Another Silly Remake! Light in the Piazza, with Madhuri and Shahrukh as Delicately Flirting In-Laws

I like to do at least one long post a day, and with the Kalank release messing up my review schedule, and the Kalank news domination messing up anything interesting to talk about there, I’m retreating to fanfic for my long form writing. It’s that, or just a lot of Albie Dog photos. Or not writing anything, but then the words build up in my head and make me sick, so that’s no good. I need my 4,000 words a day purge!

Small personal story. Years ago when I was in college, I had one semester with no classes on Wednesday afternoons. Which is very exciting because Wednesday is the matinee day, so I got to see a whole bunch of amazing live theater. The show that has remained with me the most was The Light in the Piazza. It was a book, then a film, and finally a musical, written by the grandson of Richard Rodgers (of Rodgers and Hart and Rodgers and Hammerstein). I got to see it in development before it went to Broadway and it felt really special. I wasn’t surprised that it went on to win all kinds of awards. The story is also lovely, the kind of unspoken achingly loveliness that can best be described by music. And it is also the perfect plot for a delicate achingly lovely Indian film, featuring delicately lovely performances from a mature Madhuri and Shahrukh.

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Original plot:

Mrs. Johnson and her sweet daughter are traveling through Italy. Mrs. Johnson is very proper and polite and intelligent, trying to interest her dreamy daughter in the historical places they are visiting and so on. Her daughter seems oddly disinterested, until she meets a sweet young Italian boy at a museum and they fall in love all of a sudden at first sight despite not even sharing a language. Her mother scrambles to catch up, but the boy’s charming Italian father convinces her to let the young people be in love and happy for a little while. He also flirts a bit with the mother. But she is still under a strange strain and seems extra worried about her daughter. They are found together kissing, and then the Italian boy proposes to her daughter and Mrs. Johnson awkwardly refuses. The Italian father pleads for her to reconsider, but she remains firm and takes her off to another city. And finally calls her husband in America to discuss it all. Which is when it comes out that her daughter is developmentally disabled thanks to a kick in the head as a child. She is very sweet, but she will never be able to live on her own or take care of herself. Her father thinks it is time to send her to a home, her mother has been fighting for more time. Through fighting with her husband, Mrs. Johnson decides to make a leap. She hangs up on him and, without telling him, rushes her daughter back to her boyfriend and encourages the wedding. At the last minute the wedding almost falls apart when the boy’s father learns that the daughter is 6 years older than the boy. But she manages to dance around the discussion with the father, charming him, flirting a little, and offering a slightly higher dowry, while confirming that her daughter is “healthy” and “as young as she seems” although she had been “ill” as a child. The wedding, thanks to all her arranging and careful invisible maneuvering comes off all right. HAPPY ENDING

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Olivia De Havilland and Yvette Mimeux in the original film

This is such a lovely story, of a mother walking a tightrope of social challenges in order to safely bring her daughter through to happiness. And the whole idea of the innocent love story, the heroine who is like any naive young woman but slightly more so. And the big family that just sees her as someone who can bring happiness to their son and doesn’t notice or care about the rest of it. Plus there is the culture clash, and the decision to turn her back on all the “advantages” of modern American life versus this softer slower life, handing her daughter over to love instead of science. And all of this would make an amazing film in India. And the proper steely strong and sacrificing mother would be a perfect role for Madhuri, while the charming and in control father would be a perfect Shahrukh part

It’s a pretty simple plot to transpose. An American NRI mother Madhuri and her daughter, traveling for months through rural India. Madhuri tries to read aloud to her daughter all the details from the guidebook but the daughter has a hard time paying attention. She insists that she wants to just walk through a field, not look at all these temples and things. Madhuri indulges her and gets the luxury hotel to arrange a driver off to a nearby farm. In the fields her daughter runs in to a young man working, they try to talk in his broken English and her broken Punjabi. Madhuri finds her and shoos off the young man and takes her back to the hotel, but she is already dreamy and in love. The young man and his father Shahrukh show up at the hotel the next day. Shahrukh easily tracked them down, he is the wealthiest landowner in the area and knows everyone and everything, and his son has declared he is in love. They don’t have to make any decisions right away, he just wants the young people to have a chance to spend time together. Madhuri is nervous but wants her daughter to be happy, so agrees so long as she is always with them and the young people are never alone. Shahrukh agrees, and offers to go along as an escort for Madhuri.

