I am very excited about all of these ideas! Neena is great, and up for anything, and able to do practically anything.
Headmistress-School Nurse Romance with Madhuri
This is from a suggestion from Kirre on my post about a Mona Lisa Smile remake. Our back and forth ended up making my Mona Lisa Smile ideas even more delightful, and gay-er.
Setting is an old all girls college in India. It was founded in the 1880s as a radical experiment in female education. But in the years since, it has slowly become more and more conservative. The graduates went from going on to professional success, feminist activism, fearless rebellion, to being proper young wives with a nice proper certificate to make them more appealing on the marriage market. Inch by inch, the supervising board nudges the college more and more conservative. The current headmistress, Neena Gupta, follows a policy of losing battles to win the war. She wants to keep the school open, keep the scholarship program going and the mentoring for new graduates and all those things, so she agrees to removing certain things from the syllabus, to letting girls take leave for their marriages before they have graduated, to all kind of little things. And then the school paper has an editorial about the school nurse Madhuri handing out free condoms to students after every exam, and the board is up in arms. The Neena agrees to speak to Madhuri and stop the practice. Madhuri is furious! She has been doing this since she was hired 25 years ago, as her predecessor did before her. This isn’t a return to “older values”, this is an insult to the values the school has always held. She hands in her resignation instead.
Neena is shaken by the confrontation, and surprises everyone when she comes in to work the next day and announces she is going to return to teaching, she will take the Ancient Indian History class next semester. She uses her class time to challenge her students in their concept of what “traditional Indian womanhood” is, upsetting their settled ideas of the world, but being upset in turn as she learns about their struggles in life.
As a very very good all girls college located in India, it attracts students from the upper middle-class whose families are slightly too traditional to want their daughters going overseas or studying with boys, while also being modern enough to believe in female education. We have 4 central students. One of them comes from a proper old money family, a 4th generation graduate of this school, she is the one who wrote the editorial. She was raised to believe that “Indian womanhood” means being brave and intelligent and so on, in order to support Indian Manhood. She is engaged to a childhood friend from a similar family and tries to convince herself and her friends that it is “love” while they all roll their eyes and are perfectly aware that her family is pretending it is a modern compatibility and friendship engagement, but the real reason is a business merger. She marries halfway through senior year but still plans to graduate (her new in-laws expect her to have a degree). The headmistress challenges her to keep doing the work of the class if she wants to graduate, she fights back through editorials against putting education above a woman’s “true” duty and so on. Meanwhile her life is falling apart, her husband is hitting her and cheating on her, marriage is making her miserable. She goes to her mother and in-laws for support, and they coldly tell her to “adjust”. She turns her frustration on her friends, lashing out at them for their life choices until they realize something more is happening and force her to tell them the truth. With the support of the bohemian student she most attacked, she decides to get a divorce and strike out on her own, and ends by asking for help from the headmistress with one of those post-graduate mentorship programs she set up.
The most bohemian of the central 4 is half-white. Her parents are intellectual hippies, she chose to go to this school as part of a struggle to be accepted as an Indian identity. She is the most sexually loose of the students, including ill-advised affairs with older local men. She understands partly through listening to class lectures how she is damaging herself by allowing herself to be used like that, to be seen as only sexual. She ends the film by choosing to be celibate for now, to stop wearing saris and putting on a show of her “Indianness”, and just being herself and thinking about what she wants and not what people want from her. Because of her own journey, she is the first to see and understand the problems of the first student.
And then there is the sweet happy one of the central 4. She is from a large upper middle-class family, they own a factory and are well off but not at the very top of society like some of her classmates. She doesn’t think of herself as pretty or exciting, just on the edges watching other people’s stories. And then she is surprised when a boy actually asks her to dance with him at a party. She is afraid to believe in this love affair, think she must just be using her or something because she isn’t made for grand romance, but Neena’s class lectures help her to feel beautiful and powerful and attractive and believe in her romance. She briefly spoils it all when the unhappily married student poisons her mind, but then makes a grand romantic gesture and wins the boy back. She ends the film by telling Neena she is engaged, he surprised her with a proposal, they are very happy.
Finally, the smart one. She is from a good urban family, her parents are successful professionals and children of successful professionals, she was accepted at overseas schools but chose to go to this school because her boyfriend was going to medical school nearby. She immediately responds to Neena’s teachings and begins to think about what her life could be if she didn’t marry her boyfriend as soon as they both graduated. Neena pushes her to realize what she is giving up, she already gave up school overseas for this boy, now she is giving up any chance of further studies or a career. She reaches the point of applying to law schools, before surprising Neena by announcing that she eloped with her boyfriend. Neena is shook up by this, but the student intelligently explains that she thought about all her options in life and all she is giving up, and decided it was worth it. She loves her boyfriend, she is happiest when she is with him, she will regret not having a career and more studies, but she would regret missing out on marrying him and living with him when he starts his residency far more.
