The problem with film noirs is that half the time they are more atmospheric than plot based. Makes it harder to remake them. I am going to remake another one with a good strong plot (Leave Her to Heaven), and another that I really love and which has a totally impenetrable plot (Murder My Sweet) but maybe also a role for Shahrukh. Oh, and that fanfic I wrote in the comments for Miss Briganza, in case anyone missed it. And this is a VERY LONG POST. But I hope you will read it, because there is good stuff in here.
Leave Her to Heaven
Such a great plot! It all starts as a flashback, we know in the “present” that our hero is returning from jail, so we are spending the whole film waiting for the crime and conviction that put him there. Years earlier, our hero was a young novelist who met a beautiful woman on vacation with her mother and adopted sister. They flirted and fell in love and married despite her being engaged to a young rising politician. Everything was perfect, until his crippled younger brother came to visit. The wife is jealous and irritable, and eventually takes him out on the lake and drowns him. They move in with the wife’s mother and daughter at the family home afterwards. Later, the wife gets pregnant, but then causes a miscarriage by throwing herself down the stairs. While she is recovering, the sister and husband fall in love but never acknowledge it because he is married. The heroine is jealous and confronts the husband, admits her murder, and he leaves her. She gets her vengeance by killing herself and framing her sister for her “murder”.
The two heroines are what make this great. Especially our villain heroine. She is charming and beautiful and also just slightly “off”. The whole reason they get married so quickly is because her fiance shows up in response to her cable breaking the engagement and she announces to him that she and the novelist are engaged. The novelist has no choice but to go along with it or risk insulting her, but what’s strange is that she says it so confidently, like it isn’t a lie at all, like she thinks they really were engaged and planning to marry before now. And then there’s the other heroine, who is sweet and nice, but has also learned to be careful what she says and does around her sister. Always lets her win, never gets in her way. And doesn’t really try to save the hero from the marriage, because better that the sister is happy and out of their house than still around to turn on them.
So, Indian version! Just a few plot tweaks. I would start with a flashback that establishes the heroine’s family. Maybe something in childhood showing the poor relation arriving at the big fancy house, while the sparkling charming daughter is playing with her father. The mother is kind to the poor relation, but as soon as the father pays attention to him, the charming daughter lashes out, fakes an injury and claims her cousin hurt her. The poor relation learns her lesson and starts shutting down and not drawing attention to herself. Later, the mother comes to her and indicates that she understands, and she will always love her. And then we jump forward to the father’s funeral, the adult poor relation and mother are clinging together, but the daughter is standing away from them and brushes off their advances. Later, we see them all getting on a plane together, they can’t get seats together, the daughter volunteers to sit away from the other two and ends up sitting next to a handsome novelist….Played by the same actor who played her father!!!!!
The plane is going to Benaras, they are bringing the ashes there and planning to stay for a while and mourn. The novelist is going there for research. They end up staying at the same luxury hotel, and the novelist and the daughter bond. She seems so alone and weak in her grief, clinging to him. And he is fascinated by it. The sister is around too, they have a few conversations, but as soon as the daughter appears, she rushes off. And then DRAMA. The daughter’s fiance, a rising young police officer, appears. He wants to know what she means by breaking their engagement. He is a serious and seemingly reasonable guy, tells her that he knows it was a family arrangement but he really wanted to marry her and planned to marry her, what happened? And she announces calmly that she fell in love and is engaged to someone else and they are planning to be married next week, she just couldn’t help it. The novelist is surprised, but is a stand-up guy and goes along with it.
It’s at the wedding that the hero first notices the sister. She is dressed up all pretty singing a celebration song and he can’t stop looking at her. But then the daughter shows up, and the sister quickly moves off into the background. The hero tracks her down later and asks her what happened, and she says without saying it that her sister doesn’t like it when she dances too well or too much. This slight oddness fades away during the happy honeymoon song, but comes back when they get home and she sends away his long time maid and declares that only she can cook and clean for him from now on.
