I had such fun re-writing one strange memorable 60s Hollywood teen film last week, I thought I might try again this week. Especially because this one has the PERFECT role for Shahrukh. Oh, and it is also very VERY long. And not necessarily good, I just wrote myself into a plot hole and it took a while to write myself out.
A Summer Place! The movie so disturbing that my sister refused to finish it and I had to watch it on my own after she went to bed. And this was breaking our lifelong rule of always finishing every film we started so it was a Very Big Deal. It’s just a weird film. Remember that point in American history when sex was somehow both wrong and forbidden and kind of gross, but also fascinating? That is where this film lives. And even if it weren’t so unhealthy about sex, it would still have an extremely disturbing plot. But I believe we can rescue it!
In the original plot, Dorothy McGuire is a middle-aged mother of a teenage son Troy Donahue and Richard Egan is the middle-aged father of a teenage girl Sandra Dee. Dorothy and Richard were in love as teenagers but separated when she married someone “safe” and of her own class, and now he has returned to his hometown a wealthy man to discover that her husband has lost all his money and they have turned their mansion (the “Summer Place” of the title) into a hotel. Troy and Sandra fall in love at the same time that Dorothy and Richard rekindle their romance. Somewhat radically, Dorothy and Richard actually divorce their spouses and start over. Also radical, the film shows good reason for both divorces beyond their affair, Dorothy’s husband is a self-pitying alcoholic who drags her down. Richard’s wife is neurotic and “frigid” and he has been living in a loveless marriage since the conception of his daughter.
Troy and Sandra are passionately in love, but also furious at their parents. Before the divorce, they were both closer to Dorothy and Richard than their other parent, but after the divorces they resent them. They agree to visit the new shared household primarily because it will give them a chance to see each other again, their parents agree to let them date. Troy and Sandra pretend to go to a movie but really have sex on a beach. And then, of course, Sandra gets pregnant. Sandra and Troy plan to get married, but run into difficulties because they are underage. Finally, they go to their parents Dorothy and Richard for help, and are surprised to receive love and understanding. The parents help them to get married, and the happy ending of the film is Sandra and Troy arriving to spend their honeymoon at the same family Inn where they met.
So, just to sum up, the original provides a teenage fantasy in which you get pregnant and married before 18 and it is all fine and wonderful because of True Love. But then, on the other hand, it also provides a very grown-up fantasy of getting a second chance for happiness and taking it long after you thought it was too late. So maybe if we lean on that part of it, and DON’T end with a happy-happy teenage pregnancy and marriage but resolve the young romance another way, things could be pretty good! Especially because the lower-class-boy-makes-good-and-loves-his-teenage-daughter-but-is-trapped-in-a-loveless-marriage is such a great role for Shahrukh!
The basic set-up can be almost identical. I will call the heroine “Juhi”, but don’t feel locked into that casting if you have a better idea (Juhi, Kajol, Tabu, Karisma even). Juhi is married to her distant cousin Jackie Shroff. He is drunk and unpleasant, she always keeps a smile on her face and keeps going. They had to make the family Haveli into a hotel in order to make ends meet, Jackie resents this reality and is rude and horrible to the guests. Juhi is the hostess and the manager and also fills in where ever needed, changing sheets or serving meals or scrubbing floors. The bright spot in her life is her son Aditya Roy Kapoor (yes, I know he is old, I have a plan for that). He does everything too, fixing the generator or bringing in groceries from the village, whatever is needed. He wants to drop out of college and help full time, but she is determined that he is going to go to the same good school as his father did and have a wonderful life.
