Bride and Prejudice: Bollywood Version of Jane Austin's
This was the official website for the 2005 Bollywood adaptation of the novel "Pride and Prejudice", by Jane Austen.
Some of he content is from the site's archived pages. The rest of the content is from outside reviews.
Mrs. Bennet is eager to marry her four daughters. When Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy, two rich and single gentlemen, come to town to attend a wedding, the hopes of the Bennets grow.
Sparks immediately fly as a love/hate relationship ignites between a small-town beauty (International star Aishwarya Rai) and a wealthy American (Martin Henderson - The Ring, Torque) who's visiting her modest Indian village! In a swirl of music, dance and comic misunderstandings, these opposites continue to attract and repel one another in a riotous romance that spans three continents! Featuring Naveen Andrews (TV's Lost, The English Patient) and a memorable performance from top recording artist Ashanti - love will eventually conquer all in this acclaimed treat from the director of Bend It Like Beckham!
TOMATOMETER Audience 58%
Bride & Prejudice
*** Roger Ebert
February 10, 2005
Bollywood musicals are the Swiss Army Knives of the cinema, with a tool for every job: comedy, drama, song and dance, farce, pathos, adventure, great scenery, improbably handsome heroes, teeth-gnashing villains, marriage-obsessed mothers and their tragically unmarried daughters, who are invariably ethereal beauties.
"You get everything in one film," my friend Uma de Cuhna told me, as she took me to see "Taal" in Hyderabad. "No need to run around here and there, looking for a musical or an action picture." The movie lasted more than three hours, including an intermission, which Uma employed by correctly predicting everything that would happen during the rest of the film.
Bollywood, is, of course, Bombay -- or Mumbai, as it is now called, although there has been no movement to rename the genre Mumblywood. Although Western exhibitors aren't crazy about a movie they can only show twice a night, instead of three times, Bollywood has developed a healthy audience in London, where the Bollywood Oscars were held a year ago. Now comes "Bride and Prejudice," which adds the BritLit genre to the mix.
Directed by Gurinder Chadha, whose "What's Cooking?" (2000) and "Bend It Like Beckham" (2002) make you smile just thinking about them, this is a free-spirited adaptation of the Jane Austen novel, in which Mr. Darcy and the unmarried sisters and their family are plugged into a modern plot that spans London, New York, Bombay and Goa. Darcy is an American played by Martin Henderson, and Lizzie Bennett becomes Lalita Bakshi, second of four daughters in Amritsar, India -- true to Austen, a country town.
Lalita is played by Aishwarya Rai, Miss World of 1994, recently described by at least one film critic (me) as not only the first but also the second most beautiful woman in the world. According to the Internet Movie Database, "The Queen of Bollywood" is so popular she was actually able to get away with appearing in ads for both Coke and Pepsi. I also learn she carried the Olympic Torch in 2004, has a puppy named Sunshine, and was listed by Time as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. If this review is not accompanied by a photograph of her, you have grounds for a lawsuit.
Aishwarya (ash-waar-e-ah) Rai exudes not the frightening seriousness of a woman who thinks she is being sexy, but the grace and ease of a woman who knows she is fun to look at and be around. What a smile. What eyes. Rai is not remotely overweight, but neither is she alarmingly skinny; having deliberately gained 20 pounds for this role, she is the flower of splendid nutrition.
Sorry, I got a little distracted there. Chadha, who was born in Kenya, raised in London, and is married to a Japanese-American, seems attracted to ethnic multi-tasking. Her "What's Cooking?" is set in Los Angeles and tells parallel stories about families with Vietnamese, African-American, Mexican and Jewish roots. "Bend It Like Beckham" was about a London girl from a Kenyan family with Punjabi roots, who wants to play soccer.
In "Bride and Prejudice" she once again transcends boundaries. This is not a Bollywood movie, but a Hollywood musical comedy incorporating Bollywood elements. Her characters burst into song and dance at the slightest provocation, backed up by a dance corps that materializes with the second verse and disappears at the end of the scene. That's Bollywood. So is the emphasis on the mother and father; the lovers in most American romantic comedies seem to be orphans. And she employs the Bollywood strategy for using color, which comes down to: If it's a color, use it.
