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!
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?