Part 1 - WHAT WORKS
~~ Singing and Dancing! ~~
Not surprisingly a lot of the elements are already there: it is a musical after all, so there is plenty of singing and dancing out of the blue.
Of course if it were made in Bollywood the actors would not be singing their own songs, they would have professionals do it for them which would result in a vastly improved soundtrack with ranges beyond (or should I say above?) the ever-present and ever-boring alto that the Hollywood actresses presented us with.
I'm thinking Sunidhi Chauhan in one of her sexy bedroom voice tones a la Beedi and Thoda Thoda Pyaar for Penelope Cruz. Then certainly Alka Yagnik for the adorable Lilli (Judi Dench). For the role played by Nicole Kidman we'd definitely need a high pitch "star" who can only be Shreya Ghoshal, whereas the disillusioned Louisa (Marion Cotillard) would do well with a more mature voice, such as Rekha Bhardwaj.
Though to their credit, I have to compliment Marion Cotillard for the wonderful Take It All. However, I admit that my enthusiasm might be influenced by how perfectly the images punch the lyrics right into your stomach.
Which leaves the leading man, Guido... A mature, testosterone-filled voice that manages to also sound vulnerable when needed? Why it has to be Vishal Dadlani! And hey since in Bollywood it's not a rule for one actor to have the same singer during the whole film, I would have Atif Aslam sing Guido's second song because no one voices a broken man better than Atif.
~~ Item Numbers! ~~
While we're talking about music, Nine does Bollywood justice by also having two item girls: Fergie and Kate Hudson. Just when I thought I would never see an item number in Hollywood!... But they fit the bill perfectly: the two stars only appear for a scene or two before their number, never to be heard of again until the end of the movie, which would be unchanged (story-wise) if these songs were skipped. Perfect!
And come on, who doesn't recognize even a few Bollywood moves here and there?
I decided to not do a dream casting of Nine in Bollywood, so I will not speculate on who would best fit each of the item numbers, though I know for sure Malaika Arora Khan would not be suitable for either of them. Maybe Mumaith Khan for Fergie? And definitely Rani would rock Kate Hudson's poor excuse of a dance number.
But I said no dream casting, so... (No really, someone ask Rani to remake that item number just for kicks, she'd be amazing!)
~~ Star-studded! ~~
Nine is a multi-starer too, a concept that Bollywood has been playing with a lot lately with some success (two out of last year's top 3 BO grossers were multi-starers). Not that Hollywood does not bank a ton of money on star-studded films that brag more than they deliver, but one where they have to all sing and dance? Come on, clearly Rob Marshall watches Bollywood, why try to hide it?
~~ Fake Accents! ~~
For better or worse (read worse) Bollywood seems to have inspired some other smaller details of Nine too such as making half of the characters speak with a terrible Italian accent that sounds more like a "Jersey Shore wannabe, born and bred in New York for 3 generations but still trying to fake it (and failing)". Sorry Daniel Day Lewis, I know you practiced speaking Italian for this, but Dante would go on a blind dishoom-spree with a machete if he were still alive to hear you.
Ok, so it's not as bad as people speaking Hungarian and trying to pass it as Italian in HDDCS, but it's right up there with the white people in Kismat Konnection and Khuda Kay Liye.
~~ Where's the Soul? ~~
Still on the bad influences of Bollywood felt in Nine, unfortunately the Hollywood film also borrowed the concept of leaving the soul at the door when remaking a movie. Granted, Nine the movie is based on Nine the Broadway musical, which in turn is based on Federico Fellini's classic Otto e Mezzo. So not sure whether it was the movie or the musical, but the surrealist anguish that makes 8 1/2 a masterpiece must have drowned while crossing the Atlantic because it is nowhere to be found in Nine. In true Bollywood fashion the movie that was initially about an artist's parched mind, searching deep into his subconscious for what were once lush sources of inspiration, has become a simple love story gone wrong and a half-hearted search for redemption. Le sigh...
But before I ruin my mood by reflecting on Hollywood's power to turn anything insightful and cerebral into an empty spectacle, on to more fun things.