Will Darcy (Martin Henderson) is a rich young New York hotel man, visiting India because his old friend from London, Balraj (Naveen Andrews) is the best man at a wedding. The Bakshi family is friendly with the family of the bride, and Mrs. Bakshi (Nadira Babbar) hopes her four daughters can meet eligible husbands at the event. That strategy works immediately for Balraj and Jaya Bakshi (Namrata Shirodkar), Lalita's older sister. For them, it's love at first sight. For Darcy and Lalita, it's not.
Darcy makes tactless remarks, disagrees with the custom of arranged marriages, seems stuck-up, is distracted by business, and creates the possibility that Lalita may have to follow her mother's instructions and marry the creepy Hollywood mogul Mr. Kholi (Nitin Chandra Ganatra). Things could be worse; Harvey Weinstein is also visiting India. We know Lalita won't really marry Mr. Kholi, since he is never provided with a first name, but in stories of this sort it's necessary for Darby and Lalita to rub each other the wrong way, so that later they can rub each other the right way.
This plot, recycled from Austen, is the clothesline for a series of dance numbers that, like Hong Kong action sequences, are set in unlikely locations and use props found there; how else to explain the sequence set in, yes, a Mexican restaurant? Even the most strenuous dances are intercut with perfectly composed closeups of Aishwarya Rai, never sweaty, never short of breath. What a smile. Did I say that?
Bride & Prejudice
Friday 8 October 2004
It has been many years since the late Edward W Said shook up Jane Austen scholarship by identifying hidden lineaments of empire in her writings - fictions, he said, that so far from solely reflecting local Englishness, are actually subject to geo-political determinants of capital and power. In her trendy movie version of Mansfield Park five years ago, director Patricia Rozema took up this interpretative challenge and had her Fanny Price fully aware of Sir Thomas Bertram's plantation in foreign parts and the exploitative foundation of his massive wealth.
So is Gurinder Chadha's all-singing, all-dancing new Bollywood-Austen spin Bride and Prejudice in the same fashionable vein? Not quite. In fact, it is sublimely indifferent to these challenging perspectives, and maybe that's a relief. But for all that it whisks its characters across oceans and continents - to London and LA and Amritsar - her film cheerfully invents whole new dimensions of parochialness and shallowness, vast new acres of unreflecting naivety, that weren't in the original. All the subtlety, all the light and shade, all the dark undercurrents of loneliness and helplessness have been merrily chucked overboard, as if Chadha can't see a nuance without giving it the heave-ho.
A complex adult novel has been used as the pretext for a low-octane and glassy-eyed Bollywood romp, at a shorter length than usual and without balancing the romcom jollity with any of the genre's usual heartfelt and ingenuous moments of seriousness. It's apparently based on the single insight that arranged marriages are very much the order of the day for young people in south Asia and emigrant communities in America and the UK - which is sort of like Jane Austen, right?
Her Darcy is a smooth American businessman, played by Martin Henderson, in India to scout out the possibilities of opening pricey new luxury hotels. The Elizabeth Bennet equivalent is a stately beauty played by Aishwarya Rai, who has the slightly unfortunate name of Lalita. ("Like the movie!" says Darcy's brainless American girlfriend.) Darcy and Lalita meet cute at a wedding party that kick-starts the film, for which Chadha stages a boisterous and exuberant song-and-dance number. It is one of many fraught encounters which Lalita concludes with a haughty and head-tossing exit. This Darcy never gets wet in the Colin Firth style, incidentally, although Rai is seen swimming in one of his fancy hotel pools, her person decorously submerged up to the neck. We cut to a thoughtfully appreciative reaction shot from Darcy, and then back to Rai in a poolside recliner, her swimsuit supplemented by a modest sarong.
She is one of a number of marriageable sisters with an excitable mama and genial, laid-back papa; there is a disreputable British fellow called Wickham who slanders Darcy behind his back and someone else called Bingley. But parallels and correspondences with Austen are really neither here nor there. It could be any unremarkable Bollywood picture. The effect is very different from say, Amy Heckerling's Clueless, a witty and ingenious LA teen-movie spin on Emma, which honoured its source material in a spirit of detailed homage.
