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Home»News»Ek Ticket, Ek Black Coffee: Jane Austen created impossible men women want in real life»

Ek Ticket, Ek Black Coffee: Jane Austen created impossible men women want in real life

That’s why we love to hate every interpretation of her novels…

  • Manisha Lakhe

Last Updated: 11.41 AM, Jul 25, 2022

Ek Ticket, Ek Black Coffee: Jane Austen created impossible men women want in real life

Still from Netflix's Persuasion (Image via YouTube/Screengrab)

When the news came in that they made a new version of Persuasion, women on social media just seem to combust. How dare they find a new Wentworth? Only the BBC manages to get it right, Hollywood doesn’t get the essence! O Lord, they’re going to Bridgerton Austen now! Do I want to see Wentworth’s derriere as he writes ‘the’ letter? Ugh! I’m going to hate it!

The men on social media just groaned in response, knowing they’re never going to ever match up to Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant, Ciaran Hinds or Colin Firth… Wait, let me seek out Colin Firth emerging from the water…

That’s great casting, you say? Let me finish drooling over this for a bit then: the sexiest letter-writing scene there ever was:

And then, hot damn! He takes the letter away… So you’re Anne, hoping the man will tell her he loves her, but those words, ‘I’m half agony, half hope…’

Where would we find Wentworth in real life? A man who drowns in work because he respected his woman who was persuaded to put her family first…

Where would we find Mr. Knightley, a man who indulges his woman’s matchmaking efforts and then puts his foot down and rescues her from herself… I wonder?

And yes, the proud Mr. Darcy who -because of his station in life - can afford to look down on what he considers as a very loud, very mannerless family, trying his best to stop his good friend from keeping company of their beautiful daughter and finding himself falling headlong into love with a woman with flashing eyes… 

Despite Jane Austen’s preoccupation with all things ‘society’ and with marriage, she wrote male characters that most women - even today - would want in their lives, and not just those whom they’d want to marry. What women would give to have a father like Mr. Bennet! He’s soft-spoken, well-read, very aware of the financial burdens he would be leaving his family with, very clued into the society goings-on and yet not too involved with them, and yes, he’s the man with the earliest mic-drop moment in literature when he tells his favourite daughter, ‘An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do.’

The perfect Indian casting for Mr Bennett would be Utpal Dutt, or even Anupam Kher when he’s not doing the DDLJ pops. That would bring us to the Amol Palekar, Varun Sharma-like characters in our lives. The perfect Mr Collins.

Aah! Mr.Collins! Austen even makes him the ‘bechara’ man who in real life would be the guy who gets called ‘uncle’ by the neighbourhood kids since he was 20 years old, the man who is sent off on errands no one else volunteers for, the man whom even the most flirty aunties ignore. At a family wedding in India, Mr.Collins would find himself with the grandpas, discussing religious rituals for an hour before realising that elderly men have switched off their hearing aids because the dancing was too noisy…

What is amazing about Austen writing out a character like Mr.Collins, is that she’s not as mean to him as I am. (I can still not comprehend why the beautiful Vidya Sinha would ever fall in love with characters Amol Palekar played, the ‘Everyman’, struggling to make ends meet, so ineffective a lover that he’s ready to leave Zareena Wahab because he realises her family mistook him for Vijayendra Ghatge. You want to scream at the screen, ‘Rescue your love from a marriage with another man! Don’t just leave!’ I suppose movies like Chitchor haven’t aged well. But Austen! She even manages to make us fall in love with Mr. Knightley who is ‘one and twenty years’ older than Emma! And even he is shown to feel a streak of jealousy for Mr.Churchill who spends so much time with his young friend!

Austen is kind to her female characters too. In Pride & Prejudice, even though we laugh at Mr-Collins who wants to propose to one of the Bennet girls because of ‘duty’ (I mean, why would we show Kareena Kapoor fall for Amol Palekar when there’s Colin Firth! Yes, yes, the casting may be mixed up but you know what I mean, right? Austen gets Elizabeth’s best friend Charlotte Lucas to accept Mr.Collins as he is, because she cannot dream of marrying as well as Elizabeth or Jane even. And Mr. Collins is a good husband to her. It must be tough for Charlotte to deal with an obsequious husband, but then Charlotte is happy in her quiet corner of the parsonage, not really caring that Mr.Collins would inherit the Bennett estate some day.   

Although we’ve had our hearts broken by Wickhams in our lives - handsome, dapper, witty men who may have ulterior motives for befriending us - we need to see that Jane Austen will create men who are solid, salt-of-the-Earth types, who save you when you do really stupid things when the heroes have broken our hearts. Who might they be? 

Take Persuasion. There’s Captain Benwick, inconsolable because of the death of his sister, who reads dark poetry, and Anne pulls him out of his funk… What a lovely supporting character, no? In Sense and Sensibility, there’s Colonel Brandon who loves quietly because at his grand old age of 35, Austen considered him to be over the hill (Alan Rickman plays it with so much brilliance, it took Mani Ratnam’s Kandukondain Kandukondain to fit Mammootty as Captain Bala into that role!). 

Let me take this opportunity to express my hatred towards Mansfield Park simply because the heroine lives practically like a slave in the house, her hero is the youngest son of the household (read: hence does not inherit anything, will live in a modest parsonage as a clergyman). So the hero is not as remarkable as the ones in other books, and the heroine Fanny - burdened by her poverty and station in life - agrees to marry the awful Henry who’s already had an affair with Maria… 

But now Persuasion has dropped on Netflix, we are going to forget about silly lads like Edmund Bertram and concentrate on Captain Frederick Wentworth. He’s sexier than Darcy, definitely smarter than Edward Ferrars and yes, he never stops loving Anne… Sigh! This is how it should be.

Social media will be abuzz with the news and I will participate enthusiastically in discussing if Dakota Johnson seems to be too flirtatious or if collective prayers of all women were answered. What are the prayers, you ask? Easy! ‘Please God, do not let Hollywood attempt to make everything into Bridgerton.’ The Duke’s derriere was very becoming, but as Austen would have remarked: too much familiarity with that particular body part could result in disinterest…’

About the author:
Manisha Lakhe writes on films and TV shows, is a poet, teacher, traveller and mom (and not necessarily in that order). Could sell her soul for Pinot and a good cheesecak

(Disclaimer: Views expressed in the above article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of OTTplay. The writer is solely responsible for any claims arising out of the contents of this article.)