Christmas Movies Made Better: Home Alone with a Desi Female Heroine in a Telugu Family Film, White Christmas in the Hindi Film Industry Post-Independence, Princess Switch Remade Totally Straight

Christmas Movies! YAAAAAAAY! I watch them, I sew, I wrap, I cook, I clean, my December goes by. They are not really made to be watched closely, I think, they are made to be thrown on the TV to stop the kids from screaming, or else to play in the background for company as you complete a thousand and one tasks.

Home Alone as a Telugu Big Family Movie with a Feminist Message

I saw Home Alone for the first time this week. When it came out I was 5, and therefore Too Young. My Dad and big sister went to see it and I stayed home with Mom. And then for 30 years I never watched it because I had it in my mind that I was Too Young. Anyway, finally saw it. And it is….not my favorite. But it could so easily be a great feminist Telugu family movie!!!

Home Alone | 20th Century Studios Family

Original plot: very large house, very large family, and our hero is the youngest who gets a bit lost in the shuffle. Everyone rushes out the door for a big family vacation and forgets the hero, who ends up staying home alone. The trick of it is, while his parents are freaking out once they realize what happened, he is actually fine. He goes to the store, he feeds himself, he does laundry. He even fights off the burglars who are trying to rob the house. And then at the end he realizes he misses his family and his family realizes they miss him and everyone is reunited.

Ready for my clever twist? There is a particular kind of (horrible) Telugu movie that is all about Family Values, meaning “a huge family living together in a combined household and blindly forgiving accepting all the men while holding the women to high standards until they are married off”. The best part of Home Alone, the real hook of it, was the idea of this large family that overlooked and discounted this one small member, and then when he was left home alone, turns out he was totally fine. His family underestimated him, and he came into his own when he was alone. Now, what if we move that to a Telugu family movie and make our protagonist into a young woman who is powerless and overlooked? Wouldn’t that be GREAT!?!?

As I see it, the family is preparing to leave for a big family wedding. At the top of the family is the patriarch (of course), and then the matriarch, and then the middle-aged sons, and then the grown sons, and then the middle-aged daughters-in-law, and then the young children, and somewhere in there lost in the shuffle are the young unmarried woman. There are three young woman, the oldest is beautiful and proper and is the bride of the wedding everyone is preparing for. The youngest is talented and just got a dancing scholarship and everyone is very proud of her. And then the one in the middle is a little quiet and plain and people keep forgetting she is around. Which is how everyone leaves for the wedding early in the morning and forgets that she is sleeping in the outhouse. Her father finally realizes it hours later and starts the long journey home, thinking his fragile inexperienced daughter will be in danger. No one else really seems to care about her, her mother is dead (another reason she is overlooked in the family) and her uncles are more worried about the family honor than her safety.

Srinivasa Kalyanam' movie review: No feel, no soul- The New Indian Express
Picture this movie, if one of the misc. young woman of the household was the heroine and got to take charge.

Back home, our heroine at first is a little bit timid, but once she realizes she really really has the house to herself, she goes crazy! She makes chai and gets to drink it first while it is hot instead of waiting for everyone else, she gets to watch the TV shows she wants to watch instead of her uncle’s news shows or her aunts soap operas or the kids cartoons, she gets to turn the fan on so it is aimed at her, everything is awesome. Eventually she runs out of some supplies and has to go into town to buy them. At which point, hmmm, I guess she gets help from the young fast talking taxi driver of the village. He figures out she is home alone and feels a little protective, but also respects her because she is successfully taking care of herself.

And then the burglar plot is introduced, Bad Men in town who know about the family wedding and are planning to break into the house. Our heroine sets traps and does all kinds of clever things to defeat them all on her own, with some help from taxi driver, only he is kidnapped at the pivotal part of the plot so she has to defend herself and rescue him.

It ends with her father coming home and being impressed with how well she took care of herself, then standing up to his family on her behalf and saying she shouldn’t just be stuck at home all the time, she should be allowed to choose her life. And then a twist of, once the family tells her she can choose (and we think she is going to choose the computer program she was dreaming about at the beginning), we cut to the family arriving at the small home of the taxi driver, because she chose to want to marry him.

I’m thinking:

Heroine: Bhumi Pednakar

Hero: Dhanush

Nice Father: Pankaj Tripathi

White Christmas Post-Independence Bombay Film Story

White Christmas! This is a long time family favorite. And I am aware that it is hokey and a bit silly, but at heart it is about something real, PTSD and post-war issues. It’s not called “PTSD” because that didn’t exist for the WWII generation, but it is about the sort of lingering effect of the war on everyone involved. To translate that to India, the first most important thing is to set it post-Independence so we can translate WWII to the independence struggle.

