I love escaping to a world of 12 years old, when your parents had the house and food and clothes and stuff responsibilities, and you just had to solve mysteries and fight and make up with friends and so on. Usually I escape in bookform (Trixie Belden, woot-woot!), but there are two high quality TV shows (like, seriously high quality, not just kids shows) that I have been saving for a special occasion and now I am binging and I DESPERATELY want them remade in India. Only with the focus on the parents.
I guess I’m getting old, because I’m watching these shows and I find myself identifying with the parents more than the kids and wanting to know more of their story. Also, sign of a high quality show, the parents actually HAVE a story, and it’s interesting. Now what I want is for these thirty-something parents to get a nice leisurely 3 hour movie about them and their kids, and secondly for these interesting unpredictable intelligent little girls to be in movies too and show folks that little girls don’t have to be “perfect” and certainly aren’t identical one to the other. Oh, also you shouldn’t get 12 year olds pregnant TAGORE. They should be making friends and solving mysteries and going to summer camp, not getting married and having kids.
The Babysitters Club
Oh The Babysitters Club! An older “cool” girl from church passed down her collection to me, and I read maybe the first 5. But I kept the set, because it was a tie to the “cool” girl and made me feel cool (the cool girl is now a Lesbian minister in New Mexico last I heard, so still cool). Anyway, I was surprised by how much I remembered when I started watching the Netflix show. And surprised by how much the stories revolved around not-boys, and how different each girl was from each other, and just generally how good it was.
If you somehow missed the Babysitters Club, it’s a really simple idea for a book series. 4 middle-school girls in a nice suburban/rural town decide to join together, print up flyers, and meet 3 times a week taking phone calls and scheduling themselves as sitters. So people will know that one call gives you excellence service from one of 4 babysitters. Most of the girls come from non-traditional homes (divorced parents, melded families, a single Dad). One of them is Asian, and an artist who does terribly in school. Another has diabetes. And most of the girls have no defined physical characteristics related to race, you can picture them as “like you”, whatever you are. As a kid, reading the books, I didn’t notice those things, but as an adult I really appreciate that the author decided to reflect the world of 90s America for her readers.
Anyway, the Adult Version! There are two romances in the background early on in the series. First, our central character, the outspoken “tomboy”, is upset because her hard working single mom of 4 kids who was essentially abandoned by her husband is about to marry a very nice very rich divorced Dad who shares custody of his two kids. And second, the shy quiet daughter of the overly protective widowed father, makes a new friend with a new girl at school whose Mom just moved back to town after a divorce. Only to discover that her somewhat flakey Mom is the old high school girlfriend of her very uptight serious father!
I want to do this in India. Keep the friendship and babysitters club idea, obviously. We can have 4 girls living in a really pleasant tight knit housing complex development type place who start a babysitting club around the neighborhood. The Mom of one had a disaster arranged marriage at a young age, then went back to school and now works hard and is independent and supports her kids. Let’s say Kajol. The first client of the babysitting agency is a rich guy who has the biggest oldest house in the area (the house that was there before he sold the land for development) and got divorced a year ago but has his kids on weekends. Let’s say Shahrukh. Naturally, Kajol shows up to pick up her daughter from the job, sparks fly, he sweeps her off her feet and proposes. But then the conflict is that her kids don’t want it, they don’t trust Shahrukh to stick around, they don’t believe in the happy ending he is offering. Kajol is still going to marry him, she isn’t going to let her kids control her life like that, she is the adult. But of course Shahrukh can’t stand not to be loved and has to win them over one by one and the daughter is the longest hold out until he buys her the perfect dress to wear to the wedding, showing that he really does understand her and care for her, she isn’t just a “readymade family” for him like she was afraid.
And then the other story, which can be nicely mixed in with the first story. Shy girl is drowning under the protections of her uptight single Dad (clearly over protective because he is terrified of losing her after her mother died). Let’s say Dad is Saif. She meets a new girl in school and they become friends right away. And she learns that new girl’s parents are divorced, and she isn’t even angry or embarrassed about it! She lived in America most of her life, it’s not a big deal there. And then she goes over to the new girl’s house and meets her hippy-dippy Mom, let’s say Kareena. Saif comes by to pick her up and yell at her for not asking permission from him before she came over, but then meets Kareena and forgets why he was angry. They are super awkward with each other, the daughters have to keep coming up with reasons to throw them together. They almost break up when Kareena oversteps her bounds and helps the daughter redecorate her bedroom, but make up in time for the Shahrukh-Kajol wedding, when Saif proposes.
This is a great show from multiple angles, deals with a little boy discovering he is gay, a Black girl who gets in trouble because her hair is “too big”, has a Chinese New Year episode, lots of cool stuff. But for me, I’m completely sucked in to the adult storyline, way more than the kids, even though the kids bits are so good.
