I was laying in bed this morning thinking about waking up and somehow an old movie that I watched years ago kind of drifted into my mind and I suddenly thought “hey! That would make an excellent and interesting Indian remake for Mother’s Day”.
Has anyone seen Love with the Proper Stranger? It’s got an odd premise which it mostly pulls off. There are some rocky moments and odd scenes, but mostly it sticks to the premise and does a really good job with it.
A jazz musician and a shop girl have a one night stand. She comes to him weeks later and asks for help getting an abortion because she is pregnant. He insists on going with her for moral support, and then takes her away again when the illegal abortion clinic is dangerous and unhealthy looking. She decides to keep the baby and instead get a quick engagement to the nice boring guy her parents want her to marry. He doesn’t feel right about it, because she is in such a tough spot, and offers to marry her. She doesn’t want that because she thinks she deserves someone who really loves her. He makes a big scene and ruins her engagement and by now really is in love with her, but she doesn’t believe it. Finally he shows up with a big romantic gesture and she believes that, even if at first it was just a meaningless one night stand that turned into pity and concern and responsibility, now it is True Love after all. HAPPY ENDING.
What’s great about this movie is that it never tries to retcon the relationship, never pretends that the first night together was anything but one fun night. Or that his initial support was anything more than human concern for someone in a tough spot and acceptance of his own responsibility. In fact, it is that generally decent concern for her and lack of judgement of her that makes her start to see him in a new light. And her resistance of his help is what makes him see her in a new way. They had sex, they got pregnant, and then they fell in love. Not because it was “destiny”, but because they were stuck in a tough situation together and their true natures came out, and they liked what they saw. And I really want to see India tackle this idea too, that sex and even pregnancy can happen before love, and that love can come not because of the pregnancy but because of how they handle the pregnancy. If that makes sense.
We can even keep the hero as a musician. He’s classically trained, but leaned into jazz instead of classical. He works shifts at a nightclub and picks up money here and there, has a tiny scuzzy one room apartment, no stability in life. His old friend is now a regular composer for movies and ads and keeps pushing him to give up on jazz, come work for him as an assistant, the money’s good. But our hero doesn’t want that kind of life, he wants to keep playing the music that he loves.
Meanwhile, our heroine is a “good girl” who just started working at an office. Her co-workers regularly go to the club nearby where the hero plays. She just goes from home to the office and back again. But she enjoys hearing them talk about their fun times, the other girls who share apartments and don’t have family watching their every move. There is a running joke in the office about how they have all “tried” the musician at the club. Our heroine sees for herself the one day the office closes early and she is able to go to the club before her parents expect her home, he comes to their table and casually greets each woman with a friendly kiss on the cheek and then leaves. They talk about how great he is, nice and respectful and “safe”. He doesn’t want a girlfriend or anything else, but when you are getting over a bad break up or just want some fun, he is perfect. Our heroine just listens and watches.
Meanwhile, back home, her 3 older brothers and her father are all pushing her to get married. She is scared, even more so when she listens to her sisters-in-law talking about their “first nights”. It doesn’t sound like the women at the office who are all jokey and casual and fun about it, they talked about being scared and crying and not knowing what to expect and “thank goodness” their husbands were nice and patient. Our heroine starts panicking, considers running away (we see her packing her bag) but then stops when she sees the photo of her dead mother. And then one night she comes back from the office to find her family all gone, there was an emergency with her uncle, they rushed over to his house, her cell phone battery was dead so they couldn’t reach her, she should just stay home alone (make sure to lock all the doors) and they will be back by the time she gets back from work the next day. The heroine considers for a moment, all the things she heard keep going through her head, her scared sisters-in-law and her happy confident co-workers, how nice the hero seemed the one time she met him, and that he is working at the club right now. Finally, she goes into her sisters-in-law rooms and raids all their closets, finds the sexy dresses they have hidden away, the high heels, one of them even has a short hair wig tucked in the back. She makes herself over until she is almost unrecognizable and then goes to the club.
The hero is depressed, the club owner broke the news to him that he can’t afford to pay him any more. He’s been drinking, and now it is close to the end of the night and there is only one customer. And then a woman walks in the door, comes and sits and the table near him and smiles, and he starts singing to her. He sits at her table when he is done and introduces himself, before she can introduce herself, the owner comes over to remind them it’s closing time and they have to leave, he casually almost jokingly turns to her and asks if she wants to come back to his place, she bursts out “yes”, and he is a little drunk so he just accepts it and says “Okay!”. In the cab he starts to ask her questions, but before he can say anything, she kisses him. It turns into a full own make-out session, they stumble into his little room with the mattress on the floor, he looks in his drawer for condoms and curses when he sees he is out, and asks her “are you on the pill?” She is confused and aroused, doesn’t understand the question, says “yes” meaning the ayurvedic medicine pills her sister-in-law gives her, he says “great!” and they have sex. When it is over, he is nice, thanks her, says that was nice, and then falls asleep. She smiles a little, then sneaks out of the room, frowning at the dirty laundry and other evidence of bachelor life. She gets a cab home, sneaks back to bed, and falls asleep. The next day, she wakes up late to find her family already back, lies to them that she feels sick and that is why she is staying home from the office and slept in. And tells her father to go ahead with the engagement, she is ready.
