"Bride & Prejudice"
by Kevin Carr
|| MOVIE: **1/2 (out of 5 stars)
DVD EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5 stars)
Aishwarya Rai as LALITHA
Martin Henderson as WILL DARCY
Nadira Babbar as MRS. BAKSHI
Anupam Kher as MR. BAKSHI
Naveen Andrews as BALRAJ BINGLEY
Namrata Shirodkar as JAYA BAKSHI
Daniel Gillies as JOHNNY WICKHAM
Directed by: Gurinder Chadha
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Do we really need more adaptations of “Pride & Prejudice”? After all, there was a made for TV show on cable several years ago that I hear was rather good (if you’re into Jane Austin, that is). Then there was the contemporary “Sex in the City” version, better known as “Bridget Jones’s Diary.” And with an upcoming feature-length true adaptation coming up, I was somewhat bored of the subject when I finally got around to seeing “Bride & Prejudice.”
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This film has been heralded as the Bollywood version of “Pride & Prejudice,” which is going to make me actually break some politically correct taboos here by asking... so what?
I fail to see the allure of Bollywood. I understand there’s a lot of cultural differences in the Bollywood movies (and I’m not Indian, so I’m outside of that culture), but let’s face it: Bollywood is the mass market capital of film. And just because India cranks out more films as a country than any others isn’t necessarily a good thing.
I think it’s great that Indians have a seemingly insatiable appetite for movies, and on a certain level I can appreciate the wild and highly emotional (and often cheesy) nature of the Bollywood movies. But what makes a movie Bollywood isn’t necessarily great. In reality, if you shoot a movie on film and have it be about Indians, you can sell it in India. Trust me... I’ve seen it happen first hand.
Listening to the director’s commentary on “Bride & Prejudice,” it seems that all the irritating things I found in the movie were Bollywood elements. But even to that extend, these Bollywood items were slathered up in a Hollywood sort of way. For example, the song and dance numbers - a staple in Indian cinema - were given such fantastic production design, it was clearly an American film.
By updating Jane Austin’s classic story, the screenwriters had to force a lot of ignorance on their characters. For example, Lalitha (Aishwarya Rai) carries a grudge against Darcy (Martin Henderson) because of something his friend and old rival told her. There’s no communication, and they seem forced apart unnaturally.
Add to the fact that it’s the most bizarrely idealized version of India I’ve ever seen. On one hand, Lalitha complains that she’s a poor farmer and some people in her village only make a couple hundred dollars a year, but she lives in a house that it basically a mansion. She’s against the whole arranged marriage thing, yet she is offended when people don’t experience real Indian culture. I just found her annoying.
And Darcy wasn’t anything great. First, you have the acting powerhouse that spearheaded the film “Torque.” Director Gurinda Chadha claims he was perfect for the role, but if that’s so, why was she shopping around for Johnny Depp originally?
The DVD has a nice sampling of features. The commentary features director Chadha and co-writer Paul Mayeda Berges. Berges does a decent job on the commentary, but Chadha sounds so pained in her discussion that it’s almost impossible to listen to. The rest of the disc includes extended interviews with Rai and that genius Martin Henderson. There’s also deleted scenes and extended songs (including a ludicrously long 10-minute version of “The Marriage Song”). There are also a few behind-the-scenes cuts talking about updating the film to Bollywood standards as well as an out-of-place song by Ashanti.
Specifications: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. Widescreen (2.35:1), enhanced for 16x9 televisions. French language track. Spanish subtitles. English subtitles for the hearing impaired.