For purposes of this post, here is who I will be focusing on:

Nero Wolfe: Brilliant very very fat detective.  He survived eastern Europe during WWI as a young man, has a life of adventure and danger in his past, but in the books he is now middle-aged and tired of danger and adventure and just wants to sit in his Manhattan brownstone and read books and raise orchids and eat fine food cooked by his chef.  He charges enormous fees for his services and then sends his assistant Archie out to collect clues and bring them back to him so he can solve the mystery.

Image result for nero wolfe characters

Archie Goodwin: the narrator of the books and (I think) the best character.  In the early books it was set up as a contrast of the low and crude uneducated wise-cracking type (Archie) versus the erudite sophisticated genius (Nero Wolfe).  This is why the first books are terrible.  But pretty soon Stout started changing Archie’s character.  He is still a lot more a man of the people and a man of action than Wolfe, but he is almost as smart as Wolfe, occasionally able to solve the mystery at the same time, and he has a much better sense of human nature.

Image result for nero wolfe characters

Lily Rowan: Archie’s one true love.  Well, most regular true love.  Archie is a bit of a womanizer, but he never cheats or lies, all his girlfriends know they are not the only one and he knows he is not the only one for them either.  Lily Rowan is the very wealthy daughter of a self-made millionaire.  She isn’t ashamed of her plebeian roots, but she also enjoys her wealth and all the good things it brings her.  And she enjoys sharing those things with Archie, inviting him to join her at her weekend house, or taking him to the ballet, while he takes her to ball games, and they are both equally comfortable at both places.

Image result for nero wolfe character lily rowan

Inspector Cramer: Their regular police ally and foe.  Like Archie, he started off written as an idiot foil to Wolfe’s brilliance, but the later books quickly corrected to make him intelligent enough to see through most of Wolfe’s shenanigans and sometimes smart enough to bend the rules to let Wolfe solve the case.  He is big and red faced and gets progressively angrier whenever he has to talk to Wolfe.

Image result for nero wolfe character cramer

Fritz Brenner: Wolfe’s chef, gentle and slightly fussy, especially about meals.  He worries about Archie when there is a big case and Archie might be in danger, and he worries about Wolfe when Wolfe misses a meal or doesn’t eat as much as usual.

Image result for nero wolfe character fritz brenner

Saul Panzer: A freelance detective Wolfe will hire to help Archie when they have a big case.  Small and non-descript and brilliant, always beats Archie at poker and talks books with Wolfe.

Image result for nero wolfe character caul panzer

Orrie Cather: Another freelance, not as good as Saul, but good.  Mostly memorable for being very handsome and a little vain.

Fred: The third freelancer, slow and cautious and careful and married with kids he worries about.

 

I could go on, but I think that is enough characters to start with!  Now, casting and character alterations.

 

Starting with Hindi film:

Nero: Amitabh, I think?  Not just because he is Amitabh, but because he is the best actor of the older generation, and I think he could handle this difficult part.  I would also change the backstory, make him a survivor of the Bangladeshi war who landed in Bombay as a young man and a refugee, thus explaining his current interest in living the best most comfortable life possible.

Archie: Ranveer?  I really think this would work.  He has to be active and wisecracking, but with a core of intelligence and determination, and I think Ranveer could pull that off.  An irritating superficial surface, but implications of greater depths.  And for backstory, a Punjabi boy who got a degree and came to Bombay for work, took some security jobs at movie studios and places and generally got to know the city and how to do things like tail someone or shoot a gun.  Loves Cricket and Hindi movies, but also sometimes recites Punjabi poetry.

Lily Rowan: Deepika.  Lily has to be glamorous and sophisticated, but with a core of warmth (she is always sponsoring starving artists and inviting people to stay in her luxury apartment until they get back on their feet), and I think Dips is perfect for that.  Plus she and Ranveer would feel like the kind of mature couple that doesn’t need to get married or anything, they are happy just spending time together.  And for backstory, her father could be a self-made man who made money off construction, despite being illiterate.

Image result for deepika ranveer

Inspector Cramer: Sunny Deol maybe?  Someone who is big and tough looking, but older, and also able to pull off frustrated and irritated.  No need for a special backstory here, same as in the books, he is the top detective in the city police force, having spent his career working his way up.

