By JANE WILSON, Special Contributor | Published March 10, 2005
“Bride and Prejudice” takes a traditional story and turns it into an exuberant, unabashedly romantic, singing and dancing extravaganza.
Based on Jane Austen’s novel “Pride and Prejudice,” the plot of the film is familiar. A scheming mother is anxious to get her many daughters married. The younger daughters are silly and boy-crazy, but the oldest two are both beautiful and sensible. They catch the eye of two very eligible bachelors who are visiting the countryside where the family lives. Central to the plot is the pairing of the second oldest daughter and Mr. Darcy, an arrogant aristocrat. They dislike each other at first, but several misunderstandings and one deceitful suitor later the couple unites, having overcome both pride and prejudice.
Gurinder Chadha, whose previous credits include the popular movie “Bend It Like Beckham,” has taken this classic story and updated it, setting it in the present day and moving the action from rural England to India, London and Los Angeles. The Bennett family becomes the Bakshis, and the two oldest daughters are Jaya and Lalita. The advertisements for the film claim that in it, “Hollywood meets Bollywood,” India’s moviemaking center, and the director certainly adds a flair to the story with several boisterous song and dance numbers.
The conflict remains the same, though, and is even heightened by the change in locale. In this film Will Darcy is an American bemused by his visit to a very foreign land, and his attitude toward India and Indians provides a believable reason for the misunderstandings and difficulties between himself and Lalita. In return, her devotion to her family and her country is both touching and admirable, even as her exasperation with Darcy leads her to ignore his positive qualities.
The setup sends the entire film over the top, but if you are willing to go with the premise and forgive scenes such as one on the beach in which Lalita and Darcy are serenaded by a church choir, a gang of surfers and a pair of lifeguards, it can be fun. The shift provides plenty of opportunity for comedy, especially from Nadira Babbar as the foolish Mrs. Bakshi, Anupam Kher as her long-suffering husband, and Nitin Ganatra as Mr. Kholi, a ridiculous suitor from America who appeals only to the girls’ mother.
Chadha does an excellent job of making her locales appealing. The scenes in India, both in the small town in which the Bakshis live and the coastal resort they visit, are filmed beautifully. Vibrant color is supplied by the extravagant costumes and the spectacular architecture.
The cast is also appealing and certainly photogenic, led by the gorgeous Aishwarya Rai as Lalita, Martin Henderson as Darcy, Namrata Shirodkar as Jaya, and Naveen Andrews as Bingley. They gamely lead the cast through the exuberant and joyful musical numbers and the more serious dramatic scenes.
“Bride and Prejudice” will not appeal to everyone, but if you enjoy a romantic valentine of a story, the kind where characters in love literally go dancing through water fountains, you will not do any better than this film. “Bride and Prejudice,” which only recently opened in Atlanta, will be available on DVD and video March 14.
Jane Wilson, a local writer and movie enthusiast, holds a doctorate in English from the University of Georgia. She is a parishioner at St. Pius X Church, Conyers.