Tuesday, March 8, 2005

Bride and Prejudice

Bride and Prejudice is the third film written and directed by Gurinder Chadha (who was born in Kenya and grew up in London) that I have seen and thoroughly enjoyed. The others are What’s Cooking? (2000) about ethnically and culturally diverse families in Los Angeles who celebrate the challenges of Thanksgiving and Bend It Like Beckham (2002) about a teen daughter of Indian Sikh’s living in the U.K. who defies her parents to play soccer. All three films explore the tension between growing up, culture, tradition, and the modern world - and celebrate the joy of living at the same time.


Bride and Prejudice is a very original, colorful, funny and entertaining Bollywood disco-musical that takes place in contemporary India (UK and USA) and is based on Jane Austen’s novel (1775-1817) “Pride and Prejudice.”


Aishwarya Rai, Bollywood’s Julia Roberts, plays Lalita, the second daughter of gentrified farmers, Mr. and Mrs. Bakshi (Nadira Babbar and Anupam Kher), whose fortune has seen better days. They live to see their four daughters marry well so they can live well, too.


British visitor Balraj Bingly (Naveen Andrews of Lost) arrives in town one day for a friend’s wedding along with his sister and an American businessman, Will Darcy (Martin Henderson). Balraj is immediately attracted to the oldest sister, Jaya (Namrata Shirodkar) but Will and Lalita develop a just-as-immediate dislike for one another. When they travel together to check out a hotel location in Goa for Will’s company, Johnny Wickham, an old acquaintance of Will’s shows up to complicate matters, especially later on with Lucky (Peeya Rai Chowdhary), the third daughter.


When they all return to the Bakshi home, the nerdy but rich Mr. Kholi (Nitin Chandra Ganatra) shows up from Los Angeles. He is enthusiastically looking for a wife, much to the delight of the terminally optimistic Mrs. Bakshi.


If you have seen the seven or eight film or TV versions of Pride and Prejudice (with another one on the way), you’ll know the story. This interpretation is not only about family but community-centered which distinguishes it from its western incarnations.The charm of Bride and Prejudice is the characters, the setting, the music and dancing. And if you liked Mira Nair’s 2001 Monsoon Wedding, you’re sure to enjoy this film, as well, though it is a different genre. Some of the Indian actors in Bride and Prejudice may be new to U.S. audiences, and it’s a real pleasure to meet them because they are very talented.


And so Jane Austen’s romantic legacy lives on.


One is proud (Darcy), one is prejudiced (Lalita) and for the romance to work, each must give up some pride and some prejudice to permit humility and tolerance to flourish and create a meaningful, and hopefully, lasting relationship.

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