Part 2 - WHAT SHOULD CHANGE
We've seen what Nine got exactly right in order to be a perfect Bollywood movie. Now the fun part will be identifying what Bollywood would change in order to make it a purebred desi production.
~~ The star! ~~
Well obviously they got the superstar part wrong! It can't be a woman, it MUST be Shah Rukh Khan! This is evident when one hears the director deliver these immortal words to his muse and superstar:
"Talk to the people who love you in our films, they’re not interested in my script! They’re interested in the way you turn your head, the way the camera looks past you to the moon... the way you smile a little as you cry, the way you really do blush for the camera...
Who even knows, but whatever else it is, it’s not my script."
Who even knows, but whatever else it is, it’s not my script."
Guido (Daniel Day Lewis) to Claudia (Nicole Kidman) in Nine.
How many women in Bollywood have so far gotten away with acting in absolutely anything, scripted or not scripted, without putting a dent in their fan base? Shah Rukh Khan on the other hand got away with a good 15 years of it.
So evidently, the superstar that this movie needs can be none other than Shar Rukh Khan. On the plus side, the scene where he is trying out costumes could be turned into something hilarious, while the scene where the tormented director confesses his yearning for his muse could be a form of art imitating life if we are to believe the rumours. Of course the director would look nothing like Karan Johar or else the meta-layer of the film would be too obvious and we'd end up with a law suit for slander. Unless the director is a woman which is a whole other can of worms so we won't go there.
~~ More Family! ~~
The family issues are already progressive enough with Guido's mother being dead (he is motherless!! Oh the horror!), but we'd make her a more simple woman instead of the diva halo that Sophia Loren is given. I'm thinking someone more in the lines of Ila Arun, with her feet on the ground and her hands deep in roti dough. As it is people don't eat enough in Nine!
~~ Ayyo Cheating! ~~
In order to be a true Bollywood movie, Nine would also have to sugar coat the whole idea of Guido being a womanizer and a manwhore in some way that would make it palatable to the Indian public. Now this would be harder to do, though as long as he redeems himself in the end and comes back, films like Salaam-e-Ishq, Life in a Metro and more recently Dum Maaro Dum have proved that he will be forgiven. To make it acceptable, he must only cheat with one woman and she must absolutely be a skank, preferably caucasian. Either that or much younger... and almost caucasian (thinking Kangana in Metro).
~~ Side plots! ~~
Also wondering if a terrorist angle or some sort of backhanded points about corruption can be added somewhere in the script? Maybe the producer can be a high paid politician laundering money through Guido's film? I mean why waste as perfectly good character when you can make him a symbol?
No? Ok at least some Hindu mythology references, something about Krishna? And a Muslim character for good measure? That could work... Yes, that could definitely work.
~~ Set Design ~~
Finally the last thing that Bollywood would change in a heartbeat: the sets!
What was up with that boring scaffolding backdrop? Is this any way to represent a country as the movie sets out to do? Are we watching Dogville or are we watching an extravaganza set in beautiful Italy? No, if we're going to have a set, it should be rich with eye catching fabrics, chandeliers, stairs that wind up, maybe some old ruins for added flavour and definitely, DEFINITELY bigger! An Opera House would do just about right I should think.
Of course the rest of the film would be shot in the exotic New York or Las Vegas because Italy is sooo 90s for Bollywood movies.
To be honest the film overall could have used some more colour. I realize that the original was shot in black and white but is that a reason to make black, white, silver and grey the only colours on the sets?
No, that won't do at all. I don't care how much they play with the lights or how symbolic the grey is for the black hole in which Guido finds himself, that just won't do. Give those girls some colour in their cheeks, give them some turquoise and lime green dresses and for crying out loud make those giant feather fans yellow or some lively colour!
Yes! Bollywood would definitely fix all that.
~~ The cherry on the cake? ~~
And because I would not be my usual sarcastic self if I ended on a nice note, the last little touch on the closing acknowledgements: no credit for the original! Mwahahahaaaa!!