Mrs Bakshi, a loving if old-fashioned Indian mother, is desperate to marry off her two elder daughters and leave herself enough time to find suitors for the two younger girls. When a lavish wedding party comes to their small town she seizes the opportunity to pair Jaya, her eldest, with Balraj Bingley, a successful businessman from London. But her second child, the beautiful and spirited Lalita, flatly refuses to marry for anything less than love. When Lalita first meets Balraj's tactless American friend, Will Darcy, she is disgusted by his apparent arrogance. But fate keeps throwing them together in places as far flung as Goa, London and Los Angeles. Unexpectedly, they find love blossoming between them.
Bride and Prejudice is a hectic, hilarious and thoroughly delightful fusion of three supposedly contradictory creative forces. The complex Victorian social drama of Jane Austen's classic novel provides a steady backbone for the festive energy of a Bollywood musical, and the result is polished to a golden glow by Hollywood styling and production values. The movie is the brainchild of acclaimed British filmmaker Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham), and her love affair with her medium shines through in every shot of the film.
The enthusiasm and quantity of Bollywood song and dance sequences might take uninitiated viewers a bit by surprise, but most will soon be carried away by the sheer verve of the movie. Its fresh sincerity and ever present sense of fun are irresistibly infectious and more than make up for the small slips and tiny cracks that sometimes appear amid the festivities.
One of the best features of the film is its highly developed sense of humour. Dry English wit rubs shoulders with well-timed slapstick and flamboyant absurdity a la Peter Sellers. The irrepressible script pokes fun at everything and everyone, Indian, Western, rich, poor, old and young.
Though the combination of Jane Austen and Bollywood melodrama seems outlandish at first, you quickly realise how similar the two forms are. Both exist in a privileged bubble where the most pressing worries are things like marriage and dowries, and war or poverty or death do not creep onto the stage to steal the show. This lack of grit and realism might irritate some, but neither this movie nor the novel are concerned with anything more than telling their own story in the way they choose. Realism is irrelevant.
No doubt many Austen purists will be horrified by this electric pink adaptation of her classic. The hordes of cinematic mother grundies will take great delight in decrying the film's lack of finesse, its use of melodrama and it utter lack of realism. These sober criticisms are all entirely valid, but are also entirely beside the point. This movie is a marvellous mouthful of sinful confectionary, and should be enjoyed as such. If you want Shakespeare, then don't go to the fairground.
Though you may have grave doubts about Bollywood, or musicals, or Jane Austen or even all three, I urge you to give "Bride and Prejudice" a chance. Its sweetness is the sweetness of a deliciously gooey homemade bon bon - not the pre-packaged artificiality that so many McMovies offer up as entertainment. You won't be disappointed.- Alistair Fairweather
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