I’m gonna assume most Americans have seen The Quiet Man, as it is the standard Saint Patrick’s Day feel good film classic. If you haven’t, you should! It’s very pretty.
It’s set just after WWII, our hero is John Wayne, an Irish American who grew up hearing stories of the town where he was born and doesn’t remember. He made a little money and came back to buy the family farm back. Every in the village is a little suspicious of him, but welcoming, and he is very Quiet, and peaceful. Especially related to the town bully who keeps trying to start a fight with him. We, the audience, learn that he left America because he was a prize fighter and killed a man in the ring, therefore wants to hide and be quiet and peaceful for the rest of his life. He falls in love with Maureen O’Hara, and they have an electric courtship with her talking a lot and him talking almost not at all. She is the town bully’s sister and at their wedding, her brother (in a final effort to start a fight) declares he is not going to give her her “dowry”, the furniture from their house. John refuses to fight, seeing this as an insult to himself, as though he only wants Maureen for her dowry. Maureen is furious seeing her dowry as her right, her inheritance and what she has earned and wants to take with her. Maureen and John fight, and then make-up and have sex, and the next morning she leaves him. Finally, this gets him to stand up and make a fuss and fight her brother. He wins the fight, and the respect of her brother and the rest of the village.
What makes this movie special is the immigrant story. Our hero is a broken man retreating to a place he only knows as a dream, not a reality. It does heal him, lets him open himself up to love and life again. But he is still holding back a part of himself, pretending he is living in a dream and not reality. It’s kind of, weirdly, like Swades. That very slow journey from “Wow, this feels like home” to “this is also still part of the world, I haven’t escaped all problems, just found new ones”.
Also special, the ROMANCE!!! It treads very very close to the line of violence without ever quite crossing it (at least, for me). And it’s a great example of two people choosing each other without saying it. At church, John Wayne sees Maureen O’Hara and offers her the sacred water (sorry, not Catholic, not sure what it is) something seemingly casual but actually very intimate. And then he comes home to find that Maureen has taken it upon herself to clean his whole house saying it was just being “neighborly”. The whole courtship is like that, each of them taking turns in taking the lead. He grabs her and kisses her on a rainy night, next day she announces they will be “courting” following the standard rules of the village including a chaperone at all times and he goes along with it peacefully. They have the huge fight on their wedding night, which ends with him picking her up and throwing her on the bed, next morning she takes control again by announcing she is leaving until he brings her things back into his house. And it’s a major part of the immigrant story too. John falls in love and thinks it’s all fun and games, until he finally understands that it doesn’t matter if he thinks her rules are all silly and old-fashioned, SHE thinks they are important.
Anyway, I would LOVE to do this with an Indian film. It fits perfectly with the current Indian immigrant diaspora experience. And with village wrestling and dowries and EVERYTHING.
I want it to be Ajay Devgn. So far as I am concerned Ajay=John Wayne. The basic outline can be exactly the same, stranger shows up in an Indian village and buys a tiny old cottage and farm, and word goes around he is the son of the woman who used to live there, back from America. He sees Kajol at the temple and offers her Prasad, making everyone aware of his interest. Kajol shows up and cleans his house the next day, making him aware she reciprocates. He goes along with her rules for courtship, doing all the “proper” things and finally they are married. At the same time, keeping inside that he left America after he accidentally killed a man in a boxing match and that’s why he is so peaceful now.
And here’s where I think this story would get REALLY interesting in the Indian context. Because dowry is complicated. One way of thinking of it is a man marrying a woman just for the money. The other way, is that a woman has earned an inheritance from her family, has a right to a portion of the family wealth, and when she leaves the family house she gets to take it with her. That’s the conflict that The Quiet Man drew out decades ago in a context where dowry was uncommon, and which works even better in modern India.
The key to this dowry debate is that the heroine is OLD. Her parents are dead, she has been keeping house and helping her brother run the farm for years, while saving up egg money and household money for nice things. This isn’t some gift given by a patriarch, this is money she worked for as a partner with her brother, and now at the last minute he is keeping it away from her. She just needs her new husband to stand by her side and demand her rights with her, instead of disagreeing and saying it doesn’t matter. In this community, in a farming village where work is hard and possessions are precious, it DOES matter, and if he is truly going to be one of them, he has to take his American blinders off and see that.
Anyway, those are my random Quiet Man thoughts. Have y’all seen the movie? What do you think about a remake? What about dowry?
I have never watched or heard about this movie, but now I love its plot. You’re right, it should be remade in India. The only thing I disagree with is Kajol. I don’t see her in this role.
I think you might actually like the original!!! Again, it’s very pretty if nothing else. One of the first films made in color, and everything looks beautiful.
What do you think about Rani instead of Kajol?
Ooh I love this! Tbh, I never thought of dowry in the second way you mentioned, so that was a new perspective for me!
Yes! In European context sometimes I hear it as a “marriage settlement”. As in, she is bringing this into the marriage, and she gets to keep it. Sometimes I feel like we see that in movies, the “wedding jewelry” still belongs to the new wife and she can sell it to start a business or leave it to her kids or do whatever she wants with it.
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