And it gets weird again when he is very excited to take his little brother out of the clinic so he can live with them, now that his wife will be home all the time, and she seems less than enthusiastic. Although she agrees to go off with him to their vacation home. The sister and mother visit them there, and he enjoys talking to the sister more and more, even bonds with the mother. But is surprised to learn they are only staying a few days. The mother gently indicates that they don’t want to come between husband and wife, and accidentally reveals that she went up against her daughter before and lost, her husband picked his daughter over his wife. It’s after that visit that the wife takes the brother out for a boat ride and lets him drown. INTERVAL
In the second half, the hero is devastated by grief. The wife takes him back to the family home and he finds love and understanding from his mother-in-law and sister-in-law in a way he doesn’t from his wife. There is a nice sweet song showing him talking to his sister-in-law more and more. But the wife sees them and is furious. She wants to confront them, but her mother tries to calm her down and give her advice about how marriage is long and this is just a confusing time and so on and so on, and all she gets out of it is “I should have a baby”. She gets pregnant and at first it is wonderful, a happy love song between her and her husband, he pampers her and so on. But then he and her mother and sister start working on a nursery next to their bedroom and it gets real that this baby is going to become the center of everything. She is doubtful and confused, no one is paying attention to her, and then she throws herself down the stairs and causes a miscarriage.
She is in the hospital and everyone is paying attention to her again. But she doesn’t realize that back home her mother and sister and husband are forming a nice happy family without her. Her sister is bringing him his briefcase and tying his tie and stuff, he even forgets one morning and kisses her on the cheek when she brings him his coffee. It all comes clear to the wife when she goes home from the hospital and sees them all together. She is furious! She has a big angry sobbing confrontation with her husband, he remains strong and sane and doesn’t give in to her drama. She finally goes so far as to admit both that she killed his brother and caused her miscarriage. He is shocked, and walks out on her.
She goes to her mother and sister and has a heartfelt talk, seemingly reconciling. But in reality it is only so she can get into her sister’s bedroom and frame her for murder. She also writes a letter to her ex-fiance saying she thinks her sister is trying to kill her. And then she dies. The husband returns and is sweet and kind to her as she is dying, and then truly heartbroken at the funeral. He and the sister carefully avoid each other because they are both wracked with guilt. Until the police show up to arrest the sister and show the letter as proof.
I can’t really improve on the original. The fiance, inspired by the letter and his resentment of the husband, arrests the sister and forces the husband to testify about their relationship. At first the sister and husband try to be noble and not air the dirty linen in public. But finally, to save the sister from jail, the husband nobly admits the truth of everything. He could go to jail for his own part in things, but the fiance steps up and manages to get all charges cleared. He nobly apologizes for his own part in this, and suggests that they should all move on from the dead wife, and maybe the hero and the sister should get together and try to start fresh. The hero walks out of jail to find the sister and her mother waiting for him. He and the sister embrace.
Oh, I am happy with that! It went on way WAY longer than I thought it would, but it turned out well. Now we just have to cast this sucker:
Wife: Vaani Kapoor
Sister: Kriti Sonam
Husband/father: Ayushmann Khurrana
Mother: Neena Gupta
What do you think?
Murder My Sweet
Huh, just realized it’s another one with the “sweet” heroine versus the NUTS one. It’s not exactly virgin-vamp, it’s more “sexy-crazy” versus “caught up in and trying to escape the crazy of her family”. Also, the plot is totally crazy, so I will untangle it. A golddiger wife is being blackmailed with a threat to reveal her location to her violent ex-boyfriend. to cover the pay off, she pretends to have lost her necklace and that her friend/boyfriend will deliver the pay off and get it back. Her real plan is to kill the friend/boyfriend and frame a private eye who was hired by her violent ex to find her, killing two birds with one stone. Her stepdaughter suspects something odd is happening and waits at the pay off place, and ends up rushing to wake up and save the life of the private eye after he is knocked out. The private eye is found by the police along with the dead body of the friend/boyfriend. He suspects something strange is happening, and is even more suspicious when the stepdaughter comes to his office pretending to be a reporter. He goes out to the golddigger’s big fancy house and meets her and her husband and stepdaughter. The golddigger tries to seduce him, and then pay him off. The stepdaughter tries to pay him off and he recognizes her as the woman who saved him. He refuses the pay offs, and then is kidnapped and beaten and drugged. In the Indian version, this is where we get the INTERVAL.
He escapes and makes his way to the stepdaughter’s house (she doesn’t live in the mansion, she would rather live by herself in a tiny apartment). She makes him coffee and helps him clean up and then they go out to see her father. She is terrified that her father is the killer, that he will get in trouble, but her father doesn’t seem to think about her at all. The detective admits that he is still investigating partly because he knows there is something nasty at the center of it and he wants her to get the nastiness over with clean and easy instead of drawn out, he wants to save her. They go out to the house the murder victim was staying at and she asks why her stepmothers seduction didn’t work on him, and he admits that he isn’t interested in that kind of woman, somehow he is interested in her kind of woman instead. They kiss, and then he asks if she is trying to seduce him. She is offended and backs off, he is apologetic and realizes instantly that she had true feelings for him. Before they can talk it out, the stepmother shows up, then the violent ex who was looking for her, and finally the husband. There is a fight and a shoot-out, the private eye is blinded. He wakes up in police custody, telling this whole story. But all he wants to know is what happened to the stepdaughter, he starts telling the cops about how she is funny looking and strange, but so honest and straight and fair, and maybe after all of that he ended up falling in love with her. What he doesn’t see but the audience does is that she is in the room with him listening to the confession. She gets in the cab with him when he leaves the police station and is thrown against him and he recognizes the feel of her. He asks for a kiss, pretending he still thinks it is the cop, and she kisses him. HAPPY ENDING.
