I’m exhausted after yesterday, so I’m not coming up with new stories, instead I am lifting a ridiculous plot from a classic Hollywood film/British novel. A plot so ridiculous that it really belongs in India any way, it was wasted in Hollywood.
Random Harvest, Amnesia and an Arranged Marriage, Perfect Plot for India
Original plot outline
Our hero is a rising politician who enters into a marriage of convenience with his very efficient secretary after his love marriage with his sprightly young cousin falls apart. He is hiding a secret weakness, he lost two years of his life due to a war time injury, has no memory of where he was or what he was doing. The twist, during those two years he fell in love with and married a woman, then got amnesia, she tracked him down and the doctor warned her it could cause permanent damage if she confronted him, so instead she got a job as his secretary so she could be near him. Therefore the woman with whom he has an arranged marriage is THE SAME WOMAN HE FELL IN LOVE WITH AND MARRIED WHILE HE HAD AMNESIA!!!!
You see why I say this plot was clearly intended for India and not America?
Obviously I want to start at a dramatic moment and flashback. Let’s begin at the wedding that doesn’t happen. Our hero, dignified with a touch of grey in his hair, is dressed up and ready for a wedding. There is music outside, and people dancing, a party. And then a maid comes in to give him a note, the bride sent him a message, she has to see him. She’s “learned something”. He storms out, the camera focuses on an old photo of him as a young man in uniform, and FLASHBACK.
There are a few things to change. It’s supposed to be the madness of wartime which allows for all the original confusion, I suppose I could set it back in Partition time instead, but that seems overly complicated. Instead I think I will put it off in the Northwest provinces. Our hero is a young army officer, part of an important family, he chose war time service because he didn’t want to deal with the mess of politics. Our heroine is a back-up dancer in a show, wears a sexy costume and so on. There is a Naxalite attack while she is performing, she and the soldier end up in the same jeep, escaping. He is injured and confused, they get lost, she takes charge and manages to get plain clothes for both of them and leave the jeep behind so they won’t be identified as with the army for their own safety. But only the next morning, after they have traveled miles away, does it become clear that he has no memory of who he is. They have no uniform or jeep, no way of knowing who he is. Meanwhile, his family is notified that he was most likely kidnapped in the attack along with a jeep. No one notices the dancer is missing as well, because she doesn’t matter.
(Happy traveling song!)
The two of them travel together through the Northwest provinces an get to know each other and fall in love. He thinks he was just a simple soldier and comes to hate what the soldiers are doing there and doesn’t want to go back to the army. They are sure he would be shot or punished as a deserter. And she is tired of her life back in Bombay, she ran away from a home with relatives who took her in out of charity and hated her and landed in Bombay only to fall into life as an item dancer/woman of loose morals. She wants to start fresh. And so they end up settling down in a cottage there, working at a little local factory (she learns typing an computers). Everything is happy, she is pregnant, and then he is randomly caught in a train accident while traveling for work and wakes up remembering his whole life but with no memory of the past 2 years. He immediately gets in touch with the army who contact his family. They assume he was captured and tortured and somehow escaped and that’s what he can’t remember. The army gives him a medical discharge and he returns home, to learn that his father has died and he is expected to take up the family position and responsibilities. And to discover that his young distant cousin has grown up to be a charming young woman, the only one who doesn’t treat him as someone returned from the dead. And then, flashback over, we fade back in to find the young cousin waiting for him, dressed like a bride, and he comes in asking what couldn’t wait until after they are married and she dramatically declares WE WILL NEVER BE MARRIED!!!! INTERVAL
We come back to another flashback, our heroine getting off a train in the big city. She looks uncertain but is dressed nicely and respectably in a sari. She rushes to the station manager and asks if he has a moment to answer here questions, and then pushes on him (nicely) until he agrees. It comes out as she is questioning him that she has spent the past 2 years traveling India looking for her husband, trying to track down all the information she can about the train he was traveling on. Everyone tells her that he must be dead, but she doesn’t believe it. And then the camera pans around to reveal, listening to her, the young cousin!!!! She is in an adjacent room, and when the heroine leaves, she hurriedly tells the man she was talking with that she will come back another day about her lost luggage and rushes out after the heroine. And then, in a charming youthful way, bursts out that she overheard and didn’t mean to listen, but she was so impressed with her story and just wants to help her, coincidentally her fiance is looking for a new secretary, he needs someone who is calm and intelligent and determined, and the heroine would be perfect. Our heroine is rushed along by her enthusiasm, she sweeps them both into the hero’s office declaring “look, I’ve found your dream woman!” and then stepping back to reveal the heroine. Who sees the hero, and promptly faints.