Fritz Brenner: Well, I’m stumped!  I know the backstory I want, greatest chef in Calcutta, stolen away by Wolfe, constantly insulted in Bombay by people who assume he is just another Bengali houseman.  But who to play the role?

Saul Panzer: Rajkummar Rao.  Brilliant, little noticed, master of disguise.

Orrie Cather: Handsome and a little stupid?  Gotta be Sidharth Malhotra

Fred: Older, big, a little slow.  Hmmm.  Oh!  Mukesh Rishi!

Image result for mukesh rishi

 

Malayalam version

I am very excited about this!  The cast really feels like it works better here than in Hindi even

Nero Wolfe: Mohanlal.  Caught up in Communist disputes and so on as a young man, got through that troubled period and settled in Kochi, now enjoys just enjoying life.

Archie Goodwin: Prithviraj.  Grew up in a small farming town, came to Kochi as a young man, got caught up in some street fights and stuff, learned how to take care of himself, hired by Mohanlal as his assistant.

Image result for prithviraj mohanlal

Lily Rowan: Parvathy, I think.  Her father would have made money in the Kochi land development semi-illegally (again), she lives a westernized kind of life in the city but is also able to be at home in her country place, and she is constantly inviting strange people home for dinner in her fancy apartment just because they looked hungry.

Inspector Cramer: Mammootty!  Won’t that be fun?  Seeing him and Mohanlal go toe to toe?

Fritz Brenner: Siddique!  I think he could be great at that, the kind of warm caring type.

Saul Panzer: Fahad Faasil, obviously

Orrie Cather: Unni Mukanden.  Handsome and not that smart, it’s perfect!

 

Tamil version:

Nero Wolfe: Kamal Haasan.  He’d have to wear padding, but he could do the intelligent cerebral detective perfectly.  He could have been active in the political upsets of the 70s and 80s, and now be enjoying life in Madras.

Archie Goodwin: Vijay Sethupathi.  Why not, he can play anything after all.  From a small town, came to Madras, got thrown out of police training, started working freelance, hired by Kamal.

Lily Rowan: Trisha.  Bit of a twist, she is the daughter of a rich father who bought her way into films. Now she is a movie star, but a hardworking one who befriends everyone on set low or high.

Inspector Cramer:  Rajinikanth!  He hasn’t done a non-hero role in ages, but I feel like he might just for the fun of acting opposite Kamal.  And it would be a great contrast of his hardworking police kind of intelligence versus Kamal’s intellectual kind of attitude.

Fritz Brenner: Madhavan.  Okay, now I am just being silly.  But I kind of want to see him go all soft and cooking and kind.

Image result for madhavan cooking

Saul Panzer: Dhanush?  Yes, I think Dhanush.

Orrie Cather: Why can I not think of someone handsome and dumb in Tamil film?  There must be SOMEONE!

Fred: Arvind Swami.

 

Telugu version

Nero Wolfe: Prakash Raj.  I am very excited about this!  Same deal, was involved in the political upsets of the south in the 70s and 80s, and then got older and now is enjoying the good life in Hyderabad.

Archie Goodwin: Nani!  This might be just because I am watching MCA right now, but I think he could do it.  Clever fast talking kind of guy who can also fight when he has to.  And just like in the Tamil version, village boy who came to the city for police training and dropped out.

Lily Rowan: Samantha Ruth Prabhu. I kind of wanted Nithya Menon, but I don’t think she can pull off the sophisticated wealthy half of the role along with the cheerful comfortable with all classes side of it.  And somehow for the Telugu version, I am thinking she isn’t a socialite or a movie star, but she is actually running her father’s company.

Fritz Brenner: Sathyaraj!  Soft and caring.

Inspector Cramer: Nagarjuna!  I just want him in everything.  But I also think he would have fun playing a gruff and grumpy older cop for once.

Saul Panzer: Sudeep!  He can play anything.

Orrie Cather: Mahesh Babu in a self-aware cameo as the handsome but not that smart guy.

Fred:  Venkatesh maybe?  Big and older and kind.

