Bride & Prejudice

on February 11, 2005 by Christine James
Director/co-writer Gurinder Chadha ("Bend It Like Beckham") wants to have her kalakand and eat it too with this Bollywood-style adaptation of Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice." In the Elizabeth Bennet role is Aishwarya Rai as Lalita, a ridiculously beautiful farmer's daughter in Amritsar, India, who's put off by the arrogance of visiting American hotel magnate Will Darcy (Martin Henderson, who's as much of a cipher here as he was in "The Ring"). Darcy is in town for a wedding, an event that in Amritsar always warrants epic festivities regardless of who's getting married. Darcy gets off on the wrong foot with the spirited Lalita by deeming the crowded streets "bedlam," complaining of "Bali-belly" and summing up the local dance moves as "screwing in the light bulb and patting the dog." Little does he know he's talking to the one sodbuster who's apt to describe someone's sloppy eating habits as evoking a Jackson Pollock painting.

When Lalita tears into Darcy for wanting "five-star comfort with a bit of culture thrown in" rather than dealing with the real India, she succinctly articulates the hypocrisy of this movie. Amritsar is depicted as a vibrantly colorful village where everyone bursts into song and is dressed to the nines at all times for the elaborate parties that are constantly taking place. The only indication this isn't a theme park set is that occasionally the electricity flickers out. But this causes nary an inconvenience and instead provides an excuse to picturesquely bathe the stunning protagonist in candlelight. And is it odd and somewhat offensive to anyone else that Rai, a Bollywood superstar, has the most Anglicized looks of the cast? With her shimmery brown hair, green eyes and light complexion, she often looks like a 20-something Kirstie Alley.

That's not to say Rai isn't great in the role; she winningly channels an ideal heroine who's effortlessly gorgeous, intelligent, independent, talented, romantic and honorable. But it all has the trajectory of every Disney animated film of the '90s featuring a feisty femme. Add in some preposterously cartoonish characters like the Herb Tarleck-garbed Yakov Smirnoff soundalike who also vies for Lalita; a marriage-obsessed mother whose uncouth nature is underlined by having her snore boorishly on a settee; and a National Lampoon-caliber snooty in-law-to-be, and it all amounts to a lot of Bolly-hoo. Starring Aishwarya Rai, Martin Henderson, Daniel Gillies and Naveen Andrews. Directed by Gurinder Chadha. Written by Paul Mayeda Berges and Gurinder Chadha. Produced by Deepak Nayar and Gurinder Chadha. A Miramax release. Romance/Musical. Rated PG-13 for some sexual references. Running time: 111 min

Tags: remake, adaptation, Bollywood, musical, Gurinder Chadha, Jane Austen, Martin Henderson, Aishwarya Rai, wedding, romance

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