I love FanFic from the comments! Partly because it is always more fun when it is written as a collaboration, partly because it means I know at least one person will be interested in reading it. Although really, you should all read it. Not all my FanFics are good, but this is a really really good one.
Rani and SRK (plus Saif and Kareena/Rajkummar and Parineeti) on a Rediscovering the Spark Bus Trip in Europe (suggested by Procrastinatrix, additional ideas from Emily)
The starting idea is pretty simple, a mature sexy love story between two middle-aged long time married people. But how do we get there?
They have to get away from their family and lives, it’s hard to rediscover the spark and be sexy if you are still going to the office every day and stuff. And it would be good to have a couple’s therapist there (therapy! Woo!). And I personally want sexy fun times on location as well. So we landed on a Bus Trip combined with a couples retreat. The bus travels around Europe and the couples play games together and talk to the in-bus therapist and find their spark. Plus, this solves the problem of how to explain to your friends that you are going to couples’ therapy. You just say it is a trip instead.
From there it was just filling the details, inventing a b-plot romance for the counselor, figuring out a way to involve the kids in the couple’s rediscover, and so on and so forth.
So! This is what I have. Rani is a soft-spoken proper housewife. She keeps the modern apartment perfect, volunteers at a museum, brings the perfect dish to family gatherings, and even sings. Maybe that is how we meet Shahrukh, we see Rani going about her quiet life, and then in the evening she goes to a party and is talked into singing. Shahrukh arrives while she is singing and sits down, someone next to him asks who that beautiful woman is singing, and Shahrukh says “it’s my wife” with a bit of small pride. Rani meets up with Shahrukh at the party, he asks if they can leave early because he has work the next day, she says “of course” and gracefully makes their excuses. They are very polite on the way home, Shahrukh compliments her on her singing, Rani asks after his day at the office. Once they get home, she pulls out a plate and serves him food (clearly a routine), but then says she will shower and prepare for bed while he eats. And he says “I’ll sleep out here so I don’t wake you”, and she nods. Like that is also routine. She goes to bed and takes up the whole bed and uses both bedside tables, he goes to sleep in the cot in the office with his water glass by the bed and so on. Clearly this is just their life now, they have the nightly farce that he will sleep outside “just this once” so as not to wake her, but it’s what they always do.
We already know a little about Rani’s background from the day we saw in her life, she mentioned an art degree that she never used once her twin daughters were born, that she loves volunteering at the museum and is one of their best and most popular guides and has been doing it for 10 years (since her daughters got to be teenagers and didn’t need her as much). And she has her group of friends that she walks with every morning, and her phone calls from her daughters to stay in touch, and her lovely home that she loves. And now we watch Shahrukh instead. He gets up and gets dressed, makes himself breakfast, leaves a note for Rani saying “good morning, I didn’t want to wake you, I will see you tonight” and then goes to the office. His cheerful funny secretary (Farah Khan if we can get her) greets him and he jokes with her, he teases the new intern about her romance with one of the other staff, and then puts out fires all day, the drivers of his transport company want a raise, he has to fix a big problem in one of the busses, and so on and so forth. He isn’t afraid to roll up his sleeves and get dirty (literally) to fix something, his work is exciting and challenging and satisfying in every way, and his employees all love him. Life is good. And then at the end of the day he comes home, finds a note on the table from Rani telling him that she went to bed already but left a plate for him, he just has to warm it up. This is their life, separate but separately happy. And kind and caring when they intersect.
And then the next day, two things happen. First, Rani gets a call from one of her daughters, all upset and excited, her husband is getting transferred back to the home office after 5 years in India. They have to move to Italy! (her husband is Italian, it is filled in through the phone call that they fell in love and are very happy, but this move is still a shock) Meanwhile at the office, Shahrukh arrives to find his secretary in tears. He knows right away that it is because of her boyfriend and kind of rolls his eyes and asks “what now?” like he has been waiting for her to break up with this guy for a while. She tells him that he was right, her boyfriend was cheating on her, she just found out, and she threw him out, and now she has to pay rent all herself and so on and so forth. Shahrukh is sympathetic and offers to lend her money which she quickly turns down. But then starts sobbing about this very expensive couples European trip she bought for them, she thought it would solve all their problems, and now she is out all that money and they will only give her 50% back. And what are the chances she will have found a new boyfriend in two months when the trip starts? Shahrukh asks how much the trip is, and then suggests he buy it from her, he will pay 90% and be saving money, not charity at all. She is excited about this, and sells it.
