After 18 years, Rahul Mehra returns from the grave to pick up where he left off. He begins to stalk Kiran Malhotra again, only this time he becomes her escape from a tepid marriage.
This is the sequel to Yash Chopra’s 1993 blockbuster Darr. But ‘Darr 2: Love Without Fear’ is no film, TV show or web series. It’s a 17-chapter labour of love by Hayley Frances, who goes by ‘Straggletag’ on Fanfiction.net (FF).
Fan fiction is fictional writing about a character or plot from a book, movie or TV show, created by fans of that work.
FF is the world’s biggest fan fiction archive. Most of it is dedicated to Harry Potter, manga, the Marvel multiverse and the vampires from Twilight; but a growing number of its spin-offs, sequels and alternative plots are based on Indian, mainly Hindi, films. Many of these writers are Indian, but there are also fans from as far away as the US, Scotland and Indonesia.
These are fans so dedicated to Hindi movies that they spend hours on platforms like FF, Wattpad and Archive of our Own, writing fanfic that ranges in length from 500 to 100,000 words. Some have multiple chapters and a complex web of characters; others are brief, single-episode odes.
“I wanted to write a sequel to an SRK film that seemed near-impossible to continue,” says Straggletag, a 26-year-old from Scotland who is a part-time writer and photographer and has 30 fics across FF, Tumbler and Archive of our Own (a03). “I also wanted to explore Rahul’s character, figure out if he could ever be ‘normal’.”
Darr 2… has 22 reviews on FF, all appreciative. “I never thought I’d read Rahul/K-K-K-Kiran fanfiction, but here I am and I’m loving it,” reads one. “I was so riveted I am reading during a tornado warning,” says user southerngothic99. “I like your Kiran better than [the one in the] movie. Here she is more developed,” chimes a guest commenter.
This, however, is not Hayley’s most popular fic. That honour goes to An Opportunity Seized, her 32,731-word Don spin-off that has 100 reviews – no small feat, considering Bollywood fandom is still embryonic (see box above). Her body of work spans genres, with takes on Harry Potter, Twilight, the ghostbusters of Supernatural and even Serena van der Woodsen and Blair Waldorf of Gossip Girl. But Bollywood remains her favourite.
“Because in the world of fanfiction, Bollywood is still a growing fandom,” she explains. “Which means there is a chance of being more original.”
Of ships and crossovers
For every FF story that reimagines a Karan Johar film (rather common), there is a truly subversive crossover. Take Summer of the Dragonfly by Vaysh11, a Harry Potter-Draco Malfoy slash that also features SRK and a werewolf. Or Dil LOTR remix by user Mesopotamia, which transposes Lord of the Rings characters into the plot of Aamir Khan-Madhuri Dixit starrer Dil (1990).
There’s also Hum Aapke Hain Koun! The other woman to my soulmate by shannmathi, which stars not the film’s protagonists (Salman Khan and Madhuri Dixit), but Rajesh, played by Mohnish Behl in the original. As opposed to the canon where Rajesh marries Pooja (Renuka Shahane), Shannmathi’s fic pairs Rajesh with a woman named Shannaya.
Regardless of how ‘safe’ or divergent a story is, what binds all fanfic is a quest to shape existing worlds in new moulds. The result is an emphasis on the writer rather than the star or author who inspired their creativity in the first place. As screenwriter-filmmaker Joss Whedon (Avengers; Buffy; Firefly) once said: “Art isn’t your pet – it’s your kid. It grows up and talks back to you.”
“If you look for stories, you can find them everywhere. We combine the masala of Bollywood and the excitement of football,” says Zahra (who, like many fanfic writers, prefers not to reveal her full name). Zahra and sister Zainab are liberal arts students at Delhi University and also write together as @cristiano- on the online storytelling community, Wattpad. With 2,76,993 reads, their 56-chapter Omegle | Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the most popular Bollywood fics. A far out version of You’ve Got Mail, Omegle... stars Cristiano Ronaldo, Kriti Sanon, and the free chat platform, Omegle.
“We’re currently writing something called Snapchat (featuring footballer Karim Benzema and Ileana D’Cruz) and a sequel to Omegle…” shares Zainab. “Our reasons for choosing Kriti Sanon and Ileana are clear: Bollywood fics lean toward the same actresses (Deepika Padukone, Katrina Kaif, Alia Bhatt, Shraddha Kapoor). We chose actors who are not only uncommon, but also suit our characters’ personalities.”
Mauli Singh, also from Delhi, is the brains behind Wattpad’s 32-chapter The Story Of Us: His Destiny. With 2,43,822 reads, this medical romance has a jambalaya cast even directors with bloated budgets wouldn’t be able to assemble: Ranbir Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Shraddha Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, Varun Dhawan, Fawad Khan, Parineeti Chopra, Arjun Kapoor, and 13 others from film and TV. But her most experimental story is Johnny and the Hitchhikers, inspired by Ranbir Kapoor’s portrayal of Johnny Balraj in Bombay Velvet. Only here, Johnny is an insomniac who saves supernatural creatures from the clutches of humans.
