I’m back! Already put up one long an self-indulgent post based on fairy tales, now I am doing another, and I don’t care what you think!
As I said in my last post, I took a class on fairy tales in college (super fun, and counted towards both my English and my German degrees, since I wrote the final paper in German. Although did not count towards my film or my History degree. I had a hard time making up my mind in college, so I went with the buffet approach to degrees). But my real fairy tale “scholarship” was when I was pre-literate, ages 3-6, and forced my mother to read every single fairy tale in the world aloud to me over and over again, including some really obscure ones.
East o’ the Sun and West o’ the Moon was my favorite version of a very stubborn tale that made it’s way all over the world, and eventually turned into Beauty and the Beast once various bits were cut off. But the bits that were cut off were the best bits! So I want to restore them for my Indian version.
A peasant is approached by a bear/boar/whatever talking animal. The talking animal offers the peasant great wealth in return for marriage to his youngest daughter. The peasant is at first reluctant, as is his daughter, but eventually they both agree. The daughter goes off with the talking animal to his large wealthy castle, and that night the animal takes off his animal skin to reveal a handsome young man and comes to her in bed. They fall in love, but she is never able to see his handsome human face because he forbids her lighting candles in the bedroom. She gets homesick and the talking animal agrees to send her home but warns her against talking to her mother and/or sisters. Some female relative. Anyway, of course, she tries to obey the warning but fails and her female relatives persuade her that she must disobey, she must wait until he is asleep and bring in a candle so she can see his face. She does this and he is stunningly handsome, but she drips the candle wax on him, waking him and causing him to exclaim in despair that she has ruined everything and now they can never be together, if she had loved him without seeing him for a year they could have been together forever, but since she failed, now he has to go back to his evil enchantress stepmother who put him in this shape at her castle East o’ the Sun and West o’ the Moon and marry her hideous daughter. And then he disappears.
(now, this is the good bit)
Our heroine sets off to rescue her husband. She walks along and meets three old women, each of whom give her a golden present (golden apple, golden comb, etc.) Finally, the last woman gives her advice to go talk to the winds, since they have been everywhere. She talks to the winds and after the first two declaring they have heard of the castle East o’ the Sun and West o’ the Moon, but have never been there, the North Wind says he has and can take her there. She finally gets there and meets the hideous daughter. She offers to sell her the golden apple, if she can spend the night with the handsome man locked up in their house. The daughter agrees, but drugs the hero first so that, no matter how much our heroine cries and pleads, he does not wake up and talk to her. The next night, she tries again with the next golden gift and it still doesn’t work. But she was overheard by good prisoners of the palace who tell the prince about the crying woman in his room. And so on the third night, the prince pretends to drink the sleeping drought but does not really and they are able to speak. They come up with a plan, the prince has been refusing to marry which is why he is locked up, he will say that he will marry on one condition, he will only marry the woman able to wash the tallow out of his shirt, they will agree thinking it will be easy, but they will fail, and since she is a human woman and dripped the tallow, she will be able to do it. The plan works, he makes the declaration and they agree, but then the hideous daughter tries and tries and fails until finally the prince calls in the heroine who is sitting outside and asks her to do it and she succeeds. They are married, and the daughter and stepmother explode in rage (literally, that’s what kills them), the prince and the heroine free the prisoners of the palace and take all the wealth and go back home.
Beauty and the Beast turned this into a story of “remember, your husband may be ugly and horrible, but put up with him because he is secretly a prince”. But that’s just the first half! The second half is after you have fallen in love with him, and you have to go on an epic journey and defeat cruel enemies and win your fortune and all those cool things. That’s why I like this story, for once the heroine gets to be the one with the big adventure, while the hero is the one stuffed into a cell and forgotten about until he is rescued.
Also, this fits perfectly into the two part structure of an Indian film, doesn’t it?
A very unpleasant seeming NRI arrives in a village and asks various men if he can marry their daughters. They all refuse, although the NRI is clearly rich, he is also extremely old and ugly and unpleasant. Except for one poor man who is desperate for money to save his land and feed his family. He agrees, and then goes home and begs his youngest daughter, Sai Pallavi, to go along with it. She is furious at first, but eventually softens, when she realizes that the money will help feed her widowed older sister (thrown out by her husband’s family) and her two young nieces. She agrees, and the wedding happens quickly and without much fanfare. He insists on leaving that very day, traveling to the city and then to the airport to fly immediately back to his house in London. They reach London and he takes her home, she falls asleep, and awakes in the middle of the night to see a handsome man in bed with her. She yells at him and orders him out, but he tells her he is her husband, and shows her how his disguise goes on and off. She is thrilled to really be married to a handsome young man and wants to take a picture of him to send to her family. He stops her and tells her that he has to go in disguise during the day. She has to trust him and not ask him why. She is unsure, but doesn’t really have a choice, so goes along with it. And they have their “first night” and fall in love. During the day, in his hideous disguise, he takes her around London showing her the sights. At night, they laugh and make love in bed together.
