I was trying to come up with a new idea, but I just kept cycling back to yesterday’s post, so finally I decided to lean into it and write the additional ideas that were in my head.
Kuch Kuch Hota Hai 10 Years Older and Without a Flashback
Okay, we have a little flashback. 5 minutes in silhouette (no bad youthful make-up), showing the three of them talking after graduation. Kajol is excited, she has an internship with a dance company. Shahrukh and Rani are arm in arm, Shahrukh is joining the family business and excited about marriage and a family. But as he and Rani walk in one direction and Kajol walks in the other, he suddenly turns back and he and Kajol have one last deep embrace. There is something between them that is more than friendship, even if they don’t acknowledge it.
25 years later, Shahrukh is living in the family house, running the family business, with 3 daughters (the youngest still at home. Rani died after 10 years of marriage and Shahrukh devoted himself to working 9 to 5 at the family business and then coming home and being with his daughters. A happy life, but a small one.
Meanwhile, Kajol has had a very full life. Her dance company internship turned into a position in the company, traveling the world and performing. And that turned into being a commenter on dance on television, and now she is a minor celebrity, a judge on a TV dance competition, author of a few books, and part of the Bombay art scene. And she has a younger man who is passionately in love with her, a TV producer who pursued her for months before she agreed to go to dinner with him and for years before she reluctantly agreed to an engagement. Maybe Shahid Kapoor for that role.
And then Shahrukh’s youngest daughter (the one still at home) finds an old college album and discovers a note from her mother in it, written when she was dying, talking about how she looks back at these pictures and wonders, if the time was different, if their lives were different, if perhaps Shahrukh would have been as happy or happier with Kajol than with her. She calls her sisters and they have a family meeting (the oldest is married and pregnant, the middle one is working long hours as a new doctor). After a lot of fighting and discussion, they agree that their father deserves to be happy, he has spent the past 15 years living for them, it is their turn to live for him.
The three girls work together to set the two of them up. The doctor discovers Kajol is coming to the hospital for a routine doctor’s appointment, the pregnant one arranges to be sitting next to her in the waiting room and strike up a conversation, and the youngest sabotages her car outside so she can offer a ride. Kajol ends up having coffee with her in the hospital cafeteria at the same time Shahrukh shows up having gotten a message from his pregnant daughter that she is at the hospital and needs help. Shocking meeting after many years, awkwardness, uncertainty. They’ve been living in the same city all these years but never interacted, with Kajol going to late night art parties and Shahrukh going to teacher’s meetings. The first meeting does not go well, Kajol finds Shahrukh small and uninteresting, he finds her life shallow.
But the girls don’t give up! They decide to invite Kajol to perform at a hospital fundraiser, she can’t possibly turn them down since it is for a good cause. And at the last minute they incite the crowd to encourage her to show off her basketball skills (since the performance is on the basketball court). Kajol and Shahrukh end up playing basketball and their past friendship comes flooding back.
The girls work on Shahrukh, encourage him by talking about how Kajol is clearly a lonely woman who needs someone to have fun with her. And they work on Kajol too, talking about their sad lonely widower father. Both Shahrukh and Kajol are just looking for an excuse to spend more time together anyway, if they tell themselves it is out of pity and genorisity, it is easier. And they also have lots of fun moments seeing each other’s lives, Shahrukh goes to artistic parties and starts to enjoy the kind of bohemian vibe. Kajol goes to his neighborhood party and enjoys talking with aunties and playing with kids.
But then Kajol’s fiance returns. Kajol realizes when she introduces them that, somehow, she never got around to telling Shahrukh she was engaged. Shahrukh swallows his hurt and the three of them spend time together as is proper. The 3 daughters are devastated. And on the day of Kajol’s wedding (her very small and elegant wedding), the youngest daughter shows up crying and begging her to come to her father. Kajol swallows her hurt and tries to be wise and mature about how not everyone is meant to be together. But the youngest daughter gets a call while she is there, her sister is going into labor! Her soldier husband is gone, Shahrukh is taking her to the hospital. The daughter’s scooter won’t start, without thinking Kajol rushes into her car and drives them both to the hospital. There are complications, Shahrukh is distraught (this is how his wife died), Kajol is the only one who can comfort him, and meanwhile back at her house Shahid has arrived to find her gone. He learns she is at the hospital, tracks her down and sees her holding Shahrukh’s hand in support while he comforts his youngest daughter and realizes they are a family, and quietly walks away. Only to bump into the middle daughter, rushing to tell her family it is a girl and mother and daughter are both fine. He and the middle daughter smile at each other and look back at each other. And he gives her a note for Kajol. Kajol is all happy as part of the family celebration, and then someone asks her why she is so dressed up and her face falls. But the doctor gives her the note and she smiles and reveals she was going to be married today, but she seems to have been jilted. And Shahrukh (after much nudging from his daughters) steps up and suggests that if she wants to be married, perhaps he can help with that. HAPPY ENDING WEDDING SONG.