And then there is Shahrukh. He is thinking of building a factory nearby and has brought his daughter Sara Ali Khan along on a scouting trip. He is introduced telling her stories of his childhood in the area, she is fascinated and happy to hear him talk, clearly they have a very close father-daughter bond. And then it is her idea that they stay at the hotel, she found it online and thinks it would be “fun” to stay there instead of at some 5 star place in town. Shahrukh does a subtle double-take when he sees Juhi at the reception desk, and Juhi does as well. And then he goes up and says, seemingly calm, “It’s been a long time, Juhi”. And Juhi keeps her smile on her face and explains to Sara “we were friends, a long time ago”. Shahrukh corrects her “we weren’t friends. I was the driver’s son”. Juhi flinches a bit, Aditya sees from a distance and comes up all posturing to ask who Shahrukh is, and while he is focused on Shahrukh, Sara notices him and is clearly immediately interested. She watches him through their window as he moves around the yard, takes his shirt, off a nice healthy teenage girl interest in a healthy young man, very appropriate for a crush.
Sara starts pursuing Aditya, following him around, asking questions, offering to go with him to town to pick things up, and so on. Aditya tries not to react because of the age difference, but likes her. Meanwhile, Shahrukh and Juhi are stiff and formal at first. But then she comes to look at his malfunctioning shower, and while they are both in the bathroom being formal, suddenly it starts spraying water all over them, they both scramble around on the slippery floor trying to block it, finally Shahrukh finds the off valve and turns it off, but by then they are completely soaked and hanging on to each other, laying on the floor. Shahrukh reaches around her to turn off the valve, then pauses and they look deep into each other’s eyes, he reaches down and gently brushes the hair away from her face with a shaking hand, she trembles at his touch, and they kiss.
Shahrukh pulls away, stands up, helps Juhi up, and then still holds her hand when he says “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have, but it has just been so long since a touched a woman”. Juhi asks, “your wife….?” and Shahrukh explains, “she won’t let me touch her. I didn’t realize, she was so eager for marriage, and then she couldn’t seem to enjoy it. I never touched her, and Sara arrived 7 months after our wedding not.” Juhi puts it together, “so she was…?” “Yes, I investigated later, when I could, she was in love with a young pilot. He died, and suddenly she gave permission for our marriage. Her father was my mentor, a wonderful man, he encouraged the match and I thought it could make me happy. And it has, in a way. I have Sara, and she is everything to me. My wife, she devotes her time to charities, to studying with her Guru. I can’t fault her for not being interested in that side of life, at least not with me. I have offered her divorce, many times, but she feels it would be against her religion. But seeing you again, now, I am turning weak. I am forgetting my marriage vows, and yours. Forgive me”. Juhi looks down for a moment, then looks up, and says “Forget them.” Shahrukh looks confused, she explains “your wife, she does not want you. My husband, he does not want me either, he just wants to sink into his own misery. If it gives us a little bit of happiness, something to remember and keep us going within our marriages, what is the harm? Just for now, just while you are here, just this week.” Shahrukh looks amazed, and Juhi gently leads him over to the bed.
There’s a love song, with Sara and Aditya’s innocent flirtation, shy brushing of hands and meeting of eyes, intercut with Shahrukh and Juhi’s passionate sexual affair. They meet late at night in the stable, in his car, in the afternoon in his room (she shows up with extra towels as an excuse), or out in the fields at dawn. And then, while they are laying together in bed, lazily talking, Shahrukh explaining that Sara is off with Aditya for the rest of the afternoon, Juhi happy that he is enjoying himself for once instead of worrying about her or his schoolwork, suddenly Shahrukh’s wife walks in on them!!!!
Hmm, who can play a very very religious and repressed woman? Oh oh!!! I know!!!! I want Madhuri. So there can be that dissonance with the way she looks and how she acts. Plus, I think she could pull of the part really well, terribly righteously angry but also a little unhinged. She goes on a rant about how Shahrukh could do this to her, how he could be so base, so disgusting, so wrong, so diseased. And finally Shahrukh bursts out to defend himself, that SHE is the wrong one!!!! Miserable and depressed in this marriage, and yet not willing to let him escape it, resenting his own healthy desires. It is not natural for a man to bury his desires for 18 years because his wife cannot bear his touch! For him to never even have kissed his own wife!!!!
