The Archies: What makes Suhana Khan the perfect Veronica Lodge
Role Call: Veronica in The Archies is the spoilt, sincere yet misunderstood daughter of a rich self-made man. In many ways, that's Suhana Khan in real life.
Suhana Khan had both the easiest and toughest role of the lot in Zoya Akhtar's The Archies. She played Veronica Lodge, the sincere yet spoilt daughter of a rich, self-made businessman. As Shah Rukh Khan's daughter, Suhana fits into that description quite well. But in the era where people love to hate on nepo babies, she had to make her individuality seen, heard, and felt – as both an actor and the character.
Unlike previous Zoya Akhtar protagonists with daddy issues who came of age, Suhana wasn't battling a casting coup. Farhan Akhtar's Imran in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011) was abandoned by his free-spirited father (Naseeruddin Shah) when he was still in his mother's womb. When he encounters him for the first time in Spain, he comes to terms with his fatherless upbringing, he sees how selfish and insensitive his dad is. “Sorry tab bolna jab dil se nikle (Apologise only when you really feel it),” he says. But Mr. Lodge (Aly Khan) in The Archies has only pampered her silly, far from abandoning her.
He's more of an absentee father. Veronica has to go through his assistant in order to get to her father on the phone and has to wait outside his office till he's free from a call or meeting. She could've gone all Animal on him and taken to violence because her father wasn't there for her in her growing up years. But she understands, and attributes his absence to his perennially busy occupation. “He's just doing his job,” she tells her friends, and also herself.
Mr. Lodge is more in the ilk of Anil Kapoor's character from Dil Dhadakne Do (2015). He doesn't consciously gag his kid's mouth with luxury or doesn't use the marriage of his offspring as a business proposition as blatantly as the high-society Punjabi tycoon from New Delhi did. But when Veronica confronts him for the side-effects of his business, he does remind her that she's able to travel the world and afford her outrageous wardrobe because of the very same dealings. That scene is a less dramatic version of Anil's character asking his pilot son, “Kyun, tumhe plane nahi chahiye kya?”
And of course, Veronica is poles apart from Murad (Ranveer Singh) in Gully Boy (2020). She's not discouraged by her father to pursue her passion. She's a great dancer, skater, and singer. Her coming-of-age isn't like Rocky (Ranveer again) in Karan Johar's Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani, where she needs to fit into a certain image and marry a certain type to retain her family honour. Veronica is free of all those trappings, but like Suhana, is caged by being born in a family that comes with the baggage of a public perception. It's only when the public perception turns private, and her closest friends judge her for fraternizing with her father's ill motives, that she feels the crushing solitude of getting sandwiched between her biological and chosen families.
When Veronica's friends, with the exception of Betty, call her out for spilling their secret to her father, her eyes let out a disbelief that says she's pronounced guilty by the virtue of where she's born, instead of where her loyalties lie. It's similar to when those, who've hailed Shah Rukh Khan's meteoric rise to stardom sans any inbuilt support system, come for his daughter for being cast as an iconic character in an A-list director's film. Despite the fact that she had to audition like every other co-star and was selected in the role not only because of her acting chops, but also owing to the similarity in the core of her and her character. Her privilege had a part to play in her casting, but at a deeper, creative level, not in the manner that it could be labelled as nepotism.
When her brother Aryan Khan was detained a couple of years ago for possession of drugs, he was presumed to be a ‘junkie’ only because, what else is the spoilt son of an A-list star supposed to be? Before being heard or tested, he was shown the door to the dungeons. Those are the kind of fights girls like Veronica had to fight even in the otherwise progressive Anglo-Indian community back in the 1960s: of being painted with the same brush of privilege as those who she was ready to protest against, despite them being the first family she ever knew.
Trading her shoes for wheels under her feet
Suhana not only had to fight against her casting coup, but also memorable precedents of rich, vane, bossy brats like Kareena Kapoor as Poo in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham and Alia Bhatt as Shanaya in Student of the Year. Suhana couldn't hit the same note as Poo because one has to understand that unlike Veronica, Poo wasn't born in privilege. She grew up in Chandni Chowk, before her elder sister (Kajol) married a rich businessman (Shah Rukh) and relocated to London with them. Her put-on vibe and acquired taste were a product of her owning and asserting her raised quality of life.
And Suhana couldn't go the Shanaya way either because she wasn't treated as the trophy two boys were vying for. In fact, it was the other way round as she was competing, unknowingly, with her BFF Betty, a girl-next-door, for the attention of Archie, who was playing them both. Had her vanity and bossing around been even one notch higher, she could've come across as arrogant, annoying, and mean to Betty, instead of appearing as the sweet, self-loving friend that she was. Irrespective of saying “I always have good time with me,” she always yearns for and fights for good company.
No wonder why it might be Zoya Akhtar's favourite character from the comic book. Like Veronica, Zoya was raised in Bandra but being deprived of the joint family dynamics at home because of her parents' divorce, she always found a support system in friendships from all backgrounds. And that reflects in her movies. Sure, she doesn't have to rent a house in the city and has access to the who's who of the film industry, but she refuses to be defined by where she's born, instead of the films she chooses to make.
Veronica may be decked up in luxury brands from around the world. But in the song Sunoh, when she walks by the side of all her expensive heels and boots only to choose a pair of skates, she makes it heard that she's traded her shoes for wheels under her feet. All a girl wants, whether Veronica or Suhana, is to glide across the town, rocking and rolling past everything that restricts her, instead of empowering her. And that includes the very privilege she was born into.
In Role Call, Devansh Sharma decodes inspired casting choices in films and shows.
Entertainment! Entertainment! Entertainment! 🎞️🍿💃 Click to follow our Whatsapp Channel 📲 Your daily dose of gossip, films, shows, celebrities updates all in one place.