(2004) Bride and Prejudice Reviews
Austen nuts may rend their frocks, and Bollywood buffs may split their cholis, but there’s an immensely likable, almost goofily playful charm to “Bride & Prejudice” that finally wins the day. Toplined by a spirited performance from young diva Aishwarya Rai, and largely played with gusto by an Indian cast marbled with Westerners, this modern, East-meets-West riff on Jane Austen’s 19th-century classic delights in setting itself up as a target for cultural purists but triumphs with its devil-may-care, good-humored fun. Energetic promo could reap tasty returns, riding on helmer Gurinder Chadha’s rep following “Bend It Like Beckham.”
Pic went out day-and-date in the U.K. and India on Oct. 8. Stateside, “Bride” is slated to walk up the Gotham aisle Dec. 24.
Anyone expecting fidelity to Austen’s classic would be better advised to re-rent the 1995 touchstone BBC miniseries, starring Jennifer Ehle (news) and Colin Firth (news) — or maybe wait until Universal/Working Title’s traditional, if youth-skewed version, with Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFadyen, due out next year. And auds primed for a pure slice of mainstream Indian cinema (Bollywood or Tollywood) should instead check out an earlier Austen makeover, “Kandukondain kandukondain” (2000), Rajiv Menon’s delish Tamil version of “Sense and Sensibility,” coincidentally also co-starring Rai.
In plotting and social complexities, Chadha and scriptwriting partner Paul Mayeda Berges give a token nod to Austen’s novel. Stylistically, the movie inhabits a cultural sphere that, like the London-raised Punjabi helmer herself, is absolutely its own, infused with a love of the conventions of mainstream Indian cinema but packaged with an NRI’s sensibilities and affinityfor British sitcom characters.
Former Oxford U. chums Will Darcy (Kiwi-born Martin Henderson, with an American accent) and Raj (Naveen Andrews) arrive in Amritsar, Punjab, to attend a pre-wedding party of one of Raj’s friends. Also in attendance are kindly Mr. Bakshi (Anupam Kher), his motormouth, social-climbing wife (Nadira Babbar), and their four daughters, Lalita (Rai), Jaya (Namrata Shirodkar, quietly classy), Maya (Meghnaa) and Lucky (perky Peeya Rai Choudhuri).Workaholic businessman-cum-uneasy Yank abroad, Will meets Lalita at the party, but she finds him arrogant and cold. As the pic swings into a typical boys vs. girls musical number — smoothly staged, but neither mounted nor cut like a real Bollywood extravaganza — the banal, flowery lyrics are translated for Will by Raj’s sister, a cynical, well-heeled NRI.
Having prepped the viewer that this is to be a part-outsider’s view of India and its social conventions, Chadha takes her biggest gamble of all, a colorful, large-scale street number (“A Marriage Has Come to Town”) with — wait for it — English rhyming lyrics. It’s a jolt that requires a leap of faith by any audience, either Western or Eastern.
Dialogue in these early reels is choppy, with Will and Lalita trading cultural cliches. Lalita accuses Will of wanting to turn her country into a tourist theme park, and the story moves south to Goa, where Will is mulling a hotel purchase and Lalita has tagged along on her father’s urging.
Enter Johnny Wickham (Daniel Gillies), an old “friend” of Will’s with an apparent grudge, who starts chatting up Lalita as she strums her guitar on the beach. She invites him to visit her in Amritsar, which he does, but mom has already lined up a gross Hollywood NRI as a prospective husband.
With Will still on the sidelines, the increasingly outrageous plot — more Bollywood than Austen — swings through the U.K. and L.A., back to London and finally to Amritsar.
It’s only when the cultural grandstanding is out of the way that the film slowly starts to work its magic, starting with a spirited sisters-in-pajamas pop-rock number (“No Life Without Wife”), straight out of a Broadway musical. Thereafter, the musical interludes run the spectrum, from a percussive gharbah number in which Lalita and Johnny display apparent attraction, to a nutty fantasy duet which melds locations in L.A., London and India, including a burst of American gospel.
None of this would remotely work without the ensemble cast which, led by the stunning Rai at her most relaxed, enters into the souffle-ish spirit. As the antsy Mrs. Bakshi, forever trying to marry off her daughters, Babbar is a Bollywood mom crossed with a sitcom Indian from “Beckham,” while fellow vet Kher is quietly aces as her patient husband. The sisters blend together well, with girlish Choudhuri getting the most substantial role as the Johnny-struck Lucky.
Of the two Western leads, Gillies is the more involving, making the elusive Johnny a likable figure. Technically the male lead, Henderson is good-looking but unengaging as Will, though in a film centered on the power of sisterhood and the Indian matriarchy, he’s almost a supporting character, requiring little of the sexual charisma of Austen’s Mr. Darcy.
