Bride & Prejudice

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Rating: PG-13

Aishwarya Rai as Lalitha Bakshi
Martin Henderson as William Darcy
Nadira Babbar as Mrs. Bakshi
Anupam Kher as Mr. Bakshi
Naveen Andrews as Balraj Bingley
Namrata Shirodkar as Jaya Bakshi
Daniel Gillies as Johnny Wickham
Indira Varma as Kiran Bingley
Sonali Kulkarni as Chandra Lamba
Nitin Chandra Ganatra as Mr. Kholi
Meghna Kothari as Maya Bakshi
Peeya Rai Chowdhary as Lakhi Bakshi
Alexis Bledel as Georgie Darcy
Marsha Mason as Catherine Darcy
Ashanti as Special appearance

Special Features:
Commentary by director/co-writer Gurinder Chadha and co-writer Paul Mayeda Berges

Making of Featurette

Deleted Scenes

Extended Songs

Ashanti’s Song

A Conversation with actors Aishwarya Rai and Martin Henderson

Other Info:
Widescreen (2.35:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Spanish Subtitles
French Language Track
Running Time: 112 Minutes

The following is from the DVD cover:

“A clash of cultures in the spirit of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, this modern musical retelling of Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice is a hilariously entertaining tale of one girl’s unlikely search for love! Sparks immediately fly as a love/hate relationship ignites between a small-town beauty (international star Aishwarya Rai) and a wealthy American (Martin Henderson — The Ring, Torque) who’s visiting her modest Indian village. In a swirl of music, dance, and comic misunderstandings, these opposites continue to attract and repel each other in a riotous romance that spans three continents! Featuring Naveen Andrews (TV’s Lost, The English Patient) and a memorable performance from top recording artist Ashanti — love will eventually conquer all in this acclaimed treat from the director of Bend It Like Beckham!”

Bride & Prejudice is rated PG-13 for some sexual references.

The Movie:
India’s Bollywood studio system continues to churn out hugely successful musicals that earn millions of dollars, but making a Bollywood film that appeals to Western sensibilities has proven to be a bit more difficult. Two years ago, The Guru starring Marisa Tomei and Heather Graham, and Hollywood/Bollywood both tried and failed.

Meanwhile, two of the best-known female directors of Indian descent, Gurinder Chadha and Mira Nair, have made Western films that remained true to their roots while appealing to mainstream non-Indian audiences. Chadha’s sports comedy Bend It Like Beckham and Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding are two benchmarks in the field, so it’s odd that both of them took a cue from English literature for their most recent movies. Nair essentially discarded her roots for her version of Vanity Fair starring Reese Witherspoon, while Chadha has taken a classic Jane Austen tale originally set in 18th Century England and brings it into a modern-day Indian setting.

It’s no surprise that Austen’s complex romantic wrappings are well suited for the Bollywood treatment. Chadha’s adaptation with regular co-writer Paul Mayeda Berges retains enough of the original names for diehard Austen fans to be happy, but it’s different enough in its approach to be seen as its own entity. Musicals have their own fair share of detractors, maybe because it’s strange when characters break out into song at the drop of a hat. This is the stock and trade of the Bollywood musical, and Bride & Prejudice maintains all the romance, humor and lavish musical numbers that one would expect.

The Eastern flavor of the opening musical number is so wonderful that you’re already ready to accept the idea of a Victorian romance set in modern-day India, when Chadha’s Western influences take over and that’s where things start to go wrong. Pretty soon, the movie is coasting along at a pace not unlike a typical American television show, mixing obvious sitcom-like humor with soppy romance and ineffective attempts at drama.

The Indian-tinged productions are replaced by cheesy Western pop songs with the worst of them being influenced by the sing-a-longs from Grease. The worst example of this is the song “No Life Without a Wife,” where the four sisters sing about a poor choice in suitors. Sure, the song is catchy as hell and you’ll find yourself hitting yourself in the head with a hammer to get it out of there, but the number is so cheesy that I can’t imagine anyone but teen girls really enjoying it. Surely, the songs in From Justin to Kelly were not worse than this. Things only get worse when the family travels to England and Los Angeles, when Chadha slips a bit of Nelly into the soundtrack. The performance by Ashanti serves absolutely no purpose except to maybe hustle a few soundtracks.

Chadha’s reputation helped her pull together an all-star Bollywood cast, including no less than two former Miss Indias. Already dubbed the “Queen of Bollywood”, the gorgeous Aishwarya Rai is quite wonderful as Lalita, although the writing and story never gives her too much room to stretch as an actress. There are also two terrific comedic performances that make the movie somewhat palatable. First, there’s Nitin Ganatra as Kholi, a completely incompetent Indian from California whose personality falls somewhere between Howie Mandel and Steve Urkel, and Nadira Babbar is hilarious as the girls’ meddlesome mother.

Of the production’s two non-Indians, Martin Henderson, star of last year’s action flop Torque, proves that he has some serious potential as a romantic lead, making the modern-day Darcy one of the few aspects of the movie that works. At least, he does a better job with the character than Daniel Gillies, who turns the lawyer Wickham into a surfing slacker with a penchant for underage Indian girls. As the film’s main antagonist, he has to come across as a bit sleazy, but why an intelligent woman like Lalita might have interest in him over Henderson’s Darcy makes little sense. Even so, there’s rarely any doubt how this love triangle will turn out, regardless of how hard Chadha tries to make us think otherwise.

Bride & Prejudice wouldn’t be so bad if Austen’s story was actually able to hold up to being dragged through this cultural melting pot, but it tries too hard to be hip, modern and light-hearted for its own good. It ends up seeming forced and contrived. It’s a shame, because under it all, Chadha’s subtle message about the differences between traditional Indians and those of the Western variety is worthwhile, but the only thing you end up coming away with is that the two shouldn’t mix.

Chadha’s attempt to mix East and West with Bride & Prejudice just doesn’t work. It ends up being little more than a corny and often ridiculous musical comedy geared towards teen girls and those who adored Grease, which apparently is a lot of people.

The Extras:
There are a few bonus features included on this DVD:

Commentary by director/co-writer Gurinder Chadha and co-writer Paul Mayeda Berges – This commentary is pretty good at pointing out the Bollywood touches in the movie. Chadha points out how little things like religious landmarks starting the films are Bollywood trademarks. This goes on throughout the movie. It helps add a little extra appreciation for what she was trying to do with the film.

Making of Featurette – This is your standard “making of” featurette containing interviews with the cast and crew, behind the scenes footage, and more.

Deleted Scenes – There are a fair number of deleted scenes. One shows Darcy’s mother showing up at the house and attempting to scare off Lalitha. Another scene shows Darcy going to his friend and telling him to marry Lalitha’s sister. There are also a few scenes showing more interaction with Lalitha’s family. If you liked the movie, you’ll like the deleted scenes.

Extended Songs – These are simply extended versions of the musical numbers from the film. However, there’s also an amusing video where the crew, clowning around on the set one day, recreated the elaborate opening dance number. It certainly looks like they had fun while shooting this movie.

Ashanti’s Song – Though you’d think this was a music video of the musical number in the movie, it isn’t. They mainly talk about how they recruited Ashanti and how the song was inspired by Indian music. There’s a lot of footage of them filming the scene.

A Conversation with actors Aishwarya Rai and Martin Henderson – These are more detailed discussions with the lead actors from the movie.

The Bottom Line:
Bride & Prejudice will probably please fans of Indian films, Grease, and Pride & Prejudice. However, Hollywood and Bollywood don’t always mix so well together and the result is a bit mediocre.