Yes, this is yet another Hollywood-India combo ideas post. Don’t care, it’s hot, I like escaping into my own mind.
Hollywood follows a firm policy of “let’s put all the women and minorities in the SAME FILM. And then we don’t have to deal with them the rest of the year”. It means those one films are a delight, totally full to the brim with amazing characters and performances from people who don’t usually get to play amazing characters. But a bit frustrating that you have to wait alllllll year (or sometimes multiple years) for that one really good women’s movie, or really good Black movie, or really good whatever.
Anyway, India can take the good and leave the bad! Let them keep making movies with interesting female roles in addition to the heroes, but also remake these great all female movies from America. And bonus, we here at DCIB can have fun recasting them.
Mona Lisa Smile
After talking about this one with Filmikudhi in the comments today, I put it on in the background while I worked and rewatched it. And it continues to be a mixture of the obvious and the unusual. I want to keep the unusual and get rid of the obvious.
The original film is set in 1950s Wellesley (top woman’s college in America). It has a pretty obvious message about the way the reactionary 1950s walked back the progress of the 1940s in terms of women’s rights. And it also has a pretty obvious performance at the center of a big eyed young new female professor Julia Roberts who magically opens the eyes of her students. I want to dump the period piece part of it, stick it right in present day India instead. And I want to dump the big eyed young new female professor and instead make it an old tough experienced professor who challenges her young students.
Oh, and I also want to dump the super rich upper class “the best” gloss of the original. There’s no real reason it has to be set at The Best Woman’s College, it could just as well be set at A Very Good Woman’s College. They all have the same history. Originally founded in a brave gesture of radical rebellion for women’s education, eventually co-opted by the establishment as a little flourish to a wife’s resume, and then sometimes re-re co-opted by radicals again. Or at least occasionally turning out a nice old-fashioned rebellious woman.
Right, here’s what I want to keep! Our central 4 female students who are very different from each other, and friends in that way you are friends without thinking about it just because it’s college and you are all there together. Until one special teacher shakes things up and their lives go in delightfully unexpected directions.
I’ll go least to most complex. Student 1, “the slut”. She drinks, she talks about sex, she has an unhealthy affair with an older teacher, and then a series of other older men, and her parents are divorced. But, surprise, she ends up graduating without being in a relationship and being a more loyal friend than all the others, all the men are just a distraction, she is ready to dedicate herself to her friendships and her own dreams.
Student 2, “the chubby one”. She has terribly low self-esteem and assumes every man is just a pity date (not helped by her friends all telling her they are finding her pity dates). At a wedding, she has what she thinks is a “pity dance” and politely tells the guy he is free to leave her alone, but he insists he actually enjoyed dancing with her and asks if he can keep seeing her. He’s nice and skinny and wears glasses and not the greatest catch either. They keep seeing each other and writing to each other and finally going on a romantic weekend away together. Until her friend convinces her that he is secretly seeing another “better” girl and the romantic weekend away was actually hiding her from his friends. She stops answer his letters, and sees him again at a dance with someone else, where he (almost in tears) explains that he only started dating this other girl because she suddenly stopped talking to him without an explanation. She is heartbroken, she ruined this good thing because of her own self-doubt. Until she hears he might be free again, and runs into the boy’s dorm to find him and declare her love and ask him to take her back. HAPPY ENDING. Surprise, the “chubby girl” and “glasses boy” end up having the most dramatic and romantic love story of them all.
Student 3, “the smart one”. She loves the challenging teacher and defends her to the other students. She dreams of law school and the teacher encourages her in that. She also has a really nice boyfriend who thinks she is wonderful and loves when she speaks up and challenges him. She gets in to law school and is putting off her boyfriend from setting a date. And then, suddenly, she elopes. The teacher tries to convince her to still go to law school, but she explains she really truly does not want to, not as much as she wants to be married to her wonderful guy and have a family with him. She might regret not going to law school some day, but not as much as she would regret not having these happy family years now. She actually puts the teacher on the backfoot, realizing that just because she chose something her teacher didn’t want for her, that doesn’t mean it’s wrong, it’s her choice and she is making it for her own reasons. HAPPY ENDING. Surprise, the smartest girl might also be someone who is sincerely looking forward to being a homemaker for now.
Student 4, “the proper one”. Her mother is the chair of the supervising board driving the school towards a conservative attitude. She takes that role among the students, challenging the teacher in class and in editorials for the school paper. She is already engaged and planning her wedding, expecting to finish her last year of school post-marriage. She has a large proper wedding, and after marriage disappears for a bit, before returning to school more difficult than ever. She snipes at all her friends, breaks up “the chubby one”s romance with her rumors, viciously attacks “the slut” for her looseness, just generally is horrible. The only time she softens is when her husband is around, and suddenly she appears scared and insecure. Until she breaks down, bursting out in anger at “the slut” for having an affair with a married man and chasing someone who doesn’t love her, until “the slut” embraces her and forces her to cry and admit her husband is cheating and she wants out of the marriage. At graduation, she announces to the teacher that she has filed for divorce, and to her mother that she is getting an apartment with “the slut” and starting a new life. Maybe law school. HAPPY ENDING. Surprise, the proper girl ended up turning out to be the one who needed to rebel the most.
You see why I so want this to be made in India? Maybe make the teacher the principal of the college who is increasingly disturbed by the conservative trend of the board and so comes out of retirement to teach again. And that’s basically it, everything else can be kept the same. 4 young heroines, all with fascinating journeys.
Another rare all female film! The stage play it is based on is literally all female, no male roles at all. 6 women in a small town supporting each other. The center of it is The Matriarch, mother of 3 boys and one daughter. Then there is The Eccentric Spinster, the Dignified Widow, and the Sexy Wise Hairdresser. And the younger generation, the Mysterious Shy Newcomer, and the Difficult Daughter.
The central plot is all about The Matriarch. First she is organizing her daughter’s wedding and worrying over her health with the stress. Then she is worried and angry when she learns her daughter is pregnant, despite the health complications. Finally she is strong and sad when her daughter slips into a coma and then dies.
Around the edges, we have the Eccentric Spinster softening just a hair towards the people around her. The Widow slowly blossoming up to live again. The Newcomer trying on various personas before finally landing on something that fits for her and starting to date a nice local boy. And the Difficult Daughter struggling with all her decisions she knows her mother will not approve of. The Sexy Wise Hairdresser obviously doesn’t change at all because she is already perfect.
So long as we keep the idea of it being about female friendships, and the central story of The Matriarch fighting for and with her daughter and then surviving her, I think we’ve got a lot of space to play around the edges! Maybe set it in a Delhi neighborhood instead of a small town? Perhaps make the Sexy Wise Hairdresser a Hijra? Give the Dignified Widow a romance? Cut the Shy Newcomer since she doesn’t really have a lot to do? Give the Eccentric Spinster more opportunities to be awesome and strong and eccentric?