“There was a time I’d devote seven or eight hours a day to writing. Then my vision worsened and I was yet to start college,” laughs the 19-year-old English honours student at Lady Shri Ram College for Women. Singh has written a novella, two novels, seven short stories, 15 poems and 40 microtales online, and is currently working on a novel and an experimental story in epistolary format.
“I like Adi-Shra (Aditya Roy Kapur and Shraddha Kapoor), but I’m a ShraBir shipper,” she says, of her eagerness to see Shraddha Kapoor and Ranbir Kapoor as an on-screen couple.
A woman’s world
When 29-year-old Terese isn’t writing fanfic for Avengers and 24, she pens one-shots on Salman Khan films. Her Nocturne is based on the Ek Tha Tiger song, Laapata. Other works take off on Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Dabangg 2.
“I like writing about Salman because he has a certain teddy bear sweetness to him,” says the American, who is a wine and craft beer retailer. “But I do one-shots because I convey emotion rather than tell a story. Plus, I’m lazy,” she laughs.
Terese, self-taught in Hindi and Urdu, also makes an observation common across the board: she’s yet to meet a male Bollywood fanfic writer.
In her 2014 treatise ‘A guide to fanfiction for people who can’t stop getting it wrong’, Aja Romano, who covers fan fiction for The Daily Dot (dubbed ‘the internet’s hometown newspaper’), said up to 95% of fanfic writers are women. “Unless you specify that you’re male, you will nearly always be assumed to be female or genderqueer until proven otherwise,” she wrote. “You’re on female turf when you enter fanfiction communities.”
“I haven’t come across a male Bollywood fanfic writer either,” says Shreya Joshi, who is SRKkifan on FF.
The 14-year-old is based in Texas and also runs two Instagram fan pages (@bollydreams and @srkkifan). Her piece de resistance though is the 36,977-word Student of the Year: The Missing Ten Years. One of FF’s most read Bollywood fics, with 124 reviews, it is her imagining of what else may have happened during the 10-year leap in Karan Johar’s 2012 film Student of the Year.
“I’ve written 20 fics, but this one was tough because the movie gives no indication of what happens in this time period,” Shreya shares. “Otherwise, it’s SRK for me. His movies, even ones like [his unsuccessful 2014 outing] Happy New Year, make me happy.”
Jokes abound in the mainstream about fanfiction’s propensity for the bizarre, but for Vivie Hardika, fanfic communities aren’t just platforms for expression. They are online communes.
“I think movies, stories, and characters stay with women longer. Since we dwell more, fanfic comes naturally to us,” says the 24-year-old, who writes for a lifestyle magazine in Jakarta. Vivie, who goes by ‘Vivie Hardika Dhawan’ on Wattpad, is a Varun Dhawan fan who ships RanDeep (Ranbir Kapoor-Deepika Padukone). All her seven fics, including Dilwale and Sanam Re, are written in Indonesian. But that doesn’t stop Indian writers from using translation tools to offer Vivie tips and constructive criticism.
This is why reviews and comments matter. Akin to a peer-reviewed system, feedback is central to the democratic nature of fanfiction. Fellow writers tweak a story by pointing out bad grammar and typos, even suggesting plot and structural changes. Such collaborations can also result in joint-authorship of a fic.
To say the fanfic universe is all love and sunshine would be a lie. In-house plagiarism and fan wars are routine, with the former in particular getting the ladies’ goats.
“I’ve had my work lifted but I let it be because although my plots are original, I too am playing in another creator’s playground, so to speak,” feels Hayley Frances. “I don’t think fanfic should be policed. Just as I hope original creators are flattered by fanfic, I’m flattered by anyone who likes my stories enough to inspire their own.”
Mauli Singh, who has reported a plagiariser to Wattpad administrators, is a firm proponent of copyrighted fanfic. What she’d like to wish away are wars between fans of Katrina Kaif and Deepika Padukone, Varun Dhawan and Sidharth Malhotra, Ranbir Kapoor and Ranveer Singh, and SRK and Salman Khan.
“There are many RanDeep fanfics where either Katrina Kaif or Ranveer Singh is the villainous ex or current girlfriend/boyfriend obstructing the union of the writer’s favourite on-screen couple,” she sighs. “Even more bizarre are the fanclubs who slug it out to claim monopoly over the same actor.”
Flame wars may render fanfiction ugly to a degree, but the community’s flights in unbridled creativity give our prosaic filmmakers a run for their metaphorical money. Theirs is a fervour rivalled, perhaps, only by Darr’s Rahul Mehra, who concludes his own life thus:
“Meri zindagi toh tumhare pyaar se shuru hokar, tumhari pyaar mein khatam ho gayi (My life began with your love, and it will end with your love, too).”