And in the middle of this confrontation, the kids arrive downstairs. They hear the yelling and both start rushing up, Sara arriving outside the door just in time to hear this last. She is shocked! She turns and runs away, Aditya is torn between following her and staying, but finally follows. He tracks her down in the fields, and just waits until she admits what has bothered her so much. She figured out years ago that she was conceived before the wedding. She always thought it was romantic, a sign of how much her parents loved each other. Even if they didn’t seem to like each other now, she thought it must be because they kept all that love secret and hidden from the world. But now she knows the truth. It is all clear. Her father is not her father, her mother never loved him, her whole life and their whole life is a lie.
Aditya grabs her hands and reassures her that she isn’t a lie, she is a real person, the most real person he has ever known. Even if her mother never loved her father, he (Aditya) cares for her now, and that is real. Sara is pulled out of her depression, and responds, grasping his hands. And then they kiss, surprising both of the,. Only to be interrupted by Madhuri, again, who shows up and slaps Sara. Aditya stands up for her, grabs Madhuri’s hand before she can slap her again, Madhuri glares him down, he releases her, she drags Sara away declaring “we are leaving this place and never coming back!!!!!!”
Behind her, Juhi and Shahrukh come to the front of the house, Aditya behind them, and then Jackie looming up, another conflict to face. Jackie pulls himself together and says, with surprising dignity, “I believe we have some things to talk about. Shall we go in?” Aditya makes to follow them, but Juhi tells him to stay back. He paces outside the door of the study, and inside Jackie takes a seat behind his desk and Juhi and Shahrukh stand in front of him, holding hands. Jackie calmly says “Well, I knew this day would come. I knew it on our wedding day when I saw the way you looked at him when you said good-bye. He was never just the driver’s son, was he?” Juhi and Shahrukh don’t answer. Jackie sighs, says “Well, I had a good run. You were a very good wife to me, took care of my home, took care of my son, took care of everything. I suppose now it is time for me to take care of something for you. I’ve had divorce papers in my desk for the past 5 years, undated. I should have signed them long ago, I was just being selfish. You can keep the house, if you want it, You can keep the boy too, he needs you more than me anyway. I’ll go off, back to the city, get myself a little room there. It will be nice, finally escaping the past, all the ancestors looking down on me in this place.” Juhi looks surprised, manages to say “Thank you”. Jackie waves it off, says “It’s nothing. You gave me 20 years, I owe you at least 20 years more of happiness” then he turns to Shahrukh, asks “You will keep her happy, won’t you?” Shahrukh nods, “yes”. Jackie says “good, good”, signs the papers, and slides them over. Juhi bends down to sign as well, but her hand is shaking too much. Shahrukh leans over her, and grabs her hand, steadying it, and she signs. Jackie nods when she is finished and says, “one more thing I can do for you, if you’ll let me. Send Aditya in to me. I’ll explain it to him, man to man. It will come easier that way, believe me.”
Now Jackie and Aditya are alone in his office. Jackie tells him “You know, you are now three years older than the ge your mother was when she married me. She gave up her life, everything she knew, and she did it with a smile because it made her parents happy. I am not asking as much of you as her parents asked of her, you will still live in your same house, go to your same school, but things will change. I am leaving your mother, we are getting a divorce, and I hope she finds happiness elsewhere, she is still young and she deserves that. But she will not be happy if you are not happy. So smile, and tell her it is all right.” Outside, Juhi is nervously waiting. Aditya comes out, she reaches for him, looks questioning, he forces a smile and says “It’s all right Ma” and she embraces him.