 

 

 

Okay, that’s all I got!  For those 3 other people in the world who are both familiar with Nero Wolfe stories and Indian film.  And if you are one of those people, please comment with your own suggestions for everything!  I’m not completely in love with any of these casts (Although I am in love with Mohanlal in Malayalam, that I will not budge on)

 

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26 thoughts on “Silly Sunday One-Off: Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin in Indian Film

    • that’s why I do Silly Sunday posts on Sunday. The people who like them, like them well enough to stop by even on weekends. And those who don’t like them can survive with no content over the weekend when life takes over, better than during the week when we are all desperate for distractions.

      On Sun, Mar 25, 2018 at 2:07 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  1. I’ll get back to you later on this (I’m due on a conference call in a few minutes) but really, Amitabh as Nero Wolfe???!!! Blasphemy!!! Your own description of Wolfe is “very very fat” Maybe Amitabh isn’t as skinny as he used to be, but “corpulent” is not the word that comes to mind when you say his name. So, how about Rishi Kapoor? He may not weigh “one seventh of a ton” (even Rishi would balk at that), but he does have that “corpulent” image, plus a general air of indulgence. Plus he’s a good actor, especially now.

    Archie — again no Ranveer. I’d actually prefer Rajkumar Rao for this. If nothing else, it’ll be a stretch for him. Also I’m sick (SICK!!! sick, sick) of the Ranverr-Deepika combo. One of them must go.

    Lily — Sorry, no Deepika. Lily is supposed to be brilliant intellectually, and Deepika just doesn’t convey that. She looks like a “dumb blonde” to me most of the time, albeit a beautiful one, and despite the fact that she’s a brunette. Sonakshi has the required intelligence, but not the glamor. So I’ll have to think about this. I would even say go with Rani. It doesn’t matter if Lily is a few years older than Archie.

    OK, more later.

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    • So glad you are resounding to this! I know you dont usually read fanfic, but its not really fanfic in this case.

      What about Bhumi Pednakar for Lily? She would be a kind of outside the box choice, but she has the dignity and maturity i would want.

      Or, maybe Radhika Apte?

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  2. I haven’t even read past the Hindi casting, but caught the words “Malayalam version”, so it has to be Mohanlal as Nero Wolfe. Not just for the acting chops, but for the figure. He fits it to a T. And of course Prithviraj as Archie. Except, at least in the early books, Archie keeps saying he’s not that good looking.

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    • Exactly what I thought! If you look at the end of the post, i saw i am open to new thoughts on all of the casts EXCEPT Mohanlal because that is perfect.

      Heck, he’s worked cross industry before, he could just be wolfe in every version.

      I feel like Prithviraj is the right amount of handsome, because he still isn’t perfect, but he might be too tall. Although that’s easy to mask on film, so it could still work.

      Lily is were i get stumped in Malayalam, plenty of actresses have the intelligence, but i cant think of one with the right amount of glamour.

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      • If your Malayalam film is being made for Malayalam audience , Nithya Menon will do wonderfully well for balancing the intelligence with glamour. The definition of glamour for Malayalam audiences will be on a lower scale than Hollywood/Hindi audiences’. Samantha is THE dumb blonde of Tamil/Telugu. How about Tapsi for Telugu & Trisha for Tamil. I think Karthi will make a better Archie than Vijay Sethupathi. Also Prithviraj is way too serious& polished for Archie. I will pick a fit Nivin for Archie. I’m picking slightly younger men for Archie so that the ‘growing up’ feels natural. Stray observation:you don’t like to cast against the grain.

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        • I think you are right about Karthi, but I still think Prithviraj could work, he is a lot younger than he seems because he started acting as a teenager, and he has played rough and talkative before. I’m happy to drop Samantha, but somehow Taapsee doesn’t feel right either. Is Sai Pallavi too young?

          On Mon, Mar 26, 2018 at 12:59 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Hahaa.. I would love to have Sai Pallavi. She can be the matured, yet glamorous in the old fashioned way. But held back thinking I’m becoming too attached to her & seeing her in every role.Taapsee was glamorous enough in Judwa & she has that sensible air about her. Don’t you think ? What about Siddharth instead of Prithviraj. And is Archie supposed to throw one liners? Prithvi sucks at deadpan humour.

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          • Tamil Siddharth? But then we would be crossing industries!!! Although I do think he could work, maybe. He might also be a little too soulful though.

            On Mon, Mar 26, 2018 at 6:50 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • I am so pleased you put in all this work without even having read the books!

