Smetana’s opera “The Bartered Bride” would make a spectacular Hindi movie! Just look at the plot. It’s perfect!
In the main square of a small village the townspeople are dancing and singing in praise of spring and young love. After they leave, two young lovers Marenka and Jenik sing a duet. Marenka is sad because her parents are arranging her marriage with someone she has never met, Vasek. He is the son of a rich man named Micha. She is also worried that she knows nothing about Jenik, whom she loves, because he has only recently arrived in the village. Jenik reassures her that he loves her and if she is steadfast nothing can separate them. He tells her that he came from a wealthy home, but his father’s second wife disliked him and made his life miserable, so he left home to make his own way. They pledge their love to each other. Then Marenka’s parents, Krusina and Ludmila, and the marriage broker they have hired, Kecal, appear. Kecal tells Krusina and Ludmila that Micha had an older son who disappeared long ago and is presumed dead; the younger (Vasek) is somewhat shy, which is why he hasn’t come to meet them yet (in reality, Vasek is a bit of a simpleton). Only Ludmila seems to care about Marenka’s wishes, saying she should be consulted too. Marenka overhears the discussion, and she comes out to announce defiantly that she is going to marry Jenik. The older people are scandalized by her rebellion, and Krusina goes off to talk to Micha while Kecal—greedy for his commission—decides to confront Jenik.
Poor Vasek—nervous and stuttering—enters the local inn. Marenka meets him and quickly realizes who he is, although he doesn’t recognize her. She tells him that he would be crazy to marry Marenka as she is a pain and would make him miserable, and anyway there is another pretty girl in the village who already is in love with Vasek. Confused, he swears to stay away from Marenka. Enter Kecal and Jenik. Kecal is trying to convince Jenik that marriage is a huge mistake, and tells him that he will give him 300 gulden to reject Marenka. Jenik finally says that he will take the 300 gulden as long as the marriage contract says that Marenka will marry “the son of Micha” and not name Vasek specifically. Kecal agrees. When the villagers discover that Jenik has “sold” his love for Marenka, they are outraged. Even her father Krusina is shocked.
Alone in the town square, Vasek bewails his ineptitude with women. Suddenly a circus troupe appears. The ringmaster announces that there will be a performance in the afternoon, and some of the troupe members give a mini-performance as a teaser. Vasek falls in love instantly with the circus dancer, Esmeralda. When a troupe member rushes in to say that the man who plays the performing bear is dead drunk, the ringmaster and Esmeralda convince Vasek—who is the same size—to take his place. Vasek’s parents arrive on the scene with Kecal and Vasek tells them that he refuses to marry Marenka and rushes off. Marenka and her parents arrive, and when Marenka is shown the agreement that Jenik has signed, she is heartbroken. She asks both sets of parents and the marriage broker for a little more time to think about marrying Vasek and they leave, promising to return soon. Jenik appears and is annoyingly cheerful, although Marenka is upset. He tells her not to worry, and that everything will be okay. When the parents and Kecal all return, Micha and his wife immediately recognize Jenik—he is Micha’s eldest son, whom she had driven out of the house years ago. Since the marriage contract only specifies that Marenka will marry Micha’s son, she is given the choice between Jenik and Vasek and naturally chooses Jenik. Jenik has the money, and the bride, and the town rejoices. Suddenly a shout goes up: “Save yourselves! A bear is loose!” but of course it is only Vasek. His mother drags him off, and Micha blesses Marenka and Jenik.
Can’t you just see it?
This would be my dream cast (I’m ignoring inconveniences like the passage of time and death):
Dharmendra — Jenik
Hema Malini — Marenka
Rajendranath — Vasek
Helen — Esmeralda
Pran — Kecal
Iftekhar — Marenka’s father
Mumtaz Begum — Marenka’s mother
Nazir Hussain — Micha
Lalita Pawar — Micha’s wife (Vasek’s mother/Jenik’s stepmother)
Johnny Walker — Ringmaster
Who would you cast? Who would direct? Do the music? What other operas would make good Hindi movies? (Cosi Fan Tutte comes to my mind as well, with its disguises and trickery.)