The basic conflict is adult. Our heroine, Andi Mack, learns on her 13th birthday that the woman she always thought of as her “cool older sister who comes home for visits” is actually her biological mother. And the man and woman she thought were “Mom and Dad” are actually grandma and grandpa. What the show does really well is let us see things from the side of the mother. She got pregnant as a teenager, was scared and confused, walked away because she didn’t think she was good enough or stable enough to be a Mom. And then spent 13 years feeling lost and heartbroken and missing her daughter, traveling around, having a series of shallow relationships, and sending gifts home all the time to her daughter, and visiting when she could. Now that the truth is out, she is actually trying to be a Mom, got a job, got an apartment, made a home for her daughter, puts up with the constant insults and jabs from her parents, still is just finding her way but is trying. And just to add to the interest, because Andi wanted to meet him, she reached out to her old boyfriend who didn’t even know they had a kid. In another show, he would be flakey and insecure and so on. But in this show, as soon as he shows up he is completely in love with his new daughter, stops traveling around as a working musician to take a menial job and stay nearby, even tells the Mom that he has always loved her and proposes within days of returning. Which she turns down because she wants to focus on their daughter. You see how great it is?!?!? Everyone told me it was great, and they were right. A show about a messed up family secret and a teenage pregnancy and all that where the message is “and they all love her so much that she ends up with two sets of parents”.
Anyway, Indian version! I want to start with the kid and build to the Mom. She lives in a hill station, has an idyllic life, loving parents who set strict boundaries but give her the freedom to be herself, good friends at school, a regular routine, everything safe and happy. And meanwhile we see the Mom, getting into a bar fight, leaving on her motorcycle, tough and wild and the opposite. Until, surprise! She shows up at the kid’s birthday party and is greeted happily as her cool older sister. Until late at night the girl wakes up with a nightmare and sees her Mom crying over a photo in an old box. The next day she steals the box to look through the photos, and finds one of the Mom holding her as a newborn, and their two hospital bracelets, and understands the truth. Big confusion, big anger, the Mom is brave and stands up to her parents and insists on telling the truth, tension as she also goes to the school and insists on being listed as the real guardian, and eventually when the stress levels get to high, finds some rooms to rent in the village (maybe from the local divorced woman? Someone who shares an outcast status) and moves her and her daughter into them.
I also want the father to show up early on, the daughter wants to meet him so the Mom sends him a message on Facebook and he shows up within days. She breaks the news that he has a daughter and he is all about the kid, wants to spend the day with her, takes a million photos, Dad stuff. But she realizes that he came all that way just because the Mom sent one message on Facebook, clearly he still has feelings for her.
At which point, I want to start weaving in flashbacks! To fill in the missing 13 years. We can build to the pivotal stuff, begin with simple things like showing the Dad traveling around playing music and keeping a photo of the Mom in his guitar case. Maybe getting drunk and telling his friend about how there was only one girl he would ever marry, and for some reason she ordered him away 13 years ago and he was dumb enough to leave. And we can show the Mom traveling, maybe seeing a poster for the Dad’s band and going to the show, but staying in the back so he won’t see her. We can see her getting a job babysitting a tourist’s daughter and being all sad because her daughter is the same age, getting another job working at a clothing boutique and suggesting they make clothes for kids and designing things she thinks her daughter would like, and so on. And then we can build to the most important flashbacks for both of them, for him the first time they met, when he was spending the summer working at a local hotel and playing music on Friday nights and she came to his show, still in her school uniform. They had a magical summer together, he knew her parents didn’t approve but she ran away from home and his boss let them stay together in his staff quarters. And then one day she was just gone. He went to her parents’ house to find her, braved her Dad fighting him to beg her to come with him, and she just stood there and wouldn’t leave.
And then from her side, we can build to what made her come home again now, and be ready to fight for her daughter. She was working at a bar in Goa and fell into a relationship with a white guy in a band who kind of reminded her of the Dad. It started out nice, he wrote her songs and spoiled her with presents and compliments. But then he started treating her kind of badly, expecting things of her, getting mad when she complained about things, and finally one night at a party kind of offering her around to his other white friends, because she was local and “loose” and available for anyone. She fought them off, then tried to kill herself, and ended up in the hospital where a nice therapist came to talk to her, and helped her realize that she thought she was worthless and weak, but she isn’t those things. Ever since she got pregnant as a teenager she has felt dirty and broken, that’s the reason she decided she wasn’t good enough to be a Mom, and why she kept falling into these abusive relationships and leaving every time someone cared about her. But now she is passed that and ready to go home and fight for her daughter.
Once we have the flashbacks out of the way, the second half of the film can start moving towards the happy ending in the present. Mom and Daughter slowly make peace with the grandparents, Dad sticks around and is a loyal helpful presence in their lives even though she turned down his proposal. Dad and Mom clearly still love each other and she slowly starts to open up about all the bad things that happened to her over the years, and the reasons she doesn’t feel like she has a right to marry him. He is understanding and accepting, points out that he hasn’t been a saint and always faithful over the past 13 years either. In the end, she proposes to him, and they get married in the backyard of her parents house with the whole family there.
Oh, and Mom and Dad are either Parvathy and Prithviraj,
or Kalki and ARK.
Isn’t that nice? Isn’t that happy? Don’t you want to rush off and watch those two shows?