White Christmas, 1954 (Directed by Michael Curtiz)

The plot of the original is a romance and a touching post-war picture wrapped together. Our heroes are two successful performer/producers who met during the war and go to see a sister act as a favor to another old war buddy. They fall in love with the sisters and follow them to their next job, at a country inn. And they discover that the inn is owned by their old commanding officer who, post-war, is struggling to feel useful and worthy. They move their show to the inn to help the officer, and put on a big surprise spectacle bringing all their old army buddies together to honor their commanding officer and show him that he does matter. And get together with the sister act.

So, the sister act romance plot, that’s the easiest to translate. Obviously our heroes are successful Hindi film producers, and the sisters are struggling stars in another industry, they go to check them out, end up falling in love, and offer them a contract in Hindi film. But first the sisters have to go on location to do one last movie, our heroes follow them, etc. etc.

The trickier part of it is the WWII stuff. It has to be something almost universal in experience, but also strongly emotion and painful and stuff. The closest I can come is the independence struggle. So let’s say our two heroes were part of an independence cell in their town, that’s how they met, the older hero was a performer who did independence work, and the younger one was a student who did independence work and aspired to be an actor. Their commander in their cell was a noble brave smart man who had given up his family wealth to fight for freedom. The younger hero saved the life of the older one and then guilted him in to helping him get his start in show business. They went on to become super successful Bombay film producers. And then one of their old friends from the independence cell reached out and asked them to go see his sisters working in their little Marathi language film. They like the sisters, and the younger hero convinces the older hero to go on vacation to a country inn where the sisters are going to film a song for their next movie. They arrive to discover their wise brave noble independence commander is now impoverished and trying to scrape out a living by renting out his family home. They trick him by claiming he would do them a favor if they could rent his house for filming their big big fancy movie. The film crew takes over the inn, there is increasing romance between the young people, and in the middle of it the heroes realize their old commander needs respect more than money. So they put out a call through a film magazine interview for everyone who was part of their cell to make their way to the Maharashtrian village on Independence Day, and they surprise their commander with a big celebration of him, proving that he hasn’t been forgotten. So Sweet!

Princess Switch Remade Straight

This is already the perfect Indian movie. Our heroine is a humble baker who travels to a kingdom for their special holiday baking contest, along with her best friend and business partner. The prince is engaged to a princess who is visiting for the holidays and she looks JUST LIKE the humble baker. The princess asks to trade places with the baker for a weekend so she can live like a “normal” person. The prince is supposed to be out of town, so the baker just has to go to a few formal events. Only then of course the prince’s trip is canceled, he decides he wants to get to know his fiancee and they start to fall in love. And meanwhile the princess is having a great time being “normal” and falling in love with the baker’s best friend. In the end the truth comes out when the Wise Queen figures it out and arranges a reveal. The prince confesses his love to the baker, the princess reveals herself to the best friend and says she loves him too, happy happy!

The Princess Switch - Wikipedia

It’s just the perfect movie, right? Seeta Aur Geeta but with royal engagements and no evil relatives. Sonam Kapoor should produce and star, and Dulquer can be the best friend and Fawad can be the Prince. And it will be Everything Good.

13 thoughts on “Christmas Movies Made Better: Home Alone with a Desi Female Heroine in a Telugu Family Film, White Christmas in the Hindi Film Industry Post-Independence, Princess Switch Remade Totally Straight

    • Yes! I sometimes skip the remakes post because I’m angry those movies aren’t made. Many Margaret’s ideas are better than the real movies e.g remade Home Alone as telugu family movie – brilliant.

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      • Yes! Only with a different ending, where you realize you don’t need your family after all.

        On Sun, Dec 13, 2020 at 3:21 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • Yes! It’s the perfect Hindi movie! Not even “Indian”, gotta be Hindi, that particular kind of fairy tale Masala.

      Do you have any casting notes? And should it be set overseas (like, the Prince is a European royal with desi heritage) or set in a small kingdom in India?

      On Tue, Dec 15, 2020 at 12:18 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • I have so many backlogs and half-written comments and not written them because of moves or chores or launches.
        Sonam is PERFECT. Nobody else could do it as perfectly. And she looks adorabley Christmassy!

        Hmm. I like the idea of it being a Prince from Southern India, who’s slightly different. Inspired by your other post, maybe Rana! Not a obvious match with Sonam, but then they see past looks and Fall in Love! No Fawad then though 😦

        As for best friend, could we have instead a female best friend? because then we see MORE SWARA. And both pairings are then unusual opposites-but-not-really, because Princess!Sonam will be with someone with Blazing Sexuality and Baker!Sonam will be with someone a little rough around the edges, but gentle. Imagine a Bobby-like meeting with Baker!Sonam and Rana though!! She’s going insane not baking and just needs to make the simplest thing, even if it’s brownies, and he shows up unexpectedly and she has a smear of flour on her cheek and he just melts a little on the inside (like a gooey brownie) and she’s just concerned with baking and getting her frustration out.