On a tech level, this is Chadha’s smoothest production, showing a command of widescreen that’s surprisingly confident in comparison with her previous, more TV-style pics. Costuming and production design are bright and marginally gawdy, fitting the movie’s generous-hearted, almost sophomoric tone.
Bollywood films are increasing in popularity in the UK all of the time, regularly appearing in the weekly box office chart. However, these films, which run the gamut from musical romances to action thrillers, have yet to cross over fully from niche audiences into the mainstream.
Award-winning writer-director Gurinder Chadha, who scored an international smash hit with the culture clash comedy Bend It Like Beckham, tries to remedy the situation with this lavish musical update of Jane Austen’s novel.
Bride & Prejudice transplants the classic tale of marriages and manners to modern-day India, England and America, punctuating the giddy affairs of the heart with spectacular, colour-drenched dance sequences.
In a small town in the Indian countryside, Mr and Mrs Bakshi (Nadira Babbar, Anumpam Kher) make plans to marry off their four daughters.
Their eldest, the lovely Jaya (Namrata Shirodkar), falls madly in love with exceedingly wealthy Balraj Bingley (Naveen Andrews), who is equally taken with her.
Sparks fly, even more so when Balraj’s good friend, American hotelier Will Darcy (Martin Henderson), sees Jaya’s headstrong sister Lalita (Aishwarya Rai). It’s lust at first sight but Jaya is far from impressed by Darcy’s blinkered, western outlook on life and his reluctance to immerse himself in the ebb and flow of her country’s ancient culture. Instead, she falls under the spell of charming rogue Johnny Wickham (Daniel Gillies), whose boundless energy are in stark contrast to Darcy’s stuffy, sophisticated ways. However, there is a darker side to the seemingly perfect Wickham and perhaps Lalita’s apparent disdain for Darcy conceals an even deeper attraction? Bride & Prejudice boasts all of Chadha’s trademarks including earthy cross-generational humour, acid-tongued matriarchs and a feelgood finale. The film’s production design is simply glorious and choreographer Saroj Khan, who worked on Devdas, joins forces with composer Anu Malik, lyricists the Akhtar family and cinematographer Santish Sivan (Asoka) to infuse Bollywood tradition into this distinctly western treatment.
Rai produces a star-making turn full of emotion, making Henderson seem rather staid in comparison. He also looks uncomfortable lip-synching their big love duet but there’s a pleasing chemistry between the pair. Gillies oozes sex appeal and there is ample comic relief from the wonderful Nitin Ganatra as bumbling suitor Mr Kholi (aka Austen’s Mr Collins).
Gurinder Chadha’s last film was Bend It Like Beckham, a wonderful treat which became a surprise global hit. For her latest she has chosen another national treasure, Pride And Prejudice, and adapted this most English of novels into a lurid, Bollywood-style musical.
The film transplants the story to Amritsar, rural India, where Mrs Bakshi is determined to marry off her four daughters. Progress is made when the eligible Mr. Balraj arrives, as he takes a keen interest in Jaya, the eldest of the girls.
Balraj also brings a friend, Darcy, a wealthy American hotelier, but attempts to pair him off with the snappy Lalita fail as he comes across as proud and arrogant. Instead, Lalita starts falling for Wickham, an easygoing traveller with a long-held grudge against Darcy.
The story moves to Goa, London and Beverly Hills, as the characters are brought together by a series of weddings. These changes may sound substantial, but despite the geographical shifts the script stays surprisingly faithful to Austen’s novel, in plot terms at least.
Around this plot Chadha has created a traditional, lavish Bollywood musical, with all the good and bad that that implies. Mostly, it’s a successful combination, as the melodramatic story is well suited to this kind of camp treatment. Chadha uses a mainly Indian cast and crew, with the result that much of the film looks authentic, unlike the pastiche approach of The Guru.
However although an authentic Bollywood sensibility might be desirable, authentic Bollywood box office would not, so Chadha has taken obvious steps to broaden the film’s global appeal.
Most of these are sensible moves, using the Working Title blueprint for global domination. The cast includes a number of well-known British and American faces, including The Ring’s Martin Henderson as Darcy. The film covers three continents, taking in such landmarks as the London Eye and the Grand Canyon.
However the score suffers from this scattergun approach, as the western-style pop songs seem incongruous, partly because of the different singing style required, but mainly because the songs in question simply aren’t as good as the film’s more traditional numbers.
Nonetheless, this is a thoroughly entertaining film which successfully brings together the best elements of both Bollywood and the novel. Some of the musical routines are thrilling, with lurid Busby Berkeley-style choreography. The Indian cast are generally good, particularly veteran Anupam Kher as the Bakshis’ downtrodden father.
At the heart of the story, of course, is the romance between Lalita and Darcy, which is suitably fiery.