That night, Shahrukh is a little surprised to see that Rani waited up for him instead of just leaving a plate. She asks him how his day was, he politely chats with her, telling her the funny story of his secretary, getting a little animated as he talks about it. And then is surprised when as he reaches the end, Rani interrupts and says “A trip to Europe!!! How perfect! We must do it!” Rani then quickly explains about their daughter leaving, how they can visit the family in a couple months after they have settled in to their new lodgings, this will be wonderful, and they can see so much wonderful great art along the way. Shahrukh is a little shocked at this new animated Rani and slow to catch up to her, trying to explain that he just bought the trip to be nice, didn’t expect to use it, was just going to return it and get the 50% refund and call it a bonus for his secretary. But Rani is so happy and smiling he has to smile back and just let it go.
The next day at the office, he tells the secretary about how Rani is so excited, and she reacts with “but you have the perfect marriage! You don’t need this trip”. And then it comes out that it is a trip for troubled couples, you see all the sites of Europe during the day, and at night play couple games. And once a day you have a mandatory 30 minute session with the official trip counselor, who will be observing you through out the trip. It also comes out in this conversation why everyone thinks Shahrukh and Rani are the “perfect” couple. They met when she was a college student and he was the driver and owner of the college shuttle. He wooed her and won her despite family objections. She left school and they had the two perfect little girls and she helped him build the company from the ground up. And now they are grandparents and still look as attractive as college kids, the perfect family and the perfect romance. Oh heck, let’s make it cross-religious too, Shahrukh is Muslim and Rani is Hindu.
Meanwhile back home, Rani is having her own conversation. Her other daughter (cool young working woman) called up and Rani excitedly told her about the trip. The daughter promptly looked the company up online and told Rani that it is a couple’s therapy trip. Rani is a little crushed, she wanted just a trip to Europe to see the art and her daughter and grandkids. But the other daughter encourages her “This could be good for the two of you Mom! Besides when I visit, when was the last time the two of you spent the day together? Did something just for fun? Don’t think of it as therapy, think of it just like a check up, like taking your car in to have the oil change the tires rotated. This will be your 27th year check-up, that’s all”.
That night Rani and Shahrukh have dinner together again. He made a point to get home early and she was waiting for him. They both try to tell the other the same thing, Shahrukh is ready to suggest they just cancel the trip plan, Rani can go by herself to visit the kids, he is far to busy at work. But Rani is determined, this is the trip package she wants, and she rationalizes it to him that they can skip the evening events, do the tours during the day, and just make small talk for half an hour with the therapist, he has such a nice face and seems like a good desi boy, it will all be fine. Shahrukh can’t say “no” to her eager face, and finally agrees, and says he will book the tickets and tell them at the office.
Cut to, Rajkummar! The nice young man. He is sitting in a bar looking depressed and out of place (sweater vest and button shirt). Parineeti is dancing, but leaves the dance floor to come over and flop down next to him and try to cheer him up. Their next tour starts tomorrow, this is the 4th time they are doing this, it will all be fine just like usual. The couples will meet him and talk and he will solve all their problems the way he solves everyone’s problems, and she will be there to take them around to the places and make sure they all have a good time, and hot Marco (gesture to the dance floor) will be there to drive. And then Rajkummar kind of cheers up and smiles and says she is right. Pari smiles back, hugs him, and tells him he is an awfully silly man for being so smart. And then Rajkummar sighs and watches her as she dances off, grinding up against and flirting with hot Marco the driver, and we the audience realize that he is sad because he is in love with Pari and she doesn’t see him that way.