She wakes up to find the young cousin taking care of her, and manages to stumble through a few questions about the hero. The young cousin is happy to talk, reveals how they are in love, he is a big war hero, survived 2 years of torture that he can’t even remember, and now he is going to be a politician and put the country right. Our heroine tries to process this, and gets out of the cousin the name of the hero’s psychiatrist. She goes to meet her (the psychiatrist) and asks for complete confidentiality and then, speaking in hypotheticals, explains the situation. That there is a man who forgot everything for two years and had a whole other life, but now has found himself again and is in love and happy. The psychiatrist understands it all, and tells her that it would be best to pretend those two years had never happened, to believe her husband is dead, because for all intents and purposes, he is. But, she asks, how can she do that when he still lives and she just wants to serve him? The psychiatrist says there would be nothing wrong in remaining close to him, so long as she does not try to shock him with the truth.
(In the grand tradition of terrible movie amnesia doctors)
And then there is a strange torturous period where our heroine is the perfect secretary, casually helping him on with his coat, reminding him to eat lunch, doing all of these things and also arranging his dates with the young cousin who drags him out to nightclubs and fancy gallery openings and makes him laugh. While our poor heroine hides her tears and kisses the secret photo of him that she keeps. Which brings us back to the present day, our heroine has helped organize the wedding and the young cousin insisted on inviting her, after the hero forgot to. And now she calmly knocks on the door to remind them that the guests are here and they only have a few minutes. The hero thanks her, then reminds the cousin that they don’t have time to talk. The cousin says again that they cannot be married, he refuses to listen to her, finally she explains that she doesn’t know what it is or how it happened, but she has been tortured by this feeling for days that something isn’t right, that she is not the woman for him, that they are getting married because they have fun together and know each other and that isn’t enough. He declares this is nonsense and he won’t listen to it, and she stops him and points out that is the problem, he never wants to listen, they have been friends since he returned, dating for 2 years, and he doesn’t take her seriously. Why, he shares more with his secretary than he does with her! He snaps back, “well, then why don’t I marry her?!?!?” The cousin declares she doesn’t care who he marries, but he is not marrying her today, she has been taking off her bridal jewelry and so on while they talk, and now she steps out from behind a screen in jeans and a shirt and declares that she is walking out the back door and already has a car waiting. She is leaving the country for 6 months, he can tell any story he wants to the press, but she is not getting married. And then she walks out.
He paces and paces in the room, and then the heroine knocks on the door again and reminds him about the time. He invites her in, paces some more, drums his fingers, and then says that he once more finds himself needing to ask her advice. She calmly prepares herself. He asks what she would say if a man with political ambitions had invited all his potential enemies and allies to a wedding. If that wedding was going to be televised for all the world to see. And at the last moment, the bride left. What should that man do? The heroine thinks for a moment, then says that the men had better find a bride and get married. The hero asks, wouldn’t people notice? The last minute switch? The heroine says carefully that if the bride happened to be a relative of the hero, and if there were no hard feelings with her family, it might be easy to explain it away as a cover engagement, that his real marriage was with someone else but he wished to save her the publicity. The hero thinks for a moment and then says “yes, that would work. Of course, she couldn’t have any family of her own. An orphan. And she would need to be a nobody, someone no one would have heard of before…..I suppose there is only one question left, will you marry me?” The heroine, heroically hiding her feelings, agrees.
(It’s all very Aaina)
There is a quick montage of them being married and explanations being given to the press that he had fallen in love with his humble orphan widow secretary and, in order to protect her privacy, his cousin agreed to play the part of his fiancee in public. And then it is the wedding night, in a luxury hotel room. She is waiting for him, nervous, and he comes in and sits down and seriously explains that he knows she is still in morning for her husband, he respects that, and he himself has not recovered from losing the woman he thought would be the one he married. He will sleep in the other room and will not touch her. This will be a marriage in public, but just a friendship in private. He leaves, she cries herself to sleep, and then flashes back to their first wedding night, very romantic in their little house in the mountains.
