Bride and Prejudice (2004)
Jane Austen meets (modified) Bollywood and the result is delightful. This is one of the best adaptations of Jane Austen to the contemporary setting I’ve come across. It’s fun, it’s lighthearted and does a great job compacting the novel into 112 minutes.
The plot is basically the same as the novel but takes place in Amritsar, India, London, and LA. Darcy (Martin Henderson) has come to Amritsar with his college pal Balraj (Naveen Andrews) and Balraj’s sister Kiran (Indira Varma) to attend a wedding. There they meet the Bakshi sisters Jaya (Namrata Shirodkar), Lalita (Aishwarya Rai), Maya (Meghna Kothari) and Lakhi (Peeya Rai Chowdhary). Later in the film, Mr. Kohli (Nitin Ganatra) the transplanted American arrives and eventually offers for Lalita’s friend Chandra (Sonali Kulkarni) much to Mrs. Bakshi’s (Nadira Babbar) dismay and Mr. Bakshi’s (Anupam Kher) delight.
In a slight change from the book, Lahki and Wickham (Daniel Gillies) run off only to be tracked down in time to avoid disaster. Eventually, as we know it must, Lalita’s prejudice and Darcy’s pride are transformed as each sees the other in a different light than when they first met and, after Jaya and Balraj are reunited, a happy double wedding, Indian style, ends the film.
Director Gurinder Chadha includes lots of homages to Bollywood films but tempers that for Western film goers who might not be ready for a full Bollywood experience. There are plenty of song and dance numbers, shots of famous landmarks, and scenes filmed on staircases. It wasn’t until I listened to the commentary tract, that I found out how many of the scenes I thought were filmed in either LA or India, were actually made in England. Ah, the magic of film making.
The screenwriters were fairly faithful to the main events in the book with a few exceptions. Lady Catherine becomes Darcy’s mother, there are only four Bakshi daughters and, in a nice change, Chandra and Mr. Kohli appear to be headed towards a happier marriage than Charlotte and Mr. Collins. The main difference though is the fact that here the differences in culture stand for the original differences in class. Darcy and Lalita must find a way to blend India and America rather than just overcome a difference in social position.
The dance numbers are fun to watch including a few wedding scenes sung in Punjabi, a street scene in Amritsar, a beach party in Goa and, in LA, a Mariachi band plus a gospel choir backed up by singing surfers and beach lifeguards.
Purists were no doubt appalled by it all but I love it. The story is shown to be eternal and translatable to any country or time. Check it out and I bet you’ll find yourself tapping your toes as the Bakshi girls dance and sing about how wonderful life would be as Mrs. Kohli. Oh, and don’t forget to watch through the credits at the end – there are lots of funny outtakes included.