Lalita is played by the stunning Aishwarya Rai, who successfully conveys the character’s combination of intelligence and downright stroppiness. Darcy is an equally complex character, and Martin Henderson makes him diffident and shy, which seems a sensible approach for a character who allows himself to be so consistently misunderstood.
Bride And Prejudice is an old-fashioned musical, which delights in romance, spectacle and a gorgeous cast. Some of the humour may be too broad for more sophisticated audiences, but overall this is a charming way to spend a couple of hours.
Z Review.uk Review
If you’re working from such a tried and over-filmed novel as Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, it helps to take such a bracingly original approach. Director-cowriter Chadha cleverly turns the story into a colourful Bollywood epic that’s thoroughly good fun, even if it doesn’t live up to the promise of its themes.
In the Punjabi countryside, Mr and Mrs Bakshi (Kher and Babbar) have a problem: They have four beautiful daughters, but not enough status to arrange above-average husbands for them. The eldest Jaya (Shirodkar) helpfully falls for a visiting millionaire (Andrews), accompanied by his best friend, the hotel heir Will Darcy (Henderson), who’s immediately attracted to the second Bakshi daughter, Lalita (Rai). But the feisty, independent-minded Lalita clashes loudly with Darcy. The story takes them to London and Los Angeles for increasing romantic entanglements.
Energetic, hilarious and extremely full of life, this film is a joy to watch. The characters and costumes are vivid and extravagant, while the settings are so lovingly photographed that it often looks like an official Punjab, London or L.A. tourism film (with side excursions to Goa and the Grand Canyon). This corny sensibility infuses the entire film, most notably in the vibrant, elaborate and almost pathologically smiley musical numbers. Here’s where Chadha plays with the cultural mix, throwing gospel choirs, mariachi bands and even prancing surfers in, although she’s never willing to expand the lyrics beyond sentimental Bollywood kitsch.
The performances are in that style too–superficial and stylised–making it difficult for Western audiences to buy the story. The characters are all likable and witty, but they’re basically fantasy variations on real people. The film’s strongest element is its blending of racial, cultural and class themes, brilliantly adapted from the Austen novel and nicely played by the cast. A constant stream of clever details keeps us on our toes, especially for those familiar with the source material. But this also brings major disappointment when the movie abandons these ideas, shifting into silly rom-com mode as Chadha rushes to a flamboyant conclusion. But if a breezy Bollywood romantic comedy is enough, you’re in heaven.
Mrs Bakshi (Babbar) has four daughters and none of them have found themselves a husband. When Mr Balraj (Andrews) comes to India for a wedding and instantly takes a shine to her eldest daughter Jaya (Shirodkar) it looks like there could be a marriage in the Bakshi household. That is until her second eldest Lalita (Rai) meets Balraj’s best friend, American Will Darcy (Henderson) and takes an instant dislike to him throwing her mother’s wedding plans into chaos.
Mixing Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice and all the glamour and spectacle of Bollywood are a very intriguing idea but can this latest version of fusion filmmaking really work?
For fans of the novel and India cinema, ‘Bend It Like Beckham’ director Gurinder Chadha succeeds in taking a much loved period drama and transporting it into the 21st century but still keeps all of the key elements that make the story so adored. The director then mixes in a collection of songs and dance numbers that makes Bollywood such a unique cinematic medium at this present time.
Chadha has gathered together a cast that combines the best of Indian and British talent and then throws in a few American’s for good measure. India’s biggest female star Aishwarya Rai makes her English-speaking debut and makes an instant impression. A former Miss World winner Aishwarya is quite simply beautiful but she is also a fine actress as well. She shows real emotion as Lalita, as her heart is filled with romance and disappointment, she responds brilliantly. This is a role that should get her noticed on a worldwide scale and make her an international superstar. Martin Henderson shows his diversity in a role that you would never have visualised him taking. Darcy is one of the most adored male characters, especially by female book readers and Henderson isn’t a Colin Firm but he does his best with the role. There is good chemistry between Aishwarya and him however making the film all the more watchable.
The supporting cast is also first rate. Nitin Chandra Ganatra provides the comic relief as Mr. Kohli, an American who returns to his homeland to find himself a bride. He provides most of the jokes and a lot comes at his expense. Nadira Babbar plays the overbearing mother superbly. She makes interfering with her daughter’s love lives an art. Daniel Gillies plays cad Mr Wickham with relish, making him instantly dislikeable even though the Lalita and Lucky can’t see it. Meghna Kothari, Peeya Rai Chowdhary and Namrata Shirodkar are also good as Lalita’s sisters.
Where the movie falls down slightly is with the songs. While there is nothing wrong with bringing in a bit of Bollywood into English Literature but it is the lyrics that let the songs down. They are extremely basic and, at times far too simple. Also none of the really stick with you as many musical songs do. Another problem is with the singing of them. While the actors do actually sing their own part, it is so obvious that their vocals were recorded in a studio. This happens with every musical movie but it is so obvious that the actors are miming and not actually singing on set.