Kal Ho Na Ho
We start with Preity and Saif meeting at an evening class. He falls in love at first sight and immediately starts hitting on her, she shuts him down by announcing she is married. He is embarrassed, but she offers to be his friend instead. And then she goes home that night to tell her husband Shahrukh all about her new friend at school and he teases her about if she is going to have an affair. Shahrukh and Preity are a charming young couple, living in an apartment in New York, joking about finding friends and finishing unpacking.
Shahrukh tracks down Saif at school and there is comedy with Saif first thinking Shahrukh is hitting on him, and then thinking Shahrukh is an angry jealous husband, before finally realizing Shahrukh just wants to invite him over to their house for dinner. The three of them start hanging out together a lot, and there is a minor plot of Shahrukh helping a romance along between two of Saif and Preity’s classmates. Preity keeps saying she doesn’t want friends, she wants more time with Shahrukh alone, he keeps blowing past her and taking on new projects, like hosting the engagement party for the classmates and so on. And then at the wedding of the classmates, Shahrukh dances too much at the reception, faints, Preity sees and helps him out quietly. And that is when the audience learns that Shahrukh is dying, he has cancer, it’s been years and years of them working on this together as a couple. And we learn through their conversations that Shahrukh wants to live as much as he can while he can, while Preity is more focused on extending his life. That’s why he wants to make friends and have fun while she wants him to stay calm and quiet and be with her.
Preity stops going to class after the health scare and pretends to be angry with Saif because she wants to keep everyone away so she doesn’t have to deal with pity. Saif calls Shahrukh to find out what he has done wrong. Shahrukh slowly leads him to the realization that his life isn’t complete if he doesn’t talk to Preity once a day, that somehow she has become his best friend and maybe more than that. He’s awkward talking this way with Shahrukh, but Shahrukh plays it off that he suspected all along and wants Saif to keep spending time with them as a couple so he can get past his “crush” now that it is out in the open. And of course, Preity doesn’t have to know. Shahrukh throws them together more and more, tells Preity that she shouldn’t hang around the hospital all the time for his treatments, she should be out doing things. And then comes the day when Shahrukh gets really really sick and tells Saif to come to the hospital. In one conversation, Saif has to process that his good friend Shahrukh is dying, and that Shahrukh is giving him the job of taking care of Preity after his death, when she will be broken by grief. Shahrukh explains that Preity has been wanting to hide away in her grief for years, he always has to push her out in the world, to make friends, to go out. Once he dies, she will try to hide away with her memories, and Saif can’t let her do that. Shahrukh will be there with him, in spirit, helping.
Shahrukh dies after that and we see a sad song montage showing Saif there to support Preity as she arranges the funeral, pays hospital bills, and so on. And then he comes round to tell her that Shahrukh arranged dance lessons for both of them before his death. Preity resists, but Saif convinces her. Over time, Saif slowly works through her resistance, helped by…GHOST SHAHRUKH!!!! He’s not just there in spirit, he’s there in “spirit”. And he does things like knocking over wine glasses to stain Preity’s shirt and get her to loosen up, or getting Saif to trip so he twists his ankle and Preity HAS to stick around and help him. Finally Preity agrees to marry Saif, after he gives her a letter Saif wrote to them both. And on their wedding day, Shahrukh is there next to her to walk her to the alter and she finally senses his presence. And then, as the service goes on, he slowly fades into nothing, his last purpose completed he can finally move on. And Preity turns to Saif and smiles, indicating that the last ghost of Shahrukh is gone from her heart as well and she can welcome a new love.
We have a few details about the Real Life Asoka’s life. His first wife was a Buddhist merchant’s daughter, unfit for royalty. They had two children, a son and a daughter, who both became Buddhist monks and missionaries. His second wife was his “chief wife” and from a fellow royal family, she took on all the duties of Queen but had no children. His third wife was a warrior of Kalinga and had a son with him. His fourth wife was the mother of his heir. And his 5th wife was his favorite in his old age, had no children by him, and out of jealousy tried to arrange the death of his heir, after which Asoka had her killed.