Excerpts from some of the most popular works
Of Bollywood fan fiction
What came before Kahaani
From ‘Each Morning at Ten’ by julychildren (on Archive of our Own)
On Griselda Gomez Biswas, mother of Bob Biswas, the cold-blooded killer in Kahaani (2012)
“Each time she prepares one of her special jars of pickle Griselda holds herself back severely from dunking a large spoonful of the tasteless, colourless, odourless magic concentrate into the boy’s glass of morning milk. She does it to preserve her own sanity, although a part of her suspects that even if she put it in, he would’ve found some indiscernible way to not let the concoction enter his system.
These are the instances with the boy that creep her out — that kind of low, unrelenting, yet invisible instinct for survival that bears no semblance of intelligence or anything more positive. It does not pass exams or make friends or endears little Bob to his mother or other elders. At nights lying next to her blissfully unsuspecting, slumberous husband, it instead makes Griselda Gomez Biswas’s limbs grow cold with terror. And so each morning she wakes up, pulls on that obliging smile, and goes on another round of selling pickles.”
Dostana ends with a wedding
From ‘Even Otherwise I Love You’ by Jay Tryfanstone (tryfanstone) (on Archive of Our Own)
Sameer/Sam (Abhishek Bachchan) and Kunal (John Abraham) in an A-rated Dostana (2008) with no cop-outs
“Dude,” Kunal says helplessly.
“Marry me,” says Sam. “Live with me.” His hands are on Kunal’s, skin against skin. Looking down, Kunal can see the same henna patterns that are on Sam’s fingers echoed on his own. It’s fate, given a helping hand by Sam’s mother.
“Yes,” he says, and then again, smiling, “Yes.”
“Did you say yes?” Sam asks, his hands sliding up Kunal’s arms, pulling and catching on the heavy embroidery.
“Yes,” Kunal says, and then, “Unless that makes me the girl. Sam, I’m not the-”
And then, in public and deliberately, Sam kisses him. It’s a through kiss, leisurely, the kind of kiss married people share in private affirmation of a public partnership. Kunal, knocked sideways, can do nothing after it but try and remember how to breathe.”
Meet the girl on the Dil Se train
From ‘Jinke Sar Ho Ishq Ki Chaaon’ by plazmah (on Archive of our Own)
The back story of ‘that girl on the train’ – Malaika Arora in ‘Chhaiya Chhaiya’ – from Dil Se (1998)
“Nityapriya ran, picking up her lengha so that she wouldn’t trip over it, as she fled through the doorway. She looked backwards for a split second, just in time to see the clay pot flying towards her head. Ducking and swerving…, she leapt into the waiting rickshaw, shouting for him to get moving. Her aunt stood in the doorway, screaming at her as she clutched at another pot.
“Shameless whore! May you give birth to a thousand rotten dogs! Die in the gutter for all I care!”
The older woman’s face was dark with rage, but Priya didn’t even flinch… as the hut she called home grew smaller and smaller… She had prepared herself for this moment a long time ago, and now the entire situation was bathed in a strange sense of inevitability.
“To the train station, sister?” The rickshaw driver asked... The torrential downpour from last night had ended, the sun starting to peak out from behind the clouds.
Priya smiled despite everything. “Yes, to the train station.”
Will Rahul find love in Darr 2?
From ‘Darr 2: Love Without Fear’ by Straggletag (on Fanfiction.net)
Sunil (Sunny Deol) and Kiran (Juhi Chawla) move to the US, leaving memories of Rahul Mehra (SRK) behind. But the past is still stalking them. A sequel to Darr (1993)
“Her eyes opened some time later, as her ears twitched to hear the strains of a long ago sung song. Kiran, it said, you’re mine, Kiran… He was back! Any moment now the phone would ring…any moment…now….
She woke up screaming, just as the phone rang. Sunil jerked awake…
Warily, not taking his eyes off her, he picked up the bedroom extension. “Hello?” he said into it… after a few agonising seconds, he hung up.
Kiran stared at him with wide eyes.
“There was no one there,” he said casually, “probably a wrong number,” he laughed a little, “Kiran stop it, you’re scaring even me… Isn’t it time you got over this? I know he frightened you once, but that was long ago and he’s dead now, you don’t need to worry anymore.””
Sallu, Kat on the run again
From ‘A Safe Place’ by Lastavica (on Fanfiction.net)
Tiger (Salman Khan) and Zoya (Katrina Kaif) are forced to confront reality just when things were looking up for them in Havana. A sequel to Ek Tha Tiger (2012)
“Havana was full of a happiness neither of them ever imagined was possible. So they somehow, with uncharacteristic foolishness, let themselves believe the incident would just go away. Both of them knew better, but what was done was done.
A few days later, it came back to haunt them.
The boxing match had been Tiger’s choice that day. They were having such a good time, until his smile disappeared and he spoke to her in a low voice…
“We’re being watched.”
Those were the worst words she could have heard.
Their apartment, his paintings, her ballet class, the whole life they had made was left behind in an instant.”
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