A modern day re-telling of any Jane Austen novel is always something deserving of attention – whether or not it will be worth it is another story all together. This happens to be a Bollywood version of Pride & Prejudice and inspired by that genre, it is a fun contemporary tale filled with colorfully choreographed song and dance numbers that are each irresistibly charming, and leaves you with a smile on your face long after the final credits have rolled.
Life in India is difficult for the Bakshi family. A struggling farmer with four unmarried daughters, Mr. Bakshi isn’t the only person with trouble among his fellow countrymen. Mrs. Bakshi however has much different thoughts occupying her time. All she wants is to see her daughters married to wealthy men and her first opportunity presents itself at the rehearsal party of her daughter’s friend. A wealthy English businessman with Indian ancestry is arriving as the best man to the groom – nothing could be more perfect! Grasping the chance, Mrs. Bakshi hopes one of her girls catches the man’s eye – where her eldest is sensible, her youngest is brash and immature.
Eldest Jaya (Namrata Shiodkar) instantly catches the attention of Balrai Bingley (Naveen Andrews) with her quiet grace and beauty while next in line Lalita (Aishwarya Rai) finds herself oddly intrigued by the American businessman and friend of Balrai, Will Darcy (Martin Henderson). As a guest of Balrai and his snotty sister Will is less than impressed by his friends’ culture. It doesn’t take Lalita long to pick up on Will’s less charming characteristics and soon she changes her opinion entirely of him when she realizes he is nothing but an arrogant aristocrat leading to a new kind of sparks between them.
For some reason or another I LOVE this movie – perhaps it is the choreography or the story or the acting but whatever, it’s infectious. (Most likely it has something to do with Jane Austen’s name being attached.) The movie was one of those “on a whim” rentals that subsequently endeared itself as a movie to own. Later on when I bought a copy, it become one of those DVD’s that sits on my shelf for weeks on end without being considered prime “movie night” viewing. Whenever I finally do pull it out, dust it off and pop it into the player, it is quick to remind what a true gem of a film it is. That’s not to say it is for everyone, because really it is quite unique in its own right. Bride & Prejudice completely captured my attention for its own unique flavor – it is just darn entertaining.
The film sparkles with musical numbers (which are sometimes overlong and plenty) along with some really lovely scenery and gorgeous, bright cultural costuming. Add in all of that combined with my fondness for the original material and this musical has an irresistible factor going for it. Some of the numbers can be a bit drawn-out (like the “shopping sequence”) but contain such loveliness one can basically forgive them and such a minor offence is countered anyway with an especially upbeat number, “No Life without Wife” – an adorable song that involves good-natured, sisterly teasing about an upcoming proposal amongst the sisters. Not many of the actors are particularly well-known but the cast is solid nonetheless. Henderson and Rai have a fabulous chemistry that is easy to believe (plus Martin makes a good-looking Darcy *grin*). Additionally there are a couple of cameo performances by some great American talent including Alexis Bledel and Marsha Mason.
All in all, the movie is energetic and a lot of fun. The dialect can be a bit difficult to decipher at times even though the language is in English, the accents can make for a challenge. It does have some successions of shots that feel a tad out-of-place, and seem ill-suited to the rest of the story, but then it also features several stunning scenes such as the waterfall sequences or the “date scene” between Will and Lalita. All the little things about Bride & Prejudice add up to conclude on a high note that makes for an unforgettable two hours in front of the television. If you’re an Austen fan or enjoy musicals, give this one a try: you will be swept into a world of colorful dance and music that you just may be sad to see come to an end.
(Be aware: there are a few minor innuendoes. A young girl makes plans to run away with someone and there is a covert reference to a possible abortion. The film is rated PG13)