Bride and Prejudice is a fun Bollywood interpretation of a classic British novel. All your favourite characters are transported into the 21st century and given an Indian spin that will give the story a greater appeal to a larger audience.
LONDON (Hollywood Reporter) – “Bride & Prejudice” is like an Elvis Presley musical from the ’60s, filled with shiny bright colors, bouncy music and happy, smiling, pretty people.
Like those old pop vehicles, this upbeat blend of Bollywood and Jane Austen is an acquired taste. While the plot is inane and the acting bland, the film’s relentless effervescence may endear it to mainstream audiences.
Director Gurinder Chadha probably shouldn’t expect to match the crossover appeal that made her last film, “Bend It Like Beckham,” such a hit, but “Bride & Prejudice” will succeed with moviegoers seeking an agreeably good time.
Chadha and co-writer Paul Mayeda Berges have adapted Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” to make the Bennet sisters the Bakshi sisters, taking them from rural England to rural India. There is a Mr. Darcy, however, in the form of a rich American hotelier.
The traditions and formalities of one culture appear to translate reasonably well though only lip service is given to the notion that the Bakshi family is poor. India has seldom been portrayed as so ravishingly clean and gorgeous.
The Bakshis live in Amritsar, an Indian town off the tourist track, where four beautiful girls are ripe for marriage and given every encouragement by their ambitious mother, Mrs. Bakshi (Nadira Babbar). Reigning Bollywood queen Aishwarya Rai plays the loveliest sister, Lalita, but the others — Jaya (Namrata Shirodkar), Lakhi (Peeya Rai Choduri) and Maya (Meghnaa) — are also head-turners.
Potential suitors arrive in the form of the American Darcy (Martin Henderson), a London-based Indian named Balraj (Naveen Andrews) and one Mr. Kholi (Nitin Ganatra), an Indian gentleman who has made a success of accountancy in Los Angeles. There’s also a good-looking but smarmy British hunk named Johnny Wickham (Daniel Gillies), who is at odds with Darcy.
The paths of romance hold true to the established patterns of Austen and Presley, which is to say there are several misunderstandings, the wrong things are said and feelings are hurt before love finds a way.
The locations are all made to look fabulous, from Amritsar and Goa to London and Beverly Hills, and the performers are all scrumptious. The music is loud and energetic, the dancing athletic and voluptuous. Resistance to the picture’s evident wish to please becomes futile. In the end, it’s impossible not to smile.
Gurinder Chadha, the Indian-born director whose previous films have included “What’s Cooking?” and the international hit “Bend It Like Beckham,” directs her movies in much the same way that people throw parties. They are riotous affairs filled with good food, attractive people and a bustling atmosphere that ensures that there is always something going on and that every one of her invited guests is given a spotlight moment where they become the center of everyone’s attention. This is not the worst way to approach a film but at times, her need to keep things hopping so that there isn’t a lull in the festivities can grow exhausting; just at the moment when you want to go outside to get some fresh air and a bit of peace and quiet, she button-holes you in the hallway and introduces you to your ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend because she is sure that the two of you would enjoy discussing the works of Takashi Miike for the next half-hour. Even the otherwise enjoyable “Beckham” had so many subplots stuffed into it that what should have been a short, sweet story took over two hours to wind things up.
Her latest film, “Bride and Prejudice,” is a typically overstuffed affair that is so eager to please that you almost begin to feel bad about pointing out its shortcomings, even though they are far too apparent to simply overlook, starting with the basic premise itself. The film takes its basic premise, as you can probably guess, from Jane Austen’s immortal “Pride and Prejudice” and has given it a modern-day updating by, among other things, re-imagining the proceedings as a cultural clash between stick-in-the-mud Americans and Brits and the boisterous, salt-of-the-Earth Indians. If that weren’t enough, she has also decided to transform the story into a full-on musical. In Bollywood (the nickname given to the enormous Indian film industry), many films, no matter what the subject, break into elaborate song-and-dance numbers. (I once even saw this approach being used in a film that was a fairly spot-on knock-off of “Silence of the Lambs.”) As a result, in the middle of the otherwise familiar storyline (of which I can only hope that no further elaboration on my part is required), characters suddenly burst out into songs with titles like “No Life Without Wife.” (One of my favorite moments comes just after a major production number set in a public market has concluded and we hear a character remark “I don’t know how any business gets done here.”)
