Review: Bride and Prejudice

William Darcy (Martin Henderson) and Lalita Bakshi (Aishwarya Rai)

Bride and Prejudice is a light hearted and jolly take on  Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in a Bollywood setting.

It is not really a true adaptation of the original by Austen. The protagonists don’t possess any of the qualities and personality traits exemplified in Austen’s novel or seen in many good movie adaptations of the same.

Martin Henderson (Darcy’s character), while handsome, felt more like a fixture in the room, reciting the most insipid lines  – which in turn did not make him very interesting and enticing like the original Darcy. He does the best he can with the fluff he is given. I read somewhere that Henderson was primarily chosen for his looks, which, I guess, goes hand in hand with the fluff part.

Aishwarya Rai

Aishwarya Rai‘s character, Lalita, was not very likable. While very beautiful, of course, she seemed snide, arrogant, and rude, which in turn painted her in an unsympathetic light. The character she is based on in the original Pride and Prejudice is a charming, quick witted and intelligent young lady instead of slightly conceited and snide. She also behaved as if everyone owed her and was totally beneath her and she was merely tolerating them. This makes the affection Dacry and Lalita had for one another seem pretty unbelievable.

Kohli proposes

All this is compounded, of course, by the fact that there wasn’t much dialog and interaction between the two. No passionate exchanges, no intelligent conversation, none of that. Most of their exchanges consist of passing longing looks at each other across the room or she being offended about everything he says – even before he opens his mouth. When he then does the whole obligatory falling in love with her, it is just not very believable and convincing.

The same is true for all characters really: they all just fall in love with each other or do things that are somewhat unsupported by their actions and even words. It gnaws on the believability of a movie and its characters when characters start exhibiting feelings without any prelude.

Lalita and her friends dancing in the streets before the wedding.

I also find Rai’s “virgin Mary” routine annoying and tiresome. The fact that they never even exchange a kiss made this movie lack something – like the spice that is otherwise sprinkled all over. It could certainly have been done in a tasteful way so it is not offensive to Ms. Rai. I can understand that she doesn’t want to film any steamy love scenes or even rumbling around in bed, but they could have kissed at least once and actually I have seen that happen in many Bollywood productions – even with her in it – so it is not like it is unheard of.

The Pride and Prejudice movie with Keira Knightley has, in my opinion, one of the best on-screen kisses (in the end) ever: very tasteful and romantic. Too bad it is missing in this movie.

Lalita and Darcy

Finally, it is strange to look at how most of the female characters were cast. Lalita is gorgeous and stands out among her sisters who all seem kind of bland and not very attractive – at least not compared to Lalita.

In fact, they are caricatures and stereotypes of sorts and Lalita clearly stands out as the most sophisticated, intelligent, beautiful ingénue among them. That makes for predictability because of course Darcy falls in love with her. What else would he do? She is the most gorgeous woman in that village, if not nation.

Aishwarya Rai was/is clearly the mega star and it appears as if all the other female leads were cast deliberately so as to not compete with and thus undermine Rai’s presence. This movie is almost like a homage to her more than anything else.

“Just Don’t Say Anything too Smart Girls” – Lalita and her sisters waiting for Kohli’s arrival

All that said, however, I must admit that I personally don’t hold this movie to Austen’s standards. It stands on its own merits and the Pride and Prejudice story-line seems to have been used in a very rudimentary way and more as an inspiration to make room for what the director really wanted to accomplish: a colorful Bollywood flick.

This movie is a perfect, colorful and beautiful mix between Bollywood and Hollywood. It is joyful, colorful and happy with a great ensemble and great photography.

Despite some missing dialog and depth, Henderson and Rai have still chemistry  – which would have been sizzling if they actually did talk to each other more and she wasn’t so reserved guarding her chassi.

Darcy and Lalita

I like Gurinder Chadha‘s style of mixing the cheerful and colorful and traditional with the modern – with added social commentary and comedy, but in a subtle way and without giving too much the appearance that she was pushing for some political message and drama. Life’s too short to try to be too serious and the story in a well made movie like this is secondary.

As Roger Ebert once said, a good movie is not what it’s about, it’s how it is about it. This movie hit the nail on the head in terms of the how.

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