Jump ahead, 6 weeks later she is sitting in the bathroom at work staring at a positive pregnancy test. The other women are banging on the door telling her to get out, so she stumbles out and goes back to sit at her desk. And then gets up again to tell her boss she is feeling sick and has to leave early. Her boss gives a little lecture about how this can’t keep happening again and again (clearly she has been pregnancy-sick for a while), but lets her go. She goes to the club downstairs and talks to the owner, asking about the musician. He says he doesn’t play here any more, but might be at another club. She goes from club to club and finally finds him rehearsing. He is irritated at the interruption and tries to send her out, and she blurts out “You got me pregnant”. He is really irritated then, at first thinks it is a prank one of his friends is playing on him, she is just a child in braids and a Salwar, of course he didn’t get her pregnant. She insists he did, so he starts to say that if this is a blackmail attempt, she’s got the wrong mark. He doesn’t have any money, go find some one richer to tell her lies too. Or maybe go talk to the real father of her baby, if there even is a pregnancy. She is so shocked that she just walks out without doing anything. He goes back to rehearsing, angry. But he protects her privacy, when the club owner comes in to ask what that was about, he says “nothing”. That night, he goes back to his depressing little room and flops down on the bed, feels something under the pillow, and pulls out her wig. The night comes flashing back to him, and he vaguely remembers opening his eyes in the morning and seeing her sneak out in daylight, hair down, make-up worn off, the young girl he sent away this morning. INTERVAL
Our hero has to go on his own quest, back to the first club to ask if the owner knows anything about her, he doesn’t, but he remembers talking to her and that he sent her own to another club. After visiting all of them, he finally gets a clue, an envelope she dropped with an address. Which is why, in the middle of all the hecticness of her big loud family (her two sisters-in-law are fighting because one thinks the other stole and los ther wig), the doorbell rings, she goes to answer it and finds him. Before he can say anything, her father appears to ask what is happening. He quickly invents a lie, says that he is from a magazine, she won a contest, if she goes with him right now and answers a few questions, she will get a prize. She quickly picks up on this, spins a whole story about entering the contest, she remembers that they said someone would knock on her door wearing a blue t-shirt, clearly it is him! Thanks to their lies, they are able to go off alone together and can finally talk. He apologizes, says he can’t do much but he wants to be there for her, whatever she decides. She is already sure, she wants an abortion. She just needs help figuring out where and how and how to pay for it. He promises to figure it all out and they agree to meet at her office the next day. And on the way back home, they stop at the store and buy as much cauliflower as they can with the combined change in their pockets. That is her “prize”, but she tells her family that she qualified for the next round, if she passes, he may show up at the door again!
The hero steps up after that, pawns his instruments to raise money, and asks some friends for help but he can’t tell them why. He finds a clinic that will take her, no questions asked and no waiting. And he tells her to tell her parents that she qualified for the next round, even gives her an official letter to show them. It almost goes wrong when she improvises that the next round will be televised, he has to ask one of his friends to cut her family cable connection at just the right moment. Meanwhile, at the clinic, she refuses to lie and tell the doctor they are married, and the doctor is nasty and tells her she is doing the right thing, a baby needs a father, a shameless girl like her shouldn’t have a child anyway. Wait until she is married and can have her “real” pregnancy, and she will forget this even happened. It all makes her think and when the doctor leaves, she starts to cry and explains that she doesn’t want to pretend this never happened, that she doesn’t understand how it will be different to have the baby of some stranger she just married instead of this one, that the whole thing just feels wrong to her. She isn’t ready to end the pregnancy, this isn’t her choice. The doctor comes back, she lies that she is ready, but the hero stops her and says “no”, that if she doesn’t want to do this she doesn’t have to. They will figure out another way, he promises. The doctor is furious and refuses to return their money, and she can’t go home yet because her parents are expecting her to be gone. With no money or other option, he takes her back to his place again. He tries to tidy up, changes the sheet on the bed, and tucks her in. She tells him it is silly to sleep on the floor, there is hardly space for it anyway, and then curls up against him to sleep. The next morning, he sneaks out without waking her and calls his friend and takes the job as an arranger. And he goes to the pawn shop and asks to trade in his instrument for a ring. When she wakes up, he has breakfast ready, and a ring on the tray, and asks her to marry him. Of course, she says “no”.