Meanwhile, things are very different in Shahrukh’s world. Days later, he has set up an office in one of the rooms of the inn and is skyping with his lawyer looking tense. Madhuri is refusing to allow him to see Sara. Or to give him a divorce. Shahrukh wanted to keep this civil, but more than that he wants to see his daughter. He knows that Madhuri is hurting her, filling her head with crazy fears and doubts, trying to make her as repressed and miserable as Madhuri is. She pulled Sara from school and isn’t letting her out of the house, Shahrukh has a spy among the servants and knows Sara is being forced to spend all day praying and fasting, to “cleanse” her. All he wants is for Sara to be sent back to her boarding school, which she loved, and allowed to grow up like a normal young woman. The lawyer says, as of right now that isn’t possible. They need a divorce and then an enforcable custody agreement. But they have no grounds. Shahrukh paces for a bit, then says “lack of consummation. Declare the marriage void because it was never consummated”. The lawyer is shocked, points out the newspapers will pick this up, with Sara being in existance it will be a scandal, and besides how can he prove it? Shahrukh sighs and says “the one thing about my wife, she cannot abide telling a lie. If you put her on the stand and ask her in court, she will confirm it.”
Newspaper montage!!!! The whole ugly story makes headlines, the divorce on the grounds of lack of consummation, photos of Sara with the tagline “immaculate conception?” underneath, it’s just unpleasant. And then we come back to Madhuri and Shahrukh in a judge’s chambers. The judge is giving a lecture about how wrong it is to make private matters public, how they have been unfair to their daughter and if there is any way to make things work, they owe it to her to try to work it out. Shahrukh listens, and then says with dignity that he feels this marriage has never been a true marriage. The best way he can serve his daughter is to show her what a true healthy love looks like, so she may be able to find more happiness in her first marriage than he did in his. His wife can have all the money she wants, the house, everything. He just wants his daughter.
The judge disagrees, a young girl needs her mother. And besides, if the evidence is true, Sara is not Shahrukh’s daughter at all. Shahrukh lets his anger loose for a moment, bursts out “she IS my daughter!” and then he controls himself and corrects it to “legally, she is my daughter, my lawyer has gone into this extensively, as the husband of her mother and the man named on the birth certificate, I have parental rights. Moreover, I have always been her primary caregiver. While my wife spent months at a time away from the home, I fed her, clothed her, and made sure she was properly educated. You can see statements there from her teachers, parents of her friends, and the staff at my home confirming this”. The judge turns to Madhuri and asks “Madam, why was it that you left your child and your husband for months at a time? Do you have anything to say to this?” Madhuri says, with religious fervor, “I was on pilgrimages. I pray for the good of my family, for the world. How better can I serve my child than that? She may not have had my food every day, but I brought her holy water and offerings.” The judge nods solemnly and says “you are a very good woman” and then glares at Shahrukh. Who sighs and pulls out another file and says “If I am not given full custody, I am willing to accept her mother as custodian on the terms outlined within.”
Cut to Shahrukh going outside to talk to Juhi in the car. She asks, “so?” Shahrukh says “you were right, the judge sided with her. We used your deal”. “and?” “She’s going back to school tomorrow, will stay there until she graduates, and will spend vacations with one of a list of approved school friends. Madhuri won’t be able to torture her any more.” Juhi asks “and what did you have to give up?” Shahrukh sighs, says “everything. No contact with her from myself, or an intermediary, until she is of age. Because I am a ‘bad influence’. Her mother starves her and beats her and teachers her that any happiness is a sin, and I am a ‘bad influence’.” Juhi reaches out and takes his hand, says “It’s only two years. She loves you, once she is 18, she will come find you.” INTERVAL
Hmm, where do I go from here? I guess over to Sara. Madhuri drives her to her school and tells her that her father, after having publicly shamed the both of them for “that woman”, now refuses to take custody of her and is shoving her in the school and refusing to see her. Now that he has a new wife, he doesn’t care about Sara or Madhuri any more. Best to forget him, and pray. Learn to rely on God above all these earthly connections.