The plot is a total disaster, but the romance is perfect. A young woman with terrible self-esteem, used to her father being the only person who even likes her let alone loves her, in the shadow of her beautiful confident glamorous stepmother who her father loves more than her. And a tough guy who has seen enough of the gritty parts of the world that he can see through the superficial glamour and lies and appreciate someone who is incapable of lying or charm or anything but being herself. The set up of it all being a flashback he tells while blinded and not knowing she is in the room is perfect, she would never believe it if he said these things knowing she was there. But he doesn’t know and he is telling the truth as he honestly saw it, and he saw himself falling in love with her.
And I kind of think we can make this work with Shahrukh and Anushka! Like work really really well. Shahrukh is a middle-aged tough private eye who was thrown out of the police. He’s hired by a scary guy to find his girlfriend and fails, but suspects one of the people the talked to called her and alerted her. Seemingly unrelated, he is hired to be a bodyguard for a jewel pay off. He is knocked out, wakes up to see a woman bending over him but then passes out again. The police find him, question him about the dead body of the man who hired him. He goes back to his office the next day to find Anushka waiting, pretending to be a reporter. He sees through it, she is really bad at lying, but he is also kind of intrigued by this odd awkward young woman, especially when he asks who sent her and she bursts out that it was her own idea. She is the one selfless person in this whole thing, the one who isn’t part of some greater plot. And she is the one who is too straight and honest to fit into the scheming world.
Even while Shahrukh is flirting a little with the beautiful stepmother and trying to get under the skin of the elderly father, he finds himself looking over at the awkward and ignored Anushka in a corner. When she comes to him later to pay him off and ask him to leave it alone, he keeps trying to puzzle her out and figures out she is the one who saved his life. Without thinking it through, she is the person he goes to when he escapes from being beaten and kidnapped. And without her thinking it through, she is rude and abrupt to him but also makes him coffee and food. They go back to talk to her father, he talks about how his wife is the most important thing to him (casually insulting his daughter who is in the room with him) and when Shahrukh starts saying what they need to do know, Anushka backs him up instead of her father without thinking about that either. Until they finally get their two love scenes, first Shahrukh talking it through and realizing part of the reason he can’t let this case go is because he wants to help Anushka by getting the truth out in a way that will hurt her the least. And then later the scene where he looks at her face and tells her that he keeps thinking about her instead of her more beautiful stepmother, and they kiss. Until finally we have the culmination with Anushka sitting in the corner listening to his story, following him out of the building, and kissing in the cab.
Cute, right? And it is sooooooooo Red Chillies. No songs, just around 2 hours, location shoot in London, lowcost cast (especially if they co-produce with Anushka). And if it has no songs and is all real looking, hopefully Shahrukh can play the lead without people getting their expectations up.
As for the rest of the cast:
Stunningly beautiful stepmother: Sushmita Sen
Selfish elderly father: Anupam Kher
Gigolo/blackmailer who hires Shahrukh: Dino Morea
And finally, the Bengali period drama I wrote for Miss Braganza!
In 1900-1930, Sonakshi Sinha is the new young wife of Arjun Rampal, a widower. She arrives at his haveli and he tells her that he still loves his dead wife and they will have a marriage in name only. He spends the rest of the movie wearing glasses and period costumes for our viewing pleasure. Ranveer appears as Arjun’s young cousin-brother, come to study in the city. He sees Sonakshi drying her hair in the garden, and falls in love. But of course he cannot speak his love, because it would be Wrong. Sonakshi finds a poem he wrote about her while cleaning out his room and falls in love back. Their romance moves forward through longing glances, sighs, and slight token’s of affection like a red rose, a new hair clip, etc.