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They spend wonderful days visiting the temples and fields and Shahrukh takes them to the best local eating spots and so on. Shahrukh also flirts outrageously and charmingly with Madhuri, without ever crossing the line into something unacceptable to say to a married woman. Madhuri and her daughter are desi, but also very out of place in this world, Madhuri grew up in Bombay and moved to America at 18, the daughter has never been to India before. Madhuri verbally dances around with Shahrukh, and with her daughter, who are both pressuring her to let the young people be married. She keeps saying that her daughter is American, isn’t used to this life, it’s too fast, they are too young, all kinds of reasons that don’t really hold up.

Shahrukh convinces his son that he should romance the girl, tell her his whole heart just once, and if she still says “no”, they will let it go. But, they are never alone. He asks the girl to talk to her alone, and she responds by easily handing him her hotel room key. He sneaks in that night, dressed as a bellboy. He takes off the bellboy jacket once he is inside, she is in her nightgown, he confesses that he loves her and will never love anyone but her and wants to marry her, they embrace and kiss, and Madhuri walks in to find them kissing and half-dressed. She grabs the boy and slaps him and drags him out and locks him in the other room and tells him he will never see her daughter again. INTERVAL

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Post-interval, she calls Shahrukh and tells him to come collect his son. Then she goes into her daughter’s room to find her daughter crying and having a tantrum. For once, she is stern and does not relent, even when her daughter begs, forces her to take a sleeping pill and tucks her in. With her daughter asleep, she goes into the other room as Shahrukh arrives. He comes in with full apologies, tells her that his son should never have insulted her daughter in such a way, his behavior is unforgivable. But, on the other hand, since the couple is clearly in love, won’t she agree to the wedding even now? Madhuri remains firm, shows them both out, and then calls her husband in America and for the first time tells him what is happening instead of palming him off with excuses as she has until now. The husband is shocked that she would have let it go this far, reminds her that their daughter will never get better, the doctor said so after her head injury, and she should not hope for a “normal” life, it is cruel to let her think she could ever have it. Madhuri is disturbed by the whole conversation, but doesn’t react right away.

Madhuri sits silently by her sleeping daughter’s bed and flashes back to the day it happened. It started the same, her looking at her sleeping daughter, then sneaking in to bed with her husband to giggle and talk about “trying” for another baby before their daughter wakes up. And then of course her daughter wakes up and calls for her, and she groans and says “why couldn’t she have slept a little longer???” Madhuri rushes her husband out the door, gets her daughter dressed, promises to take her to the playground to run off some of her energy before she goes to her dance class. And while she was distracted, looking at her phone at the playground, her daughter climbed too high and fell. She was in a coma for a week, and when she woke up, the doctors told them that her brain would probably never develop beyond the point it was at now. Their whole lives changed, they put away their dreams of a second child, moved her back from her own bedroom on the first floor to the room next to theirs, they found her a special school, she learned how to take care of herself, but there were still the moments when she would get confused or scared or angry. She got fired from another job (working at the check out at a grocery store), and her father gave her the trip to India as a distraction.

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Somehow I am feeling Suniel Shetty as the father/husband. But NOT Athiya as the daughter!!!

The next day the daughter is still sluggish from the pills, Madhuri packs her in to the car they have hired, they are going away to the nearest big city to continue the trip. The daughter doesn’t react to anything until she sees the boy running behind the car and starts to scream and scream until the driver stops. She leaps out, they embrace, Madhuri calls for her to come, they embrace one last time and the daughter goes back to the car, sobbing.