Well, this is homage of a sort. Rai herself is a queenly presence, her facial expressions entirely subordinate in importance to the flawless maquillage, the jewel in her facial crown being her immaculately painted lips which, at rest, come together in such a way as to leave a tiny, pouting gap the size of a pinhole. Lalita considers herself to be feisty and smart; she longs for a suitor capable of a sparky intelligent conversation. Or as she puts it in one of the musical numbers: "I just wanna man who'll give me some back/ Who'll talk to me and not to my rack!" Ain't it the universally acknowledged truth?
But all she gets are nerds and cads. There's a prattish accountant guy who's made a pile in Los Angeles and is always boasting about his wealth and his "crib". She then stumbles onto Wade, who can't keep his mouth shut and is always touting his "best Persian rug cleaning NYC business" in the big apple even when no one cares except him. Nothing against rug cleaners or the business or New York City, but being around Wade the repeater is torture for anyone. Then there's the deplorable Wickham, the handsome Brit who lives in a houseboat in London's Little Venice and winds up running off with Lalita's impressionable younger sister, Lahki. Lalita's family destiny takes her from tourist location to tourist location in Britain, America and India: the sheer naffness of which are sometimes alleviated by terrific crowd choreography, and sometimes not.
It's pitched at a very much less modern and grown-up level than a film like Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding - and it will be interesting to compare this with Nair's forthcoming version of Thackeray's Vanity Fair, which boldly proposes a vivid new Indian aspect. Bride and Prejudice is appreciably less warmly convincing than Chadha's earlier, realist British-set pictures like Bhaji on the Beach and Bend It Like Beckham. Those were very different sorts of films, of course, but it's difficult to escape the uncomfortable suspicion that just as emigrant Indian bachelors in this movie condescendingly return to the old country, prospecting for wives who are simple and unsophisticated, so this successful, savvy director has paid a high-spirited, if slightly obtuse visit to India's classic entertainment genre, and come up with something too saccharine. She gave us the Bride. But where was the Prejudice?
Bride & Prejudice
By Scott Tobias
Feb 8, 2005
Director: Gurinder Chadha
Runtime: 111 minutes
Cast: Aishwarya Rai, Martin Henderson, Naveen Andrews
As the London-born daughter of first-generation Indian parents, director Gurinder Chadha naturally gravitates toward issues of identity, but her recent work stands as a lesson in the perils of multiculturalism. Her little-seen indie What's Cooking?, an ensemble comedy about several ethnic families putting their own delectable spin on the American holiday of Thanksgiving, typifies the problem. Chadha seems to believe that when a bunch of ingredients are tossed into the melting pot, the result is a rich cultural stew, when it's really more like the tepid casseroles dished out at a Midwestern potluck. When two nations come together in a Chadha film, both stand to lose something.
Expanding on the success of her semi-autobiographical sleeper hit Bend It Like Beckham, Chadha introduces Jane Austen to Bollywood in the East-meets-West musical Bride & Prejudice, but the two prove surprisingly incompatible. With her roots in both Britain and India, Chadha would seem like the right person to mediate these distinct cultures onscreen, but her translation reads so broadly that it might as well have been overdubbed in Italian. The awkwardness commences when she unites Aishwarya Rai, Bollywood's most glamorous marquee star, with Torque stud Martin Henderson, Hollywood's cheesiest stubble-faced C-lister. In the bustling Indian village of Amritsar, a determined matriarch (Nadira Babbar) seeks suitable companions for her four beautiful girls in the days leading up to a lavish wedding. Committed to marry for love, her headstrong daughter Rai initially brushes off American hotel magnate Henderson as an arrogant jerk who only sees her country as an exotic place for five-star comfort. But when Henderson proves more open to the "real" India than Rai assumed, the two start connecting, and she embraces the possibility of finding love on her own terms.
Threading Austen's serious themes on class, family, and gender equality through a colorful Bollywood spectacle isn't such an awful idea, since the lightness and wide-reaching generosity of her work seems perfectly suited to the musical form. But Chadha doesn't seem at home with either Austen or Bollywood, and her ambitions far exceed her competence in the song-and-dance numbers, which are a clutter of stiff choreography and silly original lyrics. The early scenes in Bride & Prejudice, when the town comes alive in anticipation of the coming wedding, have some of the joy Chadha must have been angling for, but her sensibility is too broad to handle Austen adequately, and too studied and graceless to do justice to Bollywood. And if there is still a place for a character to exclaim "Whassup!" in any cultural tradition, she definitely hasn't found it here.