BRIDE & PREJUDICE (Gurinder Chadha, 2004)
BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM director Gurinder Chadha adapts Jane Austen’s PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by way of Bollywood in BRIDE & PREJUDICE. Set in India, the film follows the Bakshi daughters and their suitors. Mrs. Bakshi desires to arrange marriages to rich Westerners for her daughters, but the girls, particularly Lalita, are more interested in wedding for love rather than practicality. Bollywood superstar Aishwarya Rai plays the bookish, headstrong Lalita, who clashes with the wealthy American Will Darcy, played by Martin Henderson. Lalita and Will might fall in love if they weren’t so stubborn.
Chadha dresses BRIDE & PREJUDICE in bright colors and accentuates it with lively songs that foster a joyous, party-like atmosphere true to the film’s Bollywood side. In suggesting that Indian men who move to the West return to the homeland for subservient brides, Chadha honors Jane Austen’s writing, which frequently examined marriage as financial transactions rather than matters of the heart. The lighthearted surface and cultural subtext are integrated well, but the story is too busy and the characters too broadly drawn to make an impact. Rai, who has been dubbed “the most beautiful woman in the world”, shows glimmers of what makes her an international sensation, but her charms are more evident in another Austen adaptation, the Bollywood film I HAVE FOUND IT (KANDUKONDAIN KANDUKONDAIN). Chadha doesn’t know how best to use Rai and compounds the problem by pairing her with Henderson, who comes off as the least charismatic romantic lead possible. There’s much to like about BRIDE & PREJUDICE—the cheerful spirit and the relevant update of the source material—but the end result looks and feels like a cut-rate version of the Bollywood and Hollywood sensibilities.
(Review first aired on the March 15, 2005 NOW PLAYING)