East meets West! The Indian cinegoer has witnessed a number of films based on this theme. Right from Manoj Kumar's PURAB AUR PACHHIM to Aditya Chopra's DILWALE DULHANIYA LE JAYENGE to Subhash Ghai's PARDES, almost every film-maker has had his take on the fusion.
Celebrated director Gurinder Chadha's much-hyped, keenly-anticipated BRIDE AND PREJUDICE follows a similar route. Based on Jane Austen's 19th century classic novel 'Pride And Prejudice', BRIDE AND PREJUDICE can be best described as an Indian film in the garb of crossover cinema.
The vital question is, does BRIDE AND PREJUDICE entice the viewer? It tries to balance the East and the West and the outcome is one curry that looks enticing.
Wait, BRIDE AND PREJUDICE is not that perfect film, for it has its share of deficiencies. But notwithstanding the blemishes, BRIDE AND PREJUDICE still works because it adheres to the indispensable Bollywood formula of romance, heartbreak, songs, a cheerful conclusion and most significantly, hilarious moments that you carry back home.
Frankly, BRIDE AND PREJUDICE is an experiment of sorts. And Gurinder needs a pat for treading a path that most successful Westerners wouldn't dream of. Yet, the experiment could meet with diverse reactions from movie buffs - you'd either absorb it like a sponge, or detest the kitsch that comes with it.
BRIDE AND PREJUDICE starts in Amritsar when a determined Mrs. Bakshi [Nadira Babbar] sets out to find marriage matches for her four daughters [Namrata Shirodkar, Aishwarya Rai, Peeya Rai Choudhuri, Meghnaa], while there's a lavish wedding in town. Right away, the smart and headstrong Lalita [Aishwarya Rai] announces that she will only marry for love, giving her mother nightmares.
Lalita meets the wealthy American Will Darcy [Martin Henderson] and sparks fly. But is it love or hate? Darcy comes across as an arrogant Californian snob. For Darcy, Lalita is like a small-town Indian beauty who knows nothing of the world.
Alternately enchanted by and suspicious of one another, Lalita and Darcy nearly fall prey to assumptions, gossip and a comedy of errors? until pride is humbled and prejudice overcome, so that love can triumph.
BRIDE AND PREJUDICE dresses up the novel in a neat Indian outfit and then tosses it straight into an Indian wedding, filmed in typical Bollywood style.
From corsets to saris, from the Bennetts to the Bakshis and from pianos to bhangra beats, Gurinder revitalizes the classic novel with exuberance and splendor. Gurinder marries a characteristically English saga with classic Bollywood format and the result is interesting at times. Though the novel was far more gripping, Gurinder makes it up with wittiness and naughtiness.
The difference between the Jane Austen novel and Gurinder's celluloid adaptation is that while the original depicted the clash between Darcy and Elizabeth due to their social status, the conflict between Darcy and Lalita here is a result of their cross cultures.
Gurinder makes a laboured attempt to squeeze in every success formula available on the shelf. Besides, Gurinder's effort to bat for India and bring it centre-stage needs to be lauded.
The narrative is laced with moments every Indian can identify with: A domineering mother, a subdued [henpecked?] father, an adamant/strong-headed daughter, a misunderstood foreigner, a desperate NRI?
But BRIDE AND PREJUDICE is not without hiccups. One, the film is too Bollywoodish. Meaning, the songs and some sequences look straight out of a Hindi film and do get taxing at times. The West may not embrace it whole-heartedly.
Ditto for the songs, which act as a major hindrance. After a point you actually start feeling that you're watching a Hindi flick. Also, the plot gets too familiar after a point. You can actually predict what's in store for the climax.
Cinematography [Santosh Sivan] is befitting an international product. Music [Anu Malik] sounds pleasant to the ears.
The gorgeous Aishwarya Rai is awe-inspiring as Lalita Bakshi. With a competent director at the helm of affairs, Ash takes giant strides as an actor. She makes a concentrated effort to make her character look real. The sequence in the pre-climax, when she walks out on Henderson, is simply brilliant. Martin Henderson as the 'American Born Confused Darcy' is likeable. He may not radiate the charm of a Cruise or an Affleck, but he does manage to look the character he portrays.
Daniel Gillies [as Johnny Wickham] is efficient in a role that has negative shades. Anupam Kher is competent, like always. Nadira Babbar is fantastic. She delivers, what can be rightly called, a topnotch performance. Nitin Ganatra [as Mr. Kohli] is another actor who brings a smile due to his crazy antics. Naveen Andrews, Namrata Shirodkar, Indira Varma, Sonali Kulkarni and Peeya Rai Choudhuri are adequate.
On the whole, BRIDE AND PREJUDICE rises to the occasion and delivers what it promises: laughter and entertainment. At the box-office, the film should emerge a success story in Overseas [business in U.K. should prove to be the best], while in India, its business will differ from circuit to circuit.
In India, while the English version will fare better at metros [multiplexes mainly], the Hindi version will find the going tough, partly because the hype is missing and also for the reason that the Hindi audiences have seen all this and more before. However, the Hindi version has some scope in North specifically, thanks to its Punjabi flavour.