        And now I go back to Excel sheets! Please send more headcanons. And also, do any readers have ties to Red Chillies, or Anushka Sharma, or Dharma? Let’s make all of your amazing remakes a reality!

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        • Wait wait Margaret. Can we also plot a Devil Wears Prada remake for Indian film?
          Miranda: Neena Gupta, maybe Madhuri?
          Andy: UGH. I don’t know! Sara? Jhanvi?
          Emily: Same as Andy! Sonam? Alia? Kiara?
          Nigel: Ayushmann?

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          • The problem with The Devil Wears Prada is they lost track of how to end it! This is the rare movie where I think inserting a romance plot would actually be hugely useful.

            Miranda: Neena Gupta, for sure

            Andy: Alia Bhatt (for once, she is the perfect age for the role)

            Emily: Sonam, for sure

            Nigel: Here is where I think we need to change it and insert a romance. Ayushmann, sure, but he is a brilliant writer Miranda pulled out of nowhere as a young man. Like, she saw a short story he wrote for his school magazine and offered him a job. He’s been working for her for 15 years but is only in his early thirties. He loves the work, the challenge of putting the magazine together, and loves Miranda, and tries to make Alia care about their work and understand why it has value even though she is all uppity and millenial about it. On the other hand, Alia sincerely respects him as a writer which he hasn’t had in a long time, so he is intrigued by her.

            And then the ending can be tidier. Alia dumps her chef boyfriend who really doesn’t understand that she just wants to work, comes to respect Neena Gupta and her other co-workers, finally is asked to do something she just isn’t willing to do and quits, then gets her dream job and learns Neena personally sent an amazing reference, calls to say “thank you” and gets Ayushmann instead, and he asks her out on a date.

            On Tue, Dec 15, 2020 at 9:31 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • Oh, I LOVE this idea! Making the best friend a woman is perfect!!!! And ties in with the princess feeling out of place and unhappy with her engagement, and with the best friend and baker never feeling anything romantical before. Yes! Sonam and Swara and Rana, ideal.

          On Tue, Dec 15, 2020 at 8:02 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Yay! So now we just need to find a producer…

            And I completely agree about the Devil Wears Prada where Andy finds a happy medium between hating her job/coworkers to being slavishly devoted. I’m still not sure about the romance aspect. I feel like I agree that the boyfriend is um. Not great. But I like that Andy is the only one to not give up a personal life, because everyone has to make their choices.

            And this story makes Ayushmann too interesting! Is he still working at Miranda’s, even though he’s been used and used again? I want a scene with just him, maybe he joins forces with Emily and becomes another her or maybe he becomes like Andy. WHO KNOWS.

            Sonam as Emily, yes. But I’m not sure Alia can pull off educated-snob. Snob, yes. Educated…kinda yes. But educated, uppity, millennial snob? I’m a little unsure. Alia definitely leans towards the likeable characters. I like Sara for this best, but Sara is a little toooo confident and sure of herself. I’d be interested in maybe a young Kajol or even Nutan or even Kareena. Not really sure about this one. Ooh, what about Sanya?

            And Neena would pull off the ‘That’s all’, so well! Or the cerulean monologue.

            IMAGINE. SAREES AND SUITS. And maybe Andy could be all ‘oh, traditional Indian is so blegh. It’s all about Western clothing or fusion wear’ and Neena just slams her down.

            It’s like a happier combination of Corporate and Fashion, still realistic, but lighter.

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          • YES! Sanya is perfect for it!!!

            And I think the way I would handle the romance is make it the real lesson Sanya learns. She comes in all snobby saying that fashion reporting and fashion magazine writing isn’t real work and no one who has any self-respect would do it. Ayushmann is kind of amused at her attitude at first, and maybe later he gets drunk and reveals she has really made him doubt himself, but the end result is Ayushmann realizing he is happy with the challenge of the job he has, and Sanya realizing she wants to different work but has no judgement for the people who choose to stay in the fashion industry. Sanya and Ayushmann coming together is a metaphor for the two worlds learning they can respect each other. I would also definitely want to tweak it so that the Ayushmann character isn’t abused by the Neena character. She challenges him and holds him to a high standard, but she also makes sure he gets full credit for all his work. Maybe there is even a scene with investors where they want to remove Ayushmann’s byline and use him as a ghost writer and Neena stands up for him privately and Sanya overhears and it changes her mind about pushing Ayushmann to quit his job?

            On Wed, Dec 16, 2020 at 2:59 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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            Liked by 1 person

  1. Srinivasa Kalyanam scarred you for life, hasn’t it? I see why it did. Home Alone in Telugu cinema with a female protagonist and that ending – I was slightly reminded of Enola Holmes. But I do see potential. Someone should think on those lines instead of, say, Miss India?

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    • Enola Holmes! Yes! That was totally what inspired me! I didn’t realize it at the time, but I have seen it, and now that you put it together, that makes perfect sense.

      On Fri, Dec 18, 2020 at 5:28 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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