Sad Song. Madhuri keeps looking at her daughter and imagining her different, picturing her playing with friends in high school, going to college, dancing with Madhuri. And finally picturing her with a husband and children, and then seeing that husband is Shahrukh’s son and her happy life as a bride is on his farm. She CAN have everything she deserves, there is no reason to be afraid. Madhuri goes to her room that night, and asks her if she still loves the boy from the village. She declares she will always love him. Madhuri delicately asks if she was afraid when he kissed her, she says no, it felt good. Madhuri goes into the other room and calls down to the front desk to arrange transportation back to the village.

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The original film was very sex-obsessed. But then it was the early 60s, everything was about sex and the scary scary wild baby boomers.

They arrive at the hotel to find Shahrukh waiting for them. Madhuri is surprised, but he reminds her that he said that he knew everything that happened in his village. The daughter is excited to see the son, and then upset to learn he isn’t there. Madhuri tries to sooth her as she starts a full blown tantrum in the lobby, and then Shahrukh just sweeps her up in his arms and holds her and carries her in to the lounge, sings to her a bit, and snaps to the staff to bring him an ice cream. She is calm and smiling within minutes. And while she is happily eating her ice cream, Shahrukh pulls the mother aside and softly says that he did not bring his son because the adults have things to discuss before this moves forward, promises and expectations that need to be clarified. Madhuri agrees, and carefully says that, naturally, she and her husband would be happy to offer “gifts” to his family to help celebrate the wedding (meaning dowry). Her husband has offered to wire over $20,000 (a completely lie, her husband doesn’t even know they are there). Shahrukh gets very brusk and very uncharming and says “Madame, you have misunderstood me. My family has not accepted or offered dowry for 3 generations and I do not intend to dishonor my father and grandfather and great-grandfather by going against their example. I merely wish to confirm, before my son comes and risks a broken heart again, that you have come to stay, that in a few days I will be able to take my lovely new daughter-in-law home with me”. Madhuri quickly apologizes, explains that she is confused, she has been away from India too long, and she is all alone here with no family or even her husband, please forgive her mistake. And yes, she is here to bring her daughter for good. She only has one condition, let the wedding happen very very quickly, she is eager to see her daughter settled. There is no need to wait, unfortunately her husband is unable to travel, and they have no other family to invite. Shahrukh takes her hand and warmly reassures her “you have a family now”. She smiles as something relaxes inside of her.

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Shahrukh could play the kindly calming understanding father-figure so well.

The wedding preparations move fast after that, Shahrukh takes over the hotel and brings in more and more family to meet the daughter and Madhuri. His grandmother, his great-aunt, his cousin-brother, his cousin-sister, and on and on and on.
The daughter is delighted by all of them, loves playing with the children (which the old women watch with approval), while Madhuri is a little over-whelmed. In the middle of this, Madhuri’s husband calls and asks to speak to his daughter, who casually tells him she is getting married and then is rushed off. He stays calm while talking to his daughter, but is furious with Madhuri. They have an angry phone call, he asks how he can risk burying their daughter in the middle of nowhere in India, she needs doctors and supervision and modern medicine. Madhuri stands up to him, tells him that he has to give up on the doctors and science, she is what she is, and all she needs is people to love her, and these people love her. She can have a full life here, and that is what Madhuri is going to give her.

There is one small hitch, when they go to meet the Priest and it comes out that Madhuri’s daughter is 6 years older than Shahrukh’s son. Shahrukh seems a bit concerned, doesn’t make a scene but leaves the room. Madhuri follows him and they have a very careful conversation. Shahrukh is worried that her daughter has been faking her age and her innocence, that the couple is not a good match after all, Madhuri manages to say (without putting a label on things) that her daughter is exactly as she appears. She has never been able to live without someone taking care of her, and Madhuri hoped that Shahrukh and his family would be the people who could take care of her for the rest of her life. Even if she never changes or seems to act her age. Shahrukh listens carefully and then tells Madhuri that he had always thought Indian women made the best mothers, now he is thinking Americans might be the best. He kisses her hand, and confirms that the engagement is still on.