(Kind of like this, only they are happily in love, and also I don’t picture this actor)
Everything is wonderful, until she gets a letter from her sister saying that her father is ill. She wants to go back and see him one last time, and begs her husband to let her. He refuses at first, but finally gives in, only warning her not to talk about their strange life with her sister or her friends, since they wouldn’t understand. She agrees, and returns home. Only, of course, she DOES end up talking to her sister about it, after she realizes she is pregnant and her sister is horrified at the thought of her sleeping with that hideous old man. The sister is thrilled to know that he is not really hideous, but begs for a real photo of him, just so she will stop worrying. Says “what’s the harm in texting me one photo?” Our heroine goes back and is thrilled to see her husband again, so much so that she forgets to tell him she is pregnant. He falls asleep, and she gives in to temptation, takes his picture and sends it to her sister. But the sound of the text from her sister coming back wakes him up and he realizes what she has done and is horrified.
(This is the actor I picture, Nani being sweet and funny and not afraid to look hideous and ridiculous for much of the film)
He explains that he is from another village near hers, and his family is part of a terrible feud which started related to a marriage between his family and someone from her village. The rival family is just using the feud as an excuse for a land grab, they want him to marry their daughter and then kill him and take his land. He is the last of his line and if he dies everything would go to his wife. He took some money and fled with his faithful family servant to live in hiding in London. But he can end the feud forever if he had managed to marry her and stay married for a year to someone from her village. But now she has ruined everything! He knows there are spies in her village, watching the families of any girl recently married, it will take them no time at all to find them now, and kill Sai so that he will be free to marry again and the feud will continue. For her own safety, he has to leave her immediately and never see her again, giving himself in marriage to the other family in order to save her life. INTERVAL
(Nothing sadder than a dude in distress, forced to give up his body to save the woman he loves)
In the second half, Sai determines to follow him. He had locked her in the bedroom while he packed and left, the servant lets her out hours later. But she has spent the time planning. She makes the servant tell her everything about the other family, and then she goes through the London shops picking up things they won’t be able to resist. She goes to the village and sets up as a poor relative of a village family, returned from London having lost all her money and eager to sell whatever items she has. Soon enough, the evil daughter of the house comes to her and pressures her to sell her imported clothes, London-made saris, and so on. Sai bargains with her, finally saying that the young man staying at her house looks exactly like her (Sai’s) dead brother. She wants only to meet and talk with him for a while, to feel like her brother is back with her, and then she will be able to part with her previous objects. The daughter agrees, but drugs the hero before Sai gets to the house. She is allowed to talk with him, but he just stares and doesn’t talk back. She begs and pleads for him to forgive her, to acknowledge her, and he doesn’t. She leaves, miserable, and unaware that the abused servant of the house had heard everything. The servant tells the hero what he heard, and the next day when Sai determines to try again, he manages to avoid the drug and they are reunited, and Sai finally tells him that she is pregnant.
(I also want her to be, like, visibly pregnant this whole time, Kahaani style. Just to add to her awesomeness, that she is doing all of this while struggling with morning sickness and so on)
He is ready to send Sai away, now that he has seen her, and knows she is safe, and gives a noble speech about her and his son living after him and so on. But Sai refuses to accept this. Instead, she says that she plans to rescue him. She has an idea. He will agree to the marriage that they are trying to force on him, make it easy for them. But he will have one condition, he will say that he will only be married if they can recognize him on the wedding day. It seems like a silly condition, so naturally they will agree. And then, Sai has a plan. The plan plays out perfectly, the wedding day arrives and the whole village is there to witness the triumph of the evil family. Only, when the priest asks for the groom, suddenly they can’t seem to find him anywhere. His voice comes from the crowd, saying he said he would only marry her if she can recognize him on the wedding day, can she? She looks and looks, and can’t find him. Finally he says that he vowed before the priest to only marry the woman who can recognize him, is there anyone in the crowd who can, and Sai steps forward, and picks out the hero, dressed in his London disguise, from the crowd. She brings him forward, the evil family tries to object, but Sai gives a speech to the villagers reminding them that the evil family is always objecting, breaking promises, going back on their word. They should not stand for it any longer! Here and now, the whole village should force them to stand by what they said, not just today, but on all the other promises they made over the years. Including that the feud would be over and the hero’s family could have their land back if they ever managed to marry a girl from her village, as the hero has. The village is roused by her speech, and the nice sane son of the evil woman speaks up for himself, tells his mother and sister they are doing wrong and he wants peace. And finally, Sai and the hero are married in his village with everyone watching.
(The sane good son is obviously Ajay)
HAPPY ENDING. Sai takes him back to her home to meet her family for real, and then they move back to his village where the sane son has turned into a wonderful neighbor and helps them put their house back together, just in time for Sai to give birth to a son and the whole village to celebrate with them.