So what I’ve got here is one wife who was a royal partner but not a lover, one wife who was a lover but untrustworthy, one wife who was the mother of an heir but otherwise unremarkable, and finally the two wives who he seemed to have married for love (based on their unworthiness as royalty) and with whom he had children, the warrior and the Buddhist merchant daughter (his first wife). There is a really good story available here that focuses on the three woman, the friend and partner, the True Love, and the False Love. And because there is so little data available on his life, we can rewrite the details as we wish.
This is the version I would like. The first wife, the inappropriate Buddhist, is the True Love. She is his first wife after all, and the only one two give him two children (indicating that they were together for a while). I would like to start with a settled happy view of the royal household and Asoka tours between his first 3 wives. He holds court with his wife Asandhimitra, she supports him in making decisions and governing, she is appropriate when greeting foreign envoys, they are a team working together and they know each other well. Once the courtiers have left, they briefly discuss what they heard and he asks her advice on a decision. And then says he is going to leave and visit Kaurwaki, and she tells him how wise he was to marry a woman of the “enemy”, and how much she has enjoyed getting to know Kaurwaki. Asoka then goes to the training ring to speak with Kaurwaki. She is training their son and teaching him the Kalinga language, Asoka is pleased with him and glad that he seems aggressive and ready to rule. And then, finally, he goes to visit his wife Devi and their two children. This is the household where he is happiest and most at home, and the wife he truly loves. This is where he goes to have dinner and sleep at the end of the day. Maybe we even get a love song between him and Devi.
But then it all goes wrong! In a random accident (we can write something exciting and dramatic if we want), his son with Kaurwaki dies. Shahrukh is distraught, and in his distress, tells Devi that their son will need to “toughen up” because he needs to be the heir now. Devi is furious, she raised their son to be peaceful and loving and he is not suited for ruling anything. Big fight, ends with Shahrukh marrying a fourth time to a very young woman of the court who is still fertile enough to give him another child. His relationship with Kaurwaki and Asandhimitra is still good, he respects them as his Queens and listens to their opinions, Kaurwaki in fact has even more responsibilities as she craves purpose after her son’s death. But Devi is increasingly heartbroken, seeing him with another wife, seeing the way he dotes on her once she becomes pregnant. Shahrukh notices her sorrow but pretends he does not because, as king, he cannot waste time pursuing a wife when he needs to ensure his heir is born. Devi considers simply leaving the court, but Kaurwaki and Asandhimitra convince her to stay, convince her that Shahrukh needs her, and they need her, Asandhimitra can give the court status, Kaurwaki can be the warrior, but Devi is the heart of their family. And then Shahrukh’s new wife dies in childbirth. He is inconsolable, but resists turning to Devi as he feels that would be unfaithful to his dead wife. Instead he focuses on his son.
10 years later, his son gains a new tutor, a beautiful new arrival at the court. He is still estranged from Devi, and the new tutor is able to soften him up. His wives see through her immediately, but only Devi is foolish enough to warn him. He is furious, throws in her face that she is jealous and trying to hold on to something that isn’t hers any more. Devi is hurt and quietly walks away. But the new wife truly is evil. She arranges for the son to be killed, only at the last minute the executioner takes pity on him (influenced by the kindly Buddhist teachings of Devi and her children which have permeated the court) and blinds him instead. The son is adopted by a group of traveling artists, where he is also befriended by his estranged brother (Devi’s son) who is traveling as a missionary. Back at the palace, Shahrukh is spinning out as his favorite son has gone missing. His new youngest wife tries to reassure him but keeps saying the wrong thing and he starts to tire of her and grow suspicious. He haunts Devi’s quarters but neither of them are willing to make the first move and actually speak to each other. And then Devi’s son reveals that he suspects he may have met Shahrukh’s son. Devi leaves the palace with her daughter to try to find the boy. She saves him and brings him back at great personal danger and trauma. Once he finally returns and tells his story, implicating his stepmother, Shahrukh is furious and ready to order the woman to be executed. His son begs for mercy (having been influenced by Devi). Shahrukh listens to him, and acknowledges that perhaps in future that might be the right way, and he is making the right choice as a future ruler, but not today. And he has her killed. Afterwards, he goes to talk to Devi, and acknowledges that his violent actions may have ended any hope of a reunion but, as much as he loves her, he has to put his duty to his people first. And Devi comes out and gently holds him and forgives him and tells him she understands.
Happy ending, Shahrukh once again visiting his whole large family. His son is training to rule, his children with Devi are blessed as they go off as missionaries again, and he himself sits with this 3 wives, Asandhimitra on the throne, Kaurwaki standing behind with her weapons, and Devi sitting at his feet and holding his hand.