Sara goes into school where she is joyfully greeted by her friends (big “cheer up” song that shows that Shahrukh was right to think that going back to school was the best choice for her). But late at night she confesses to her closest friends that she doesn’t know what to think, about anything. Her mother was always “difficult”, but at least she is still there for her. Her father seems to have forgotten her, she thought they were as close as two people could be but since he found his new girlfriend, he hasn’t written or called or visited. Her mother may be awful, but at least she is THERE. Her friends try to help, tell her it will get better, remember their own fathers and how they changed after their new marriages. But the best they can tell her is that she has to believe her father will “remember” her eventually. She just has to wait for him to reach out, it will surely happen.
Okay, I think I know where I want to go from here, but it will be complicated. First we have a time-passing montage. Juhi and Shahrukh are in love and happy, they remodel the old house, they go on fabulous vacations, Aditya is there with them sometimes, he and Shahrukh have a friendly relationship, it is a happy new family. Except that Shahrukh keeps having flashes of sadness when he remembers Sara, has her photo everywhere, sometimes even eats breakfast with it propped up on the table opposite him and a second bowl of cereal. And Sara is the same, she is happy at school, flourishes, her teachers praise her and her friends love her, she sneaks out to go to movies, is the lead in the school play, goes on school trips, everything is happy. Except when she sees her friends with their parents, and when she sees Shahrukh’s name or face in the newspaper, she misses him too. Sara graduates at the end of the song, packs up her hostel room, and we see that she has an acceptance letter for a theater group in Delhi
Okay, you ready for a surprise twist? Aditya is arguing in the street with one of his truck drivers, he is management for Shahrukh’s company now but is riding along on a delivery because it is important, and suddenly he sees Sara in the street, asking for directions to the theater. He leaps down and surprises her, she is delighted to see him, he gives her a ride in the truck to the theater and then after he watches her go in, he goes back and tells the driver to go on without him, he will wait here. He sits outside the theater drinking chai for hours (we see time passing) and when Sara comes out, he bounces up and plays it like “I just happened to be passing”. And then of course they start to fall in love again. Dinners, walks, having fun with Sara’s theater group. The awkward moment comes when Sara has to introduce him, and she says “he is an old friend”, and Aditya asks her why she didn’t say he is her stepbrother. She tells him because he isn’t, his stepfather is not her father. Aditya starts to argue, to say “I am sure if you just asked him…” but Sara cuts him off and says that she doesn’t want to talk about it, and if he is her friend, he will not bring it up again.
Everything is perfect, they are back to eyes meeting and hands touching, but no kissing or anything, still just “friends”, but very happy. Until they have a stupid fight. Sara is offered a movie role, but Aditya doesn’t trust the director. He thinks the director just wants her because he is attracted to her. Sara is insulted, thinks he doesn’t believe in her talent or her common sense. It ends with Aditya bursting out a very poorly phrased proposal, that she needs a keeper and someone to take care of her and he is volunteering for the job. Sara responds that he doesn’t have to worry about her, just because he feels guilty about what his parents did to her and because she had a silly crush when she was a little girl, and in fact if he just sees her as a little girl who needs protection, they aren’t even friends!!!!
Sara goes to the audition, and the director is creepy. But someone else there sees her audition and suggests she try out for another movie. She gets it, another time passing montage as she goes on the location shoot, loses herself in the character, and so on. Finally returning to Delhi months later to find an invitation in her mail to Aditya’s wedding.
And now we go back to Shahrukh and Juhi!!!! They are both rushing around preparing for this family wedding, very excited and happy, maybe there is a song between them. But Juhi is also a little worried, she goes to talk to Aditya privately, to make sure this is what he wants. And he says yes, it just makes sense after all. The bride (Shraddha) is a friend since years. It is time for him to get married. He believes he can make her happy. They have the same background, the same understandings. It will make sense. Juhi very gently says “I worry, because I said those same things to myself when I was a young girl, convincing myself to marry your father instead of the driver’s son. I don’t regret my decision, because it gave me you. But those are not good reasons to be married. And I hope there is not someone out there that you are trying to forget, because they don’t make sense.” Aditya almost tells her, but stops himself.