Zohra Segal, the ancient grandmother of the family, arrives to stay in the Haveli. She quickly sees all that is happening, that Arjun R ignores his young wife and Ranveer and Sonakshi are in love. She calls Sonakshi to her room and Sonakshi is surprised to see Ranveer there as well. Zohra explains that she is too old to care about appearances, only happiness. Arjun R. only remarried because his father demanded it on his deathbed. Ranveer is planning to go overseas to London, Sonakshi should go with him. Zohra will arrange things, Arjun R. will tell everyone she is dead, there will be no scandal, Sonakshi and Ranveer can start fresh. Sonakshi refuses, feeling her marriage vows cannot be broken. Sad song, as Ranveer prepares to leave and Sonakshi attempts to hide her feelings so he will not feel pity for her.
She goes to his room after he leaves for the station and sobs on his bed, then finds one final red rose and a poem he wrote her. It is too much, she gives in to her feelings, runs out of the house (the first time in the film she has left the house) and suddenly we are in the crowded streets of Calcutta. Metaphorically, she is breaking free of the trap that women live within. She runs and runs through the crowds, finds her way to the station just in time to see the train leaving. She is too late. She falls down on the platform, miserable, a crowd gathers, a voice says “I am a doctor, can I help?” It is Ranveer! (he is going to London for more medical training, earlier there was a super sexy scene where he checked her pulse and listened to her heart because Arjun asked him to when she had a slight fever) Something told him to get off the train, he couldn’t say what it was, just a feeling. They are united and leave together for London. INTERVAL
We open on Sonakshi and Ranveer. Only, things are slightly off, their language is too casual, Ranveer has grey in his hair, and they are fighting about her career plans. And then the camera pulls back outside the window to reveal Modern London. This is 100 years later, Ranveer and Sonakshi are father and daughter, descendants of the original Ranveer and Sonakshi. Sonakshi grew up in London as did her father before her and his father before him and on and on. The family has never returned to Calcutta, that was a vow the original Sonakshi-Ranveer took. But they have married people from India, Sonakshi grew up hearing her mother’s stories (let’s say Rani plays her mother) about growing up in Calcutta and going to school there before she came to London for her medical training and met Sonakshi’s father.
Sonakshi has quit her job at the ad agency and has enough savings to get by for 6 months in India, she wants to try writing a novel based on their love story, but she needs to go to Calcutta to research it. She goes out clubbing after her angry fight with her father and sings a fun club remix song that calls back to a classical folk song Sonakshi 1 sang in the first half, about dreams and flying free and stuff, and Prabhudeva surprisingly shows up to dance it with her. And then she decides to go against her parents’ wishes and go to Calcutta anyway. In Calcutta, she struggles with the language and finding an apartment and everything, but starts to blossom once she makes her apartment over (Make over song!).
Feeling more confident, she goes hunting for the old Haveli she has only seen in pictures, driving through the old part of town looking for it. She finally finds it and sneaks into the garden only to be surprised by…..ARJUN RAMPAL!!!!!! He is middle-aged and divorced, part of the Calcutta artistic and literary scene. He is also Arjun 1’s great great great great grandson, descendant of the little boy that Sonakshi 1 used to play with. After his divorce, he moved in with his elderly aunt (Zohra Segal, again) in the family mansion. He is sad and dignified and mature, and he intrigues Sonakshi.
She gets him to give her a tour of the house, and then teases him into going out clubbing with her where he surprises her by taking off his glasses and pulling her into a sexy song. She is falling more and more in love, and starts fantasizing while writing her novel that she is Sonakshi 1 and Arjun is her husband and she draws him out of his grief and brings him to life. She finally admits her feelings to Arjun, and he rejects her, because he is Damaged Goods, too old and too divorced and too Indian for this bright young beautiful London girl. Sonakshi is heartbroken but tough, goes back to being “just friends” and continues her Calcutta research. Culminating in joining in the big traditional Durga dance number (the same one that Sonakshi 1 danced in the first half) which her mother taught her. Arjun, in traditional clothes, watches her dance and is overcome, realizes maybe she will fit in his world after all.
He talks it over with Zohra Segal who encourages him, and also tells him he doesn’t have much time because Sonakshi is leaving on a plane the next morning. He rushes to the airport, runs and runs, gets out of breath (because OLD), but keeps going, finally gets to her gate just as the doors clothes. And, inspired by the past story, falls down and fakes a heart attack, and tells the airport security that his “fiancee” is on the plane, if they can just get her to come help him. Sonakshi rushes out, learns she is his “fiancee” and sees his little wink and understands everything. They kiss. Fastforward to the old Haveli all alive and happy again for their wedding, Ranveer 2 and Rani have arrived from London, Arjun’s two little girls from his first marriage (Sonakshi previously met and charmed them) are running around, and in the background Ghost Ranveer and Ghost Sonakshi and Ghost Arjun are looking down and smiling.