At the sangeet, Madhuri sings and dances a love song for her daughter. Her daughter is emotional, and comes up to hug her and then tries to join in, dancing awkwardly and childishly. Madhuri has a moment of worry, and then looks out to see that the crowd is watching them with love, and smiles, and helps her daughter to dance. As they dance together, she sees her husband watching from the back of the crowd, carrying his suitcase, clearly having just arrived at the hotel. He smiles at her with tears in his eyes, seeing the same happy ending for their daughter that she does. Over a musical montage, the wedding ceremony happens. The couple is beautiful and in love, Madhuri manages to smile and leans on her husband, and when it is all over Shahrukh walks the couple over to his car to be taken away, and the daughter pauses and then turns and runs to embrace her mother one last time. Over her shoulder, Madhuri and Shahrukh exchange a look, and then the daughter is gone again, running off to her new husband and her future, bundled into the car with Shahrukh, while the camera focuses on Madhuri’s face. THE END.

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Oh, I’m happy! That turned out really well. What do you think? Is there someone better to play the Shahrukh-Madhuri parts? How about the son and daughter roles. Should it be set down south instead of north? Nagarjuna and Tabu instead of Shahrukh and Madhuri and Naga Chaitanya and Samantha as the young couple?

7 thoughts on “Another Silly Remake! Light in the Piazza, with Madhuri and Shahrukh as Delicately Flirting In-Laws

    • Oh good! I’m glad you like it, it was partly our conversation about musicals yesterday that inspired me. Plus the movie was on TV.

      On Mon, Apr 15, 2019 at 11:34 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



  1. I love it! The dad has to be SRK. He can play suave better than Suniel. I too loved the original except for George Hamilton as the Italian boy. He tried hard but struck an off note for me – wrong accent, too stiff, too American film star. Same think with Warren Beatty as the young Italian gigolo in Romancing Mrs. Stone.
    Now, a question: Indian “art films.” I enjoy the classics with music and dance, fights and family squabbles. But the slower-paced, self-consciously serious ones confuse me. I really liked October, and the O. Henry knock-off with Ranveer and Sonakshi where he romances her to get her father’s priceless store of artifacts and later repents and cares for her while she’d ill and maybe dying. But those might not be considered “artsy” enough. Last night, I believe I saw two that were, or at least purported to be: Manasarovar with the young Atul Kulkarni and Once Again with the old Shefali Shah. Neither film made sense to me. There was a lot of perplexing chatter in the first and not enough in the second. Why does the actress in Manasarovar (can’t recall who but she was very good) suddenly decide to leave her job to go find Atul after she kept turning him down? What changed? Same with Shefali in Once Again. He’s an actor. The woman who cooks for him (also very good) keeps saying no, then decides to sleep with him. A photographer snaps their photo while they’re out on a date. She’s mortified when her disapproving son sees it in the papers. But she goes back to Shefali anyway. However, he can’t commit due to some kind of dance-related trauma so she leaves him. Then, he has a mystifying, creepy epiphany dancing under the highway with a bunch of shirtless guys and tells her he loves her. Her response? “I don’t want to see you again.” Huh? But then, and I have no idea why, she changes her mind and they go away together. Is it just me or are these movies deliberately vague with long stretches of cloudy skies, sea gulls, rain-washed streets, twinkling traffic lights; on and on with nothing happening in between? I watch them to the end hoping for clarity. But it doesn’t come. Does it for anybody else? How are these films received in India?