Back in India, Rani is standing with her bags packed waiting by the door tapping her foot. When her phone rings, it’s Shahrukh at the office. He is sorry, there is an emergency, he can’t make the flight, he will just catch the next one and meet her in Vienna. And Rani, peaceful accepting Rani, has finally had enough. She swears into the phone, Shahrukh says “Pardon?” and then she hesitates and finally swears louder and clearer. And says “If you don’t get home in ten minutes, I am going to the airport without you and I’m not meeting you in Vienna or anywhere else, I’m staying in Europe and you will have to find someone else to leave meals out for you on the kitchen table.” And then she hangs up and looks a little stunned at what she just said. Shahrukh looks a little stunned in his office too. There really is an emergency, a bunch of people are gathered around and badgering him. And then he stands up, and starts to move, finally moving faster and faster. They chase him out of the office, asking what to do, what’s the plan, and he yells over his shoulder “figure it out for yourself”. We watch him speed home, running panting in the door to see Rani calmly sitting down on a suitcase waiting. He pants for a bit and then says “You’re still here!” She stands up and says “of course. I knew you would be coming. I have a car waiting downstairs”. And calmly picks up her bags and leaves Shahrukh to pick up his bags and follow.
On the flight, Rani puts on her face mask and sleeps, Shahrukh keeps staring at her face like he has never seen her before. But he doesn’t see that under the face mask she is crying little tears. All the hurt and disappointment of their marriage for the past 10 years is beginning to leak out. Yaaay! Healthy relationship drama!
They arrive in Europe and meet the rest of the tour, most of the other couples are younger and less reserved, the type who would sign up for this sort of couples retreat. There is one other older couple, who Rani and Shahrukh naturally gravitate towards, they explain that they were on the first trip offered two years ago, it changed their whole marriage, and now they are back for more. Rani and Shahrukh are a little surprised, since they don’t seem like the kind of touchy-feely couple like the others, but the older couple reassure them that it really can work.
That first night, Rani makes the first move (maybe feeling guilty about her ultimatum), by suggesting that they are both tired, they should both sleep in the big comfortable double bed instead of Shahrukh sleeping on the couch “so as not to bother her” like he suggests. They sleep together for the first time in who knows how long and have a cute conversation remembering whose side of the bed is whose and all that.
The next day, things go wrong again when Rani is excited about the museums and asks Shahrukh to skip the official tour plan with her (which is allowed so long as the couples go together) so they can see more art. Shahrukh resists, instead suggests he just sit in a coffee shop and answer emails while she goes alone. That night, Shahrukh feels guilty and doesn’t know what to say, Rani is cold and barely looking at him. Forces him to go to the evening couples’ event partly as punishment but regrets it when Rajkummar explains the game. One of the couple will go into the hotel bar. The other will follow and have to pick them up, pretend they are a stranger and try to remember that original spark, what first appealed to them. Rani and Shahrukh are both horrified. He quickly whispers to her that he will just go in and speak to her and then they can leave, no one will know what really happened.
Rani goes in and sits down, feeling awkward. Shahrukh is held up on the way in by a work email on his phone. Rani orders a drink for the adventure and starts sipping it and looking around. And then a nice older European man comes up and starts talking to her! He is perfectly pleasant, respectful, strikes up a conversation about the museum brochure she was looking through. Shahrukh comes in to look for Rani, can’t see her anywhere, finally realizes she is the gorgeous woman in the sexy dress flirting at the bar (because he stopped seeing her that way a long time ago, it took seeing her with another man to remind him). He hesitates for a moment, then Rani throws her head back and laughs and touches the other man’s shoulder and he hurries over. Rani is surprised and embarrassed when she sees him, but before she can say anything, the other man sort of blocks Shahrukh and asks if he can help him. Shahrukh visibly resists the urge to say “yes, you can leave my wife alone” because it’s not the right place, and instead shifts to saying that he overheard them mention the museum, he is thinking of going there tomorrow, and kind of strikes up a conversation between the three of them. He manages to insert himself into the group and then get the other man away by maneuvering him to offer to get the next round of drinks. Once he is gone, Rani immediately starts to explain, but Shahrukh cuts her off and keeps the game going. Says he is a business traveler, all alone here, spent the day working, can she tell him more about those museums she visited, Beautiful Stranger? Rani and Shahrukh end up having the best conversation they have had in years, he really listens to her for once. He offers to “walk her to her hotel room”, and at the door gently brushes the hair away from her face and kisses her cheek. And then turns and wakes away while she stands there for a second.