Meanwhile, outside, Sara is paying off a rickshaw driver and telling him that she doesn’t want to be dropped any closer to the house. She is in jeans and carrying a backpack. She sets off across the fields towards the house, notices the security guards (because Shahrukh is a big deal), and skirts around them, ducking and hiding, finally climbing over a wall and dropping inside. Only to be grabbed by security as she lands.
Shahrukh, while rushing around with last minute wedding details, is pulled aside and whispered at, they caught a young reporter breaking in, should they call the police? No, he wants to meet her first. Sara is being held in an old shed, she looks up as the door opens, defiantly saying “You can’t charge me with anything, I just wanted to see the wedding, that’s all”, only to stop talking when she looks up and sees Shahrukh and says “Papa?” Shahrukh, visibly shaken, reaches for her, but she moves back and says “Don’t touch me. You aren’t my father. You’re just a man.” Shahrukh shuts down, so hurt he can’t react. Instead says “all right, I’m just a man. I’m a man who can have you arrested for breaking into his property. So why don’t you tell me why you did it.” Sara is silent. Shahrukh says “Fine, I’m calling the police” and pulls out his phone. With no other choice, Sara says “Fine! I am here to break up the wedding of your precious son. Because he is a fool who doesn’t realize that I love him more than anyone else could. Now, have me arrested and save yourself from more embarrassment!” Shahrukh thinks for a moment, then tells her to come with him.
He storms into the house, bruskly demands of Juhi “where is your son?” She points upstairs and starts to ask what is happening but Shahrukh ignores her, just keeps striding through the house and finally bursts into Aditya’s room, but gestures for Sara to wait outside. Aditya asks, “why are you here?” and Shahrukh starts “I can’t come to your wedding”. Aditya is all “what? Why? What has happened?” Shahrukh says, “It’s Sara. I just got a call, she’s gotten herself into some mess, I can’t follow it, some dispute over a hotel bill in some goshawful place. Anyway, the local police have arrested her, I’d let her sit in jail to teach her a lesson, but I’d hate for your wedding headlines to be ruined with her mistake. It’s a twenty hour drive, if I leave now I should get there by day after tomorrow, just ahead of the reporters.” Aditya is shocked “She’s in jail??? Is there nothing else to be done? Can’t you call a lawyer or someone to bail her out?” Shahrukh is casual “ah, the publicity! no no, this is better, won’t hurt her to spend a night or two in jail and I can still get there with enough time to avoid a scandal.” Now Aditya is really angry, rips off his wedding turban, says “SCANDAL!!! As if she has ever brought a scandal on this family! You are the one, with your selfish divorce, ruining her life and breaking her heart. And now you can’t even be bothered to skip one night of rest in order to get her out of jail as soon as possible. Well, if you can’t be bothered, I can! Text me the details of where she is, I’ll go bail her out, you can stay and enjoy the wedding!” Aditya bursts out the door, to find Sara standing outside. They look at each other for just a moment, and then reach for each other in a mad embrace. Shahrukh comes out behind him, smiling, and says “well, in case you forgot, I won’t be able to enjoy the wedding if you leave, since you were supposed to be the groom. No worries, I’ll go tell your mother that is off now.”
Shahrukh starts to walk off, but Sara calls after him “Wait!” Shahrukh turns back, she asks “why did you do this?” Shahrukh sighs and says “Because I am your father, and I love you. And if this idiot is what you want, then I will do everything in my power to get him for you. If he hadn’t said yes, I was ready to hit him on the head and kidnap him for you if necessary.” Shraddha melts, says “Papa…” and reaches for him. With one hand behind her still holding Aditya, she and Shahrukh embrace.
Happy Ending! Big party, Shraddha is there (Aditya’s going-to-be-bride) looking a little wistful but happy for them, Aditya and Sara are dancing, then Aditya and Juhi, Juhi and Shahrukh, and finally all 4 of them as one big happy family.
Okay, did ANYONE make it through to the end of that? And if you did, what do you think?