    • Yaaaaay, I am glad you like this story too! Rossano Brassi was so charming and perfectly flirty without being offensive, I think Shahrukh could do amazing with that kind of role. He is already flirty-without-being-offensive in all his TV interviews.

      For me personally, part of what you are describing with the art films is the difference between a well-done New Wave film and a poorly done one. The French New Wave in the 1960s brought in the idea of films that purposefully are hard to grasp, are confused and self-reflective and don’t follow the usual rules of narrative or camera work or editing. When done well, they keep the audience on their toes, make you aware that this is a film and fake but real at the same time. Since the 1960s, the style has gotten picked apart and evolved and changed in a whole variety of ways, and combined with neorealism and all kinds of things. When done well, you end up with something like Midnight Cowboy that is kind of beautiful and odd and goes up and down and everywhere and yet makes sense somehow. Or Koode. The Malayalam industry is really really good at these types of films, where the narrative just sort of flows around and random beautiful images or visual metaphors are inserted and yet it still works. Lootera, the O. Henry film, is by Vikramaditya Motwane who has only made a few films and is currently working on Sacred Games for Netflix. I find his stuff amazing, his films are all different in style and yet he captures each style perfectly.

      The problem is, I think, the New Wave filming style is kind of immediately showy and noticeable. It’s easy to do something with lots of shots of cloudy skies and long silences and dialogue that doesn’t really say anything and make critics and film people go “oh wow! It’s groundbreaking and different and blah blah”. Because it takes you out of the film, it makes you think about how the film was made instead of just losing yourself within it. Especially in Hindi where the traditional film style is so different, no hidden emotions, all Id, these kinds of films, I think, get credit for being better than they are. The critics and film festivals like them, but they don’t really play in theaters. Well, they didn’t used to, but since the regular people can’t afford movies any more, they are playing in theaters more and more.

      It is possible to mix the genres a bit, I think Kapoor & Sons and Dear Zindagi did a good job of kind of long stretches of nothing and dialogue that seemed to be about nothing with big emotional outbursts and clear stories. But there’s also a lot of stuff I see from India and think “this looks like what a 3rd year film student would make in America”. Kind of the reverse of how I feel when I watch the “Bollywood” style stuff in Hollywood movies or shows and think “this is so bad, it’s what an apprentice choreographer would be ashamed to show”. It only looks good because it is different.

      Oh, for the particular movies you mentioned, Manasarovar doesn’t seem to have a wikipedia entry which is usually a sign that it isn’t actually that good of a movie. So you might have not liked it just because of that. Reflects on Life, another commentator here who is very familiar with both Western and Indian films, really liked Once Again so it’s possible there is just a level to that film (perhaps as simple as poorly translated Hindi dialogue that would have helped explain it) that would make it better for you. This wouldn’t have an affect on your understanding, but the hero is Neeraj Kabi, the heroine is Shefali Shah. Remember those names, because they are amazing and tend to usually be stuck in boring roles. But I will see a movie just for them. Shefali is in a 5 minute flashback in one film and it was basically the only reason I saw it (Brothers with Sidharth and Akshay).


  2. “…takes you out of the film…” made it all clear for me. I don’t want to be taken out. I want to be drawn in. And thanks for clarifying my mix-up. Shefali Shah (female) was very, very good. Something about Neeraj Kabi (male) made me cringe. I didn’t believe he was angst-ridden, or that he fell in love with Shefali. And that night scene with the young guys. Ew. But since you say he’s worth it, If I come across him in anything else, I’ll check it out. Atul on the other hand was adorable. But I’m glad his young pixie face matured.


    • Now that I think about it, the character that blew me away with Neeraj was someone who was supposed to be a little hard to read and “off”. Maybe he is just one of those actors that comes across that way and works best in roles that use that.

      You would probably like Dil Dhadakne Do, it has a great Shefali performance and is fun all around, good songs and good story and all that.

      On Tue, Apr 16, 2019 at 11:42 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



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