            On Mon, Mar 26, 2018 at 7:38 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  3. Boman Irani for Kramer–I just love it when he gets mad and he can do smart and funny as well. Just the thought of him barking at a team of cops makes me smile. I’m ok with Dips and Ranveer, but would suggest alternately Konkona Sen Sharma as Lily. Kari Matchett is stunning but has a face/acting ability that can seem like anybody. I think that Konkona has that, while Dips always looks like Dips. LOVE Rajkumar Rao for Saul.

    Fritz and Nero both have me stumped. Rajat Kapoor for Fritz? Nana Patekar? Amitabh or Rishi could manage Wolfe, but wouldn’t somebody more off the beaten track be fun? Wolfe is a bundle of raging emotions and appetites rigorously controlled by routine, intellect, and will. Neeraj Kabi in Detective Bomkyesh Bakshi has the right energy–both in his wise doctor and crazy villain avatars–but he’s not big enough, I don’t think. Hmm. How about Varun as Fred?

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    • Boman Irani is perfect! And I think Nana Pataker might be just right as Fritz.

      Off the beaten path has got me thinking of Pankuj Kapoor, Shahid’s Dad, as Wolfe maybe. Or else Naseeruddin Shah with padding. They both have oodles of talent and acting ability, and real serious training, the voice modulation and stuff that I feel like Wolfe would need. Farookh Sheikh (Ranbir’s father in YJHD) might have been perfect, if only he weren’t dead.

      I will accept Konkona as Lily, but I am slightly nervous about her chemistry with Ranveer. Alternatively, I might also be all right with Kareena. She can definitely pull off the glamour half, and I think probably the warm loving woman half too.

      I’d love to see Varun as Fred, partly because I’d want to see him play significantly older than he is in real life for once.

      On Mon, Mar 26, 2018 at 3:52 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Mmm, can Kareena look plain, or at least plainer? Even in Udta Punjab she was a knockout.

        Ok, if Konkona is Lily, how about Farhan Akhtar as Archie. We know from Luck by Chance that they work together. Though only AFTER Don 3 happens, lol.

        Though I think Konkona and Ranveer’s chemistry might be good. Do we think Parineeti has the chops for Lily opposite Ranveer’s Archie?

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        • Nah, I don’t think Parineeti can do it. She could easily be one of the interchangeable one off romances, but not Lily.

          I might like Farhan as Archie! Although I don’t know if he could pull off the serious parts of it along with the wise-cracking. Maybe we cast Farhan as “scriptwriter”? Because I feel he might be perfect at putting together the dialogue for Archie even if he can’t play him.

          Oh oh!!!!! Can I swap in Aditya Rao Kapoor instead of Sidharth for Orrie? I feel like he has the comic chops to pull it off and make it funny.

          On Mon, Mar 26, 2018 at 4:10 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Sure. I got no dog in the fight when it comes to Orrie, or Siddharth vs ARK. 🙂

            You are right about Parineeti though I hate to say it. I’m pretty sure Farhan could pull of all the facets of Archie. And, since I finally watched Talaash over the weekend, I think he could manage the dialogue beautifully as well–and the directing too, so he could be a triple threat just like Timothy Hutton was in the A & E series. Ranveer could, instead, be a recurring “player”–lots of juicy parts among the villains–goons, politicians, Feds, and corporate types.

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          • Yaaaay, you watched Talaash! Now you can read my sequel.

            On Mon, Mar 26, 2018 at 4:19 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  4. Can we do a golden age version too? Ashok Kumar could be Wolfe, Dharmendra as Archie (? Or Amitabh?), Iftekar as Cramer. Not sure about everyone else. Sharmila Tagore as Lily Rowan, Om Prakash as Fritz, Vinod Khanna as Orrie, and I kind of want Johnnie Walker as Saul.

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    • I was thinking Sanjeev Kumar or Amjad Khan as Wolfe, if we were doing golden Age. Or, really really Golden, Dev Anand would be the ideal Archie with Waheedaji as Lily.

      On Mon, Mar 26, 2018 at 6:33 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • I don’t know, Sanjeev Kumar might come off as too wistful for Wolfe. I might be on board with Amjad Khan. I am willing to accept Dev Anand, but only pre-1970s.

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