Although my antipathy towards musicals is fairly well pronounced, I don’t necessarily object in principle to the Bollywood aesthetic because they, for the most part, don’t make apologies for being musicals–they just plow ahead with gusto without trying to come up with a tortured reason for why the characters are suddenly singing. In fact, one of the most hugely entertaining films that I have seen in the last few years was a 2002 release entitled “Lagaan,” which was a four-hour long musical in which a rag-tag bunch of Indians struggled to form a cricket team to beat their British oppressors and save their village from excessive taxation. (If you doubt that such a premise could be anything but unendurable, get a hold of the DVD and prove yourself wrong–you’ll be glad you did.) However, they tend to work better when they provide a distinct contrast with the rest of the proceedings, as they did in “Lagaan.” However, sticking in a bunch of musical numbers to lighten up a story that is already pretty feather-brained to begin with, is just asking for trouble; the whimsy quickly grows unendurable and whatever dramatic momentum that the plot might still contain erodes with the inclusion of every additional song.
There are other problems with the film as well. Never a director with a particularly light or subtle touch, Chadha really lays things on thick here. The bad guys are all one-dimensional types who are so nakedly evil (especially the bounder attempting to seduce an innocent lass and the American mother–an inexplicable cameo from Marsha Mason–trying to keep her son away from one of those awful Indian types) that they lack only handlebar mustaches to twirl while saying “Mu-ha-ha!”. Another character, an Indian desperately attempting to assimilate into American culture, is depicted so cartoonishly that he makes Ali G look like a model of restraint by comparison. The biggest flaw is that Martin Henderson, who portrays Will Darcy, the stiff-upper-lip who eventually wins the heart of our heroine, turns in one of the most spectacularly awful and unappealing performances in recent memory–we’re talking Cary-Elwes-in-“Saw” bad–and every time he comes on screen, you’ll find yourself desperately counting the minutes until he leaves. Not exactly the kind of response that you want from one-half of the couple whose relationship is the central focus of the story.
There is one truly appealing element of “Bride and Prejudice”–so appealing in fact that it almost makes the other flaws irrelevant–and that is the presence of Aishwarya Rai in the central role of Lalita, the Elizabeth equivalent. There has been much debate among film critics, perhaps a tacit admission that there is nothing else in the film worth discussing, about whether or not she is indeed the Most Beautiful Woman in the World. Although I don’t know if I would go that far (my votes would go towards Milla Jovovich, Nastassja Kinski, Uma Thurman, Angelina Jolie, Audrey Tautou, Kate Winslet, Emmanuelle Beart, Fergie from the Black-Eyed Peas, Ziyi Zhang, Monica Bellucci and anyone who I happen to be dating when I get asked that question), she is gorgeous enough that if someone were to make that claim, I would not argue the point.
What makes her more than just another incredibly pretty face is the fact that she, like Audrey Hepburn and Julia Roberts showed in “Roman Holiday” and “Pretty Woman,” has the kind of personality and on-screen charisma that can cause even the most cynical of viewers to fall helplessly under her spell. She is so charming and delightful that when she is on screen, you hardly notice how incredibly daft the proceedings surrounding her are. Without her presence, “Bride and Prejudice” would be one of the most unendurable films ever made; with her, it is almost worth watching.
Chicago Tribune Review
Gurinder Chadha’s “Bride and Prejudice” is a pretty movie, but it’s also a pretty crazy one: an imitation Bollywood-Hollywood musical loosely based on Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.” On the other hand, it’s knowingly off-the-rails—and if you’re in a tolerant or adventurous mood, very entertaining.
Chadha is the gifted Indian-British director of the beguiling 2002 sports comedy-drama “Bend it Like Beckham,” a movie whose sleeper success obviously gave her some carte blanche. She’s expended it here on a goofy and voluptuous dream project.
What can you say about a movie that translates Austen’s famous opening sentence “It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife” into the rocking pajama party quartet “No Life Without Wife,” sung and danced by the bouncy Bakshi sisters headed by radiant star Aishwarya Rai? Or one that keeps flipping its characters from Amritsar, India, to London to L.A.—and, at one point, has an entire Amritsar open air market break out into song and dance (with English lyrics)?
Bollywood, of course, refers to that specifically Indian genre of musical romances that is its country’s most popular movie form and, until recently, an object of neglect and scorn by many western film critics. It’s a lavish, outlandish genre, just as the old Hollywood musicals were, built on grand purple emotions, operatic ballads and scintillating, gorgeously silly dances.
Chadha has pulled out all the stops here in partially recreating it, hiring Bollywood’s biggest current star, Rai, as her leading lady; anchoring the cast with major Indian actors such as Namrata Shirodkar and Anupam Kher; and spicing it up with an American pop star, Ashanti. She also has hired one of the best Bollywood cinematographers (Santosh Sivan), the consensus best Bollywood choreographer (Saroj Khan) and a famous Bollywood composer (Anu Malik).