But TWIST!!!! Neena has all these conversations with her students, the one who explains she is getting a divorce because a couple should be about supporting each other, the one who explains she is going to just be brave and be herself, the one who says she never thought she would find love and now she is holding on to it, and the one who says that nothing else matters as much as being with the person she loves. And it inspires her to stand up in her final class lecture and explain that she has been encouraging them to recognize different kinds of Indian womanhood, but keeping from them who she really is. She is a woman in love with another woman. And, FLASHBACK! Neena and Madhuri at their first meeting when she was interviewed for the nurse’s position and Neena was just a young history teacher. Madhuri dropped her file, Neena picked it up and handed it back, their hands touched, and they smiled. She was hired and given a room down the hall from Neena’s. They stayed up late talking, they went for long walks, they went to the movies together, and then one night when walking home from the movies, they kissed. At the end of the school year, they got a cottage together off campus. They were in love for 25 years (happy love montage), and Neena was never brave enough to say it, she wasn’t even brave enough to stop Madhuri when she left, and we get a flashback to a big fight in their cottage as Madhuri throws in her face that she is a coward who won’t even admit they are in love, and packs her bags. But her students have inspired her to be brave. And of course, just as she finishes the speech, Madhuri walks into the room having overheard the whole thing. RUN! EMBRACE!!!! KISS!!!!
May-December Romance with Sid M. (inspired by BBC’s Vera)
Neena Gupta is a tough dedicated cop. She is super smart, very impressive, and very abrasive. She will humiliate her staff in public for any small mistake, and only give praise in private. She has no family, raised by a single father who recently died and who never gave her any real love or warmth. She is past the age of marriage and starting her own family, never had any kind of romance, settled into a life around the challenges of her job and nothing else.
And then there’s Sid M. He’s a kind smart young police officer, but can’t handle the tough aggressive kind of policing most people do. He’s a bit isolated from the other officers around him. Neena takes him on because she needs a driver, and they make a surprisingly good pair. He drives her around without asking too many questions and silently brings her food and coffee before she even asks for it, and also does all the running tackling physical stuff. And he gets a job where he really respects the person he is working for and never has to feel morally wrong about anything he is doing, where he is actually helping people.
Jump forward 6 months, they are still working together and spend almost every minute together. He comes to her apartment and fusses about the mess and makes her eat and they trade off watching her favorite 90s Masala movies (she likes them because there is nothing to think about) and his favorite 50s classics (he likes them because there is so much feeling). Often he ends up sleeping on her coach. His co-workers constantly tease him about sleeping his way to the top and he mostly ignores it, until one co-workers crosses a line when he suggests that Neena is so disgusting she has to force a young man to sleep with her, at which point Sid gets into a fight with him. Neena has to talk to him and bring him up for punishment, and he refuses to tell her what the fight was about. Their relationship shifts. Neena is more upset than she can explain about Sid M. keeping secrets, and Sid M. has to figure out why he cared enough to fight for Neena.
They have to solve a mystery, an older powerful politician (so, lots of pressure to solve the case) is killed and the top suspect is his much younger wife. This brings up many conversations about May-December romances and if it is possible to love someone across an age gap. Sid M. bonds with the young widow as she describes falling for this older person she worked with (she was his secretary), and he sees himself in her story. Neena is jealous of his closeness with the widow and reaches the point of accusing him of letting his feelings prejudice him. Big fights, much anger, and then Neena sends him off to talk to witnesses just as she puts together who the killer really is (a young man jealous of the young wife) and learns that Sid M. is TALKING TO THE KILLER RIGHT NOW!!!! She rushes to save him, it turns into a hostage situation, Neena offers to sacrifice herself to save Sid M. revealing how much she loves him, Sid M. is rescued but injured. He wakes up in the hospital a hero, everyone in the office is impressed with him, no more insults or dismissals. And then they all file out and leave him alone with Neena. Who awkwardly recites a love speech from one of those 1950s classics. Which makes him laugh and tell her not to strain herself, she doesn’t have to change anything for him, he likes her like that and can’t even explain why. They kiss, HAPPY ENDING. And then HAPPY ENDING SONG.
Gender Reversed The In-Laws
This is such a great movie. A boring dentist’s daughter is marrying a nice young man and, just a week before the wedding, the two parental couples finally meet. And the groom’s father is kind of a nutball, goes off on a long rambling clearly false story at dinner, then goes into the basement to take a mysterious phone call and hides something. The next day, the groom’s father shows up at the dentist’s office to apologize and give an explanation and asks for a favor, can the dentist pick up something for him. The simple pick up job turns into a chase with guns, the dentist escapes and demands an explanation, the groom’s father says he is a spy, and trying to complete a last mission without the knowledge and support of his superiors. The two men spend the next two days going off on a wild and wacky adventure before arriving just in time for the wedding.
Okay, let’s FLIP THIS THING!!!!! Neena is the sane stable middle-class housewife. Her nice son, her pride and joy, is engaged to a very nice girl he met in college. The girl’s father is very sweet and nice, their family is a little untraditional because he took early retirement from his bank job and his wife still has some kind of demanding “consulting” job that keeps her too busy to met the other family until the last minute before the wedding. Juhi, the mother, finally shows up for a dinner a week before the wedding. She is very strange, and Neena gets very flat and uptight about it, the next day Juhi stops by the apartment to apologize and asks Neena to go shopping with her. It turns into Neena escaping from gunmen, Juhi explains that she is a spy, and so on. The two of them end up having a wacky adventure which, at some point, involves them pretending to be sexy cabaret singers.
Okay, I’m happy with all of these! Which one do you most want to see made?