He is heartbroken and hurt, but tries to explain that they wouldn’t live in this place, he just took a job, a real job, he can get them a nice apartment, he can take care of her and the baby, she doesn’t have to worry about anything any more. She is hurt as well, that he thinks that is all she cares about. She knows she trapped him into sleeping with her, it was her stupid misunderstanding about pills that made all this happen, she isn’t going to force him to give up his dreams and change his whole life around. If he wants to be in the life of their baby, that’s fine, but he doesn’t have to take care of her too. She isn’t “blackmailing” him (throwing in his face the words he used just a little bit ago). If she ever gets married, it will be because of magic and fate and wonderfulness, just like in a movie.
She goes back home, her family gathers around to find out how the contest went, did she win the car? And instead she tells them the truth “there was no contest, I went to get an abortion. But I changed my mind.” They are all stunned, her brothers and fathers are angry, demand to know who the father is and when she is getting married, she tells them that the father is the man who came to the door but she doesn’t know his name (which is true) and she will never marry him. She understands if they don’t want to support her, she can support herself and her child. She is just telling them why she is canceling the wedding. And then she goes into her room and locks the door and starts packing while they argue outside. She comes out to find them all silent, the women are crying, the men are stone-faced. At the last minute, her father stops her, but just to hand her a package. He says “these are the jewels your mother put aside for your wedding. Take them with you, and never come back to this house.”
Meanwhile, the hero is sad too. He throws things around at his apartment, but can’t bring himself to get rid of the ring. He goes back to her house asking to see her, and can tell right away by their reactions that they know what happened. He isn’t afraid though, stands his ground and tells them that they are wrong for throwing her out, she did nothing wrong, if she had been married they would be thrilled with their prospective grandchild, even if the father was dead, even if the father beat her or abandoned her. What difference does it make, just because there was no ceremony? They don’t react, he sneers at them, and just walks away. He still has the ring in his pocket, tosses it in the air, then sees a woman with a baby and starts to think. He goes over to talk to her, explains that he is going to be a father soon himself, how much money does she spend per week? She starts calculating it out, diapers and clothes and washing and food, will his wife be breastfeeding? He doesn’t know. She gives him a large number, he thanks her, looks at the ring, and rushes back to the pawnshop.
And thus when she walks in to pawn her wedding jewels, he is fighting with the owner over getting the most possible money for this ring, he is going to have a baby, he needs as much money as possible. She walks out again but not before he sees her and chases after her. And then argues that this is fate. She walked into the pawnshop with her wedding jewels just as he was there, the universe and everything wants them to be together. He doesn’t care about the baby, he will be there for it and take care of it regardless, but he wants to marry her, she is strong and brave and loving and he loves her and if she will give him a chance maybe, someday, she might come to love him. And of course, she confesses that she loves him already. Ever since he showed up at her door pretending to be from the prize company and lied to her father, the only man who’s ever been able to lie to her father, she fell in love with him. And then they embrace as a crowd stares and he puts the ring on her finger.
HAPPY ENDING SONG. They get married in a registry wedding, then go to the club where they met for the reception/baby shower. His friends are all there, and she is surprised and touched to see her coworkers from the office showed up too with baby presents for her, even her grumpy boss. They pawn the ring and her wedding jewelry, stay in the little room (although they make it over and add a corner for the crib), he works part time for his friend but keeps working in the clubs too, she stays in the office and rushes off every night to watch him from the audience as she gets more and more pregnant. Finally she goes into labor during a show, they rush to the hospital, perfect baby girl. Bring her home, fighting, sleeplessness, falling asleep at their jobs. Until one day there is a knock on the door, it is her family. Her sisters-in-law come in and take the baby, her brothers take the hero down to see the new car they bought him (the same one they lied would be a prize). And, as a joke, there is a pile of cauliflower in the backseat. They happily wave good-bye to her family who are taking the baby away for the night, then go back upstairs to their now empty apartment, and she smiles and makes him turn around, and when he turns back she is wearing the wig again, laughter, kisses, Ending.
Well, that was very nice! And I don’t know if anyone made it all the way to the ending, but I am happy with it. And I am at a loss for the cast. It has to be people who can look young-but-not-too-young. Maybe Bhumi and Ayushmann? Or Shahid and Sonakshi? Or Kiara and Vicky Kaushal? Or Sushant and Sara? Or some other combination I am not thinking of? It could work really well as a southern film too, it’s a perfect Sai Pallavi role, with Nani or Naga Chaitanya or one of those other boyish type actors.