As for Austen’s plot, it’s already inspired many adaptations, including the famous MGM version with Greer Garson as Elizabeth Bennett and Laurence Olivier as her mysterious beau William Darcy and the excellent 1995 BBC series, with one more on the way. But here it’s kept only in outline and in riffs like “No Life Without Wife.” There is a William Darcy, a hunky rich American played by Australian Martin Henderson and a sort of Elizabeth Bennett: the witty and independent Lalita Bakshi, played by Rai. And there are Bakshi’s parents and sisters, who remind us of the Bennett originals, and a lower-class villain, Daniel Gillies’ Johnny Wickham.
The performances to remember here include Rai’s; she’s an actress of great, piquant beauty (she’s an international L’Oreal spokeswoman) and also a screen natural who sweeps through her musical numbers with a natural’s smiling ease. And there’s also the relatively unknown British stage actor Nitin Ganatra who, as the cloddish, L.A.-Indian suitor Mr. Kholi, conjures up a smiling idiot of such enjoyable silliness that he recalls Peter Sellers’ whimsically cracked Indian movie characters.
A performance to forget (or at least forgive) is Henderson’s Darcy. Though he manages a believable American accent, he’s been written as too much of a dreamboat to have any edge.
The tale, like Austen’s, is a romance in which Lalita and Darcy must overcome their initial antagonism—the highly verbal tiffs of brainy lovers—and a few mistaken assumptions. But though Chadha has made her production fascinatingly ornate and sumptuous-looking, she, unlike Austen, is not trying to be a social realist. The movie’s connections with the real India and America are daydream-light.
Beyond those Austen plot echoes, “Bride and Prejudice” seems closer in story and even spirit to an Elvis Presley musical or something like “Week-end in Havana” with Carmen Miranda. It’s a big, freewheeling hoot of a movie, which uses the Bollywood conventions—and a few Hollywood ones—in a mood of blithe playfulness and mocking expertise. The movie has its flaws, including a few weak performances and some catchy but forgettable songs, but they’re mostly forgivable.
“Bride and Prejudice” is an intellectuals’ excursion into a mad pop genre; what ultimately limits it is the fact that Chadha, in making a crazy film, isn’t quite nutty enough to turn it into a classic.
Roger Ebert Review
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 show only 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 multitasking. 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 Bengali roots, who wants to play soccer.
In “Bride and Prejudice” Chadha 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 (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 because he is never provided with a first name, but in stories of this sort it’s necessary for Darcy 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 Rai, never sweaty, never short of breath.
What a smile. Did I say that?
James Bereradinelli Review
At first, the marriage between classical British literature and Bollywood musical would seem doomed to failure. But this particular match, arranged by Gurinder Chadha, finds a surprisingly rich field of common ground. Bride and Prejudice is bright, colorful, and exhilarating, and brings new dimensions to a story that has been told so many times that it’s astounding to recognize that someone has found a fresh perspective. I don’t know what Jane Austen would have thought of the film, but I enjoyed it.
Bride and Prejudice is one of the new breed of Hollywood/Bollywood offspring. It’s an American/British co-production, and, while Disney money is involved, it is filtered through Miramax. The influence of both parents is apparent. Bride and Prejudice uses many top Indian actors, and the style is heavily influenced by the Bollywood approach (which is famous for sprinkling lavish musical numbers throughout an otherwise dramatic production). There’s plenty of Hollywood here, as well. The film is in English and has a sizable budget.
The story is influenced by Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. In this case, culture replaces class, but most of the essential story elements remain the same. The main plot focuses on the relationship between wealthy workaholic Will Darcy (Martin Henderson) and Lalita Bakshi (the “Elizabeth Bennett” role, played by Aishwarya Rai), the second daughter of a middle-class Indian couple. When Darcy arrives in Lalita’s hometown of Amritsar, it’s contempt at first sight, but as these two mismatched individuals get to know one another, love blooms. There are plenty of complications, not the least of which are Lalita’s pride and Darcy’s prejudice. There are also subplots: the romance between Lalita’s older sister, Jaya (Namrata Shirodkar), and Darcy’s best friend, Balraj Bingley (Naveen Andrews); the unwelcome advances towards Lalita by the oily Mr. Kholi (Nitin Chandra Ganatra); and the more welcome attentions of Johnny Wickham (Daniel Gillies).
One could argue that the movie is almost too faithful to Austen in broad strokes. (The subtleties and social commentary of the novel are diluted to the point of being unrecognizable.) It took the landmark 1995 mini-series more than four hours to cover the material that Bride and Prejudice condenses into one-hundred eleven minutes (and that includes interludes for about a half-dozen song-and-dance numbers). Perhaps if more had been cut, the last 20 minutes would not seem so rushed. Also, by spending as much time with the secondary characters as Chadha does, she robs us of more scenes between Lalita and Darcy. This film lacks the delicious build-up of romantic tension between these two that lovers of the book have come to treasure.