Shahrukh goes to kill time in the bar and sees Rajkummar. Who reminds him that they have their first mandatory counseling session the next day. Shahrukh blows past that, and instead points out that Rajkummar is clearly jealous of Pari and Marco The Driver who are cuddling and giggling across the room. Rajkummar, in a low moment, finds himself opening up. What does he have to offer her? She is so beautiful and bright and wonderful, he is just a plodder trying to get by. Shahrukh smiles and remembers when he felt the same way, just a lowly driver who stumbled over his words whenever he spoke to the pretty rich college girl. But he decided that it wasn’t about what he had to offer, it was about what she needed. He thinks Rajkummar probably has something Pari needs too. After all, didn’t he just say that Pari was the one who insisted he be here at the bar tonight? And keeps trying to wave him over to join her and Marco? Shahrukh suggests that Rajkummar have a little confidence, just be there and see what happens. After all, Shahrukh won over his girl eventually.
And then Shahrukh goes back to the hotel room and silently lets himself in. It’s already dark, Rani is curled up on the bed. He slides in next to her, and she turns naturally and snuggles up against him. He looks wondrously surprised and smiles tenderly at her, clearly remembering what it was like when he was a lowly bus driver and never thought a woman like her would even talk to him.
The next day, they have their first counseling session. Rajkummar starts slowly by asking them to remember how they met, the first moment they saw each other. We get a brief fuzzy flashback to Rani in braids and uniform and Shahrukh in a workers shirt with cigarettes. He was the driver of her school bus. He had been working for months, had seen the school girls come and go, they were just baggage, he ignored them and focused on his driving. But then she joined up, her father used to drop her at school but he was away traveling for a month so she had to take the bus. Shahrukh was stunned the first moment he saw her, it was like the sun had come out. He listened to what she said to her friends, learned he only had three weeks to make an impression, and started doing everything he could. He started by cleaning off her seat and her window, but only her seat and window, on the bus. And then he started leaving little presents on her seat, a flower or a candy or a pretty card. He didn’t even know if she noticed, until he heard her loudly say something about hating smoking and glance at him. He made sure she saw him take out his cigarettes and drop them in a puddle, and she smiled at him, and he felt like the king of the world. At the end of three weeks, he was going to confess his feelings, but then he got caught in an accident and was late to work and his boss casually told him that another driver had taken the route, he could have it back tomorrow. He was heartbroken, up all night drinking and sobbing, showed up for work feeling like death, only to see her smiling at him and getting on the bus and loudly telling her friends that she convinced her father to let her keep riding with them, because you make so many friends on the bus. He knew he could make her marry him after that, no matter what, and they would be together for ever. Shahrukh is happy at the end of his story, and Rani is smiling but seems a little conflicted. Rajkummar thanks Shahrukh, and then tells Rani that the next day he will ask for her side of the story.
They leave together, Shahrukh is a little ashamed to ask if he can work in a cafe again while Rani visits her museums, but Rani seems sincere when she says she would rather be alone. Shahrukh feels guilty when he gets an email from his daughter back in India saying how happy she is that he arranged this trip and how she knows her Mom is excited, and follows Rani into the museum to see her looking at a picture and weeping. He goes up and touches her shoulder and she turns into his chest and mumbles that it is just so beautiful. He lets her take him through the museum, and show him everything and try to explain why she loves it. That night, they get back to the hotel to see that the other couples are doing a contact game, passing an orange in a circle. Rajkummar sees them and gestures for them to leave. Shahrukh takes Rani’s hand, and they go for a long walk, talking a little, and then just silent. They come back to the hotel to find it all dark and quiet, go back to the room and at the door Rani turns to Shahrukh and kisses him. He sweeps her up and carries her inside.
(okay, I’m breaking here, because this is WAY too long. But I also kind of love it. What do you think, should I continue? I do have a surprise twist planned for Rani’s flashback version)