Time moves on, they work like a well oiled machine in public, she charms everyone and helps him maintain his moral compass as he navigates politics. She also stands up to his domineering family for him, getting his aunt to back off a bit in her dreams of glory and his uncle to treat him with respect as the head of the family. Slowly, they become closer. He starts to see her in a new light, stunned by catching her in moments of beauty, laughing when they end up riding on a goat truck when the car breaks down while on a tour of remote areas of his district, and touched when she tries to make him dinner one night after the servants were called away on an emergency and it is terrible because she never learned to cook. On their first anniversary, something catches his eye at a jewelry store, and he surprises her that night, explaining that at their wedding, he gave her a mangalsutra that had been purchased for another woman. He thought she deserved something better, a “real” one. He hands it to her, his heart in his eyes, and she takes it coldly and simply says “thank you” and leaves the room.
(Poor husband and wives who don’t understand how much they love each other)
But then she bursts into sobs as soon as she is away and flashes back again. On their first first anniversary, he had given her the same thing, a mangalsutra, with almost the same words. Explaining that their first wedding was rushed and thrown together, her mangalsutra was just a piece of thread and a button, he wanted to give her something better. She declares there is nothing better, she will never give up the original. And then he explains that he knew that, he bought her one with a locket on it, and she carefully folds up the original and tucks it into the locket. Love Song!
A few days later, the hero asks to speak to the heroine in private. Takes her to a temple and pours his heart out, explains that he married her in a moment of impulse, but he has come to realize it is the best thing that ever happened to him. As he has lived with her day by day he has come to appreciate her beauty and strength and humor and discovered that she is the most wonderful woman he has ever known, he is the luckiest man in the world to be married to her and all he wants is to make this a marriage in fact as well as in name. But he understands, if she cannot forget her first husband, he will respect the promise he made her on their wedding night and be only a friend. She hesitates, tormented, and finally asks if she can have some time to answer him. He swallows it manfully and accepts.
The heroine goes to visit the psychiatrist again to ask what to do. There are moments, more and more every day, where he is doing the same thing now as he did then, where there are little things he says to her that are exactly the same as then, tastes that are coming back (suddenly he loves eating okra again), it’s like the two men are finally becoming one, the man she knew and this new man. Is that possible???? The psychiatrist is encouraging, saying that it was more than she ever dared hope for. It is a miracle, a miracle of their love, somehow through fate and chance, they are reliving their married days and he might be falling in love with her all over again. But she has to be sure it is what she really wants, would she rather give in to him now and take the love he is offering her, or hold out and see if he will someday remember the love they used to have?
Another flashback, this time to them joking together in bed in their cottage. They are talking about his amnesia, he swears he may have forgotten everything else, but he knows he will never forget her. And she swears the same in return. And so, the next morning, she goes to see the hero in his office and tells him that she is sorry, she looked through her heart, but she cannot forget her first husband, she can only ever love one man. He takes it like a man, a little tightening of the lips to show his pain but nothing else, and quickly moves on to discussing impersonal matters, an upcoming “listening tour” around India, where does she think they should go? In a sudden mad impulse, she suggests the little village where they lived in the Northwest. He is surprised, but agrees, says it might be a nice gesture of peace and forgiveness after his army service there.
They travel to the Northwest with a song taking them there, going from his perspective studying her and trying to hide his broken heart, to her looking out the window and flashing between their youthful selves and the present day. Finally they arrive in the town, and are offered a tour. She excuses herself, claims she is tired and just wants to rest. He starts traveling around with the locals, and then suddenly he orders the jeep they are traveling in to stop and gets out. He has seen their old house in the distance. He starts walking towards it, and then running. He bursts through the door to find her, the heroine, sitting by the fire. They stare at each other and then he says “I’ve come home”. HAPPY ENDING!!!! Over the end credits, we see them going through another marriage ceremony, just the two of them, and him putting on her old locket Mangalsutra again, tangled together with the new one he bought her.
Phew! That made me happy! Now, who should we cast in it? This is what I have so far:
Young Cousin: Kriti Sonam
Psychiatrist: Shabana Azmi
Older Hindi Version:
Young Cousin: Anushka
Psychiatrist: Still Shabana
Young Cousin: Nivetha Thomas
Young Cousin: Nazriya Nizam
Young Cousin: Aditi Rao Hydari
What do you think? Which version do you want to see most?