For former Miss World-turned-Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai, this represents a first foray into American theaters. Rai has been described in some corners as “the most beautiful woman in the world.” While I don’t subscribe to that hyperbole, she is attractive and her seemingly unaffected mannerisms serve her well in this part. Martin Henderson is not her equal in terms of screen presence or looks, but he’s adequate as the rather dour Darcy. (I wonder if anyone considered giving Colin Firth a third shot at the part…) A number of the secondary actors, including Bollywood heavyweight Anupam Kher (as Lalita’s supportive father) and international star Naveen Andrews (as Mr. Bingley), give strong performances. American actresses Marsha Mason and Alexis Bledel round out the cast as Darcy’s domineering mother and vulnerable sister. Henderson gets a lot of scenes stolen out from under him by his co-stars.
Bride and Prejudice represents the latest chapter in Gurinder Chadha’s intriguing career. After struggling in relative obscurity for a number of years, she achieved international success with Bend it Like Beckham. The profitability of that film allowed Chadha to make Bride and Prejudice. The premise might have looked dubious on paper, but it works brilliantly on the screen. This isn’t just Austen by way of India; it’s an affectionate parody of Bollywood’s cheese. Rarely has an adaptation of a classic been so vivacious. The colorful costumes light up the screen, and the musical numbers, while not standouts, are catchy and well-placed. Bride and Prejudice has a sense of humor about the inclusion of musical numbers in Bollywood productions. (One character remarks, “The Indians are into ‘American Idol.’ I hope you brought your earplugs.”) And the lip-synching is so bad at times that it must be intentional. The film takes a lot of chances, and, while not all of them work, there are enough successes to make this a source of guilty pleasure. (But pleasure is pleasure, whether it’s guilty or not.)
Rolling Stone Review
Hollywood meets Bollywood in this lightweight but utterly beguiling attempt — by Bend It Like Beckham director Gurinder Chadha — to take Jane Austen’s 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice for a musical whirl in the here and now. Here being Amritsar, India, where Mr. Bakshi (Anupam Kher) and his ambitious wife (Nadira Babbar) are eager to marry off their four daughters. p>t first, take a look at the photo above of Aishwarya Rai, who as Lalita, the eldest daughter. Rai, a former Miss World and a goddess in her native India, will soon be adding Americans to her worshipful flock. No wonder 60 Minutes just did a major profile of her. Rai is a world-class hottie with talent to match, as she proves in her first English-speaking role. Pity pretty boy Martin Henderson (The Ring), who plays Darcy, the American in love with Lalita despite the prejudice of his hotel-magnate mom (Marsha Mason). He looks lost in his scenes with Rai. Like a kid driving a Rolls, he’s out of place and outclassed.
The script unravels as it moves to London and Los Angeles and stuffs in new takes on Austen’s characters. But Chadha, the shrewdie, keeps the movie alive with swirling color, music and movement. The songs are deliciously silly, especially “No Life Without Wife,” which Lalita and her sisters sing in mockery of Mr. Kholi (a scene-stealing Nitin Ganatra), the bachelor who wants a bride for his new L.A. home. Purists who think Austen will be spinning in her grave will be wrong. She’ll be dancing.
This movie takes a classic story and puts an Indian twist on it.
Though Bride and Prejudice is by no means a new movie, many people may not have heard about it, and that would just be a shame. This is a Bollywood film that was made in 2004. It takes the basic story of Pride and Prejudice and uses a lot of humor, Indian actors (especially the incredibly talented lead, Aishwarya Rai), and its own musical numbers to make the story its own.
Like Pride and Prejudice, Bride and Prejudice features a headstrong young lady in the character of Lalita. Lalita, her parents, and three other sisters live in a small town in India, but when they meet Balraj, his sister, Kiran, and their friend, Will Darcy, at the wedding of a mutual friend, everyone’s lives are impacted. Lalita tries throughout most of the movie to fight off her feelings for Will Darcy while also getting drawn in by the intrigue of Johnny Wickam. This film takes place in India, the United Kingdom, and the United States and sparks fly in all of these countries as couples are uniting, fighting, and breaking up. But ultimately, the end is similar to the classic Jane Austen story with some of our favorite characters getting their happily ever afters.
One of the major ways that this film sets itself apart is the singing numbers. There are several original songs done for the film, and they all incorporate aspects of Indian music and culture while also being extremely relevant to the story. Each time a song comes up, it fits directly in with what is going on. And since the characters are often attending weddings and dancing functions, the role that the music plays is extremely important. One of the best songs in the film is the hilarious “No Life Without Wife,” which Lalita and her sisters sing about the ridiculous Mr. Kohli (the Indian version of Mr. Collins) after he has come to India in search of a wife. They mimic him perfectly in many ways and mock the way that he has come to forget traditional Indian values.
