Hollywood need look no further than the Indian media for movie ideas. Indian writing often combines the Indian sense of humor with an English flare for the dramatic—an indication of the lingering British influence, along with driving on the wrong side of the road and drinking tea. The content often provides awe-inspiring and sometimes morbid prose.
In some cases it takes a slightly warped sense of humor, or a penchant for black comedy to see the potential for a cinematic success. Here are five movie ideas ripped from Indian media articles.
In-sourced: Fake it ’til you make it
Times of India (TOI) reported about a fake call center busted earlier this year in New Delhi. The three suspects, one a student at Delhi University, learned about call center operations and insurance policies—the basis of their scams—working as a telesales executive at a real call center.
In this Outsourced (2006) sequel, three hard working Indian friends, one female and two males, split their grueling 16 hour days between University and the call center where they work. During a break, chai and biscuits in hand, they begin discussing easier ways of making a living. The woman suggests opening a fake call center where they can sell Americans kitschy items they buy from street vendors for a few rupees. Before long they develop a network of street vendor suppliers and a business that comes under the scrutiny of local government officials. We can throw in an American expat who sees an opportunity to make a few bucks and a love triangle needing resolution.
Schools Out: An urban success story
The TOI described an incident between an 18 year old engineering student on a motorcycle and a bus. As one would expect, it ended badly for the student, who, “In a tragic twist of fate, was mowed down by her own college bus while on her way to attend classes.”
The student gets to live in the movie version, and enjoys a year on the beach in Goa. After her school bus knocks her off her scooter, causing a broken leg—a life threatening injury in India requiring months of recovery—she meets with the Chancellor threatening to sue. The chancellor can’t afford another scandal after last year’s incident with the belly dancer at his cousin’s bachelor party, and agrees to allow a surrogate from the local community who is unable to afford college on her own to attend classes in the injured student’s stead. The surrogate gets strait A’s, meets the real student’s boyfriend, and after some climatic and potentially cataclysmic event involving the ‘real’ student, accepts a full scholarship to the university. Since Hollywood loves happy endings—and as an American, I also support that concept—the surrogate gets her education, the boyfriend, and a great career. It’s a rags to riches tale remade dozens of times because it works.
Talaq, Talaq, Talaq: Your first divorce could be your last
In another article, the TOI described some increasing problems with divorce in the Muslim community. It noted, “Sharia [Muslim law] prescribes that a person seeking divorce should utter the word talaq thrice, but over a period of time to ensure both parties have considered the move adequately.” However, like most holy works, it does not specify what exactly makes up “a period of time.” Left open to interpretation, the act of talaq is being abused by men wanting a divorce. It is quite an issue in the Muslim community, a study showing that 90 percent of women across ten states were against the system of triple talaq in one sitting.
In this Saturday Night Live-esque feature film, a dark haired, Muslim man sits at a table. He’s been considering a divorce, but unable to pull the trigger. He needs to be careful as his wife has quite a temper. He glances to the right and spies the front doorway—his primary escape route. To his left is the window. He knows there is a fifteen foot drop on the other side, but perhaps Mr. Kaleem’s awning will break his fall. That will be plan B.
As his wife enters the room he is struck with fear and decides to call it off. It’s not worth the effort tonight. Just as he’s about to open the TOI, he involuntarily yells, “talaq, talaq, tal…” He hears the thud but doesn’t initially feel the pain. Looking down, he sees his wife’s favorite cooking knife sticking out from his chest, blood pooling around the handle, his breath taken away. He’s not sure how it happened, he was resigned to putting it off another day.
The same scene is played out all over the country. Just as men already considering divorce but lacking the fortitude to go ahead with it decide to wait, they involuntarily yell ‘talaq’ thrice. In every case, it ends tragically for the men.
They scramble to find a solution to the involuntary ‘talaq.’ Finally, a doctor discovers the gene that causes men considering divorce to develop a targeted form of Tourette syndrome. Unfortunately, it’s too late. Women are quickly becoming the dominant gender, increasingly occupying greater portions of parliament, government jobs, and the police force. The men try various comedic things to regain control, but nothing seems to work. The more time passes, the more women are empowered until they’ve recreated a society based on mutual understanding and better infrastructure.
Consciously Uncoupling: An anti-love story
Sometimes, not only are the nature of the stories intriguing, the actual writing is entertaining. In the entertainment portion of the TOI, one writer described Hollywood actress Gwyneth Paltrow’s marriage troubles, noting in part, “The consciously uncoupling couple’s wedding bands kept coming on and off regularly…the couple filed for divorce in April 2015, a year after they decided to consciously uncouple.”
Gweneth is welcome to play herself in this timeless tale of love gone awry.
Our wedded couple falls asleep one night after another long day at separate offices, liaisons at different hotels, and a plan to split. They don’t discuss their planned break-up before drifting off into dreamland.
While asleep, their dreams become the new reality as they undertake a series of absurd and blundering tasks designed to lead to an eventual break up. In dreamland, anything is possible, so when they both try to move money from their bank account, they realize its all in pennies, forcing them to work together to get the cash to the new bank. When they are deciding on who gets which car, the cars come to life and act as children, embroiled in a custody battle. These ridiculous events continue until they are finally ready to be rid of each other. Their break effected, they breathe a sigh of relief, only to wake up a few minutes later and realize they are still husband and wife. Their unconscious uncoupling a failure.
To Pee or not to Pee: Sorority girls gone wild
Public urination, specifically male public urination, is a fact of life in India; however, it is rare to see a woman squatting in the open. In February 2016 TOI reported that over 400 women at the Smt Durgabai Deshmukh Women’s Technical Training Institute were peeing in public, “Forced to make a dash for the college field, terrace or an ‘abandoned’ classroom, each time they need to relieve themselves.” Of course, this makes for yet another coming of age, college story about women empowering change.
As the music fades and the scene opens, 476 women squat in the campus square to discuss their plight. Every toilet on campus is broken, forcing them to pee in the open, and they are sick of it. It is time to take a stand—no pun intended—and rectify the public peeing problem once and for all.
They pool—another great pun—around the main building intending to force the university staff to fix the toilets. At first things are working out well. They kidnap the Chancellor, as well as most of the senior school officials. But convincing the all-male staff that there is a problem is difficult; the men don’t see an issue with urinating in public. So begins the antics as the girls try fifty different tricks to convince a university run by men that women wizzing in the wide-open is not acceptable—I’m still working on the specific antics, but they will be funny.
That’s it. Five blockbusters waiting to be made. All we need is financial backing, a director, a team of writers, and talent.
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What scripts could you write from these or other headlines? Shoot back with your ideas. Who knows? Maybe we’ll be famous someday.
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Unless otherwise noted, I drew or took the photographs in the article—as lame as they may look. Sometimes drawings come from my head, other times they’re from something I saw somewhere. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is probably planned. Copyright can be found here for my original work.
Cover photo courtesy of Ahmet Yalcinkaya at unsplash.com https://unsplash.com/@ahmetyalcinkaya.