The cast in this film is really quite impressive as well. Aishwarya Rai is perfect as the headstrong Lalita who is not afraid to let her true feelings out. To play this role, you really need a strong actress because the character, Elizabeth Bennet, that was created by Jane Austen is really one of the most well known in literature, but Rai successfully makes herself the most memorable character in the film. Martin Henderson is equally impressive as Will Darcy. Henderson is actually Australian but is playing an American in this film. He has the good looks expected from Mr. Darcy and accurately gives off an air of arrogance while there is also something quite vulnerable about him. Naveen Andrews plays Balraj perfectly for the amount of time that he is in the film. Alexis Bledel even makes a small appearance as Will’s sister, Georgina, and gives off an innocence that should go along with that role.
The scenery in this film is really quite impressive as well. The story begins in Amritsar, India. Then, it heads to Goa, London, and Los Angeles. All of these changes in scenery offer different temptations and threats for the characters, but the different places also help to show the characters in and out of their comfort zones.
Bride and Prejudice is just pure fun and an interesting take on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice; there’s also romance and betrayal thrown in as well to make this an overall enjoyable experience.
Indian film goddess Aishwarya Rai’s first English language film, the Jane Austen-meets-Bollywood musical comedy “Bride & Prejudice,” seems designed for the express purpose of capturing Tinseltown’s attention–and on that end, the film is undoubtedly a success. As someone who has long praised Rai’s Bollywood work for the last few years, it is gratifying to see her make the transition from East to West with amazing ease. Showing off her charisma, chops, and charm as headstrong and outspoken Lalita, of one five daughters borne of the marriage-minded Bakshi family in the Indian town of Amritsar, Rai shows that there’s no language more universal than simple star quality.
As a whole film, however, this take on Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” is less effective, but it’s not for lack of ambition on the part of director Gurinder Chadha, whose recent effort was another East-meets-West entertainer, the global sleeper success “Bend It Like Beckham.” Translating Austen’s weighty and very British tome and all of its various characters and entanglements to a multi-national cast and setting, not to mention to the music- and dance-filled Indian film language, is no small task–and one that Chadha proves to be unable to totally pull off. Chadha’s familiarity with Bollywood conventions is readily apparent, following the formula so closely that those unfamiliar may be a bit confused with some touches, such as the inclusion of an “item number,” which is a narrative-unrelated dance number centering on a name star cameo appearance (in this case, Ashanti, who does surprisingly well with her Hindi pronunciation). But familiarity doesn’t exactly equal finesse, and the Bollywood bread-and-butter of song sequences generally fall flat in Chadha’s less experienced hands. The only song picturization that strikes a memorable chord is Lalita and her sisters’ infectious pajama-clad romp “No Life Without Wife,” but it succeeds despite Chadha’s unimaginative staging and the rather rote choreography (which plagues every number, all the more disappointing given Rai’s justly-celebrated dancing abilities) due to Anu Malik’s catchy melody, Farhan and Zoya Akhtar’s tongue-in-cheek lyrics, and–above else–the exuberance of its performers.
The best way, then, to look at “Bride & Prejudice” is less as an Austen adaptation or a Bollywood musical than as its own uniquely cheeky yet affectionate homage to the source novel and Indian popular filmmaking. Surprisingly, Chadha and co-scripter Paul Mayeda Berges do stay close to Austen’s narrative blueprint, whose most primarily track centers on the clashing prides and prejudices, both class-related and cultural, of Elizabeth Bennet stand-in Lalita and the wealthy Will Darcy (Martin Henderson), here an American businessman. As the various plot threads go about their byzantine business and Lalita and her family indulge in the occasional song and dance, Chadha’s mind is wisely and primarily focused on her strong suit of light comedy. Rai is appealingly feisty, particularly during Lalita’s verbal sparring sessions with Darcy; and all of the gifted Indian supporting players playing her family and friends get their moments to shine–most of all Nitin Chandra Ganatra, who nearly steals the show outright as Mr. Kohli, Lalita’s obnoxious Indian-born, American-raised suitor who is not nearly as slick nor hip as he thinks he is.
If the film has a huge failing, it’s Henderson as Darcy. His casting falls perfectly in line with his apparent occupation in Hollywood as the go-to charisma void used expressly by filmmakers to further amplify the already-obvious star qualities of his leading lady (see also: Naomi Watts and “The Ring”), but Rai is such a silver screen natural that she deserves an equally formidable leading man. (Where were, say, Ewan McGregor or Hugh Jackman when we needed them? There’s an idea–have them sing and let Rai dance…) But it speaks of the power of Rai, and the fleet-footed appeal of the whole of “Bride & Prejudice” that not even he can put a damper on the frothy, feel-good fun.