Bride And Prejudice

Bride And Prejudice


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

A modern dress Jane Austen in Amritsar is one of those light-bulb moments when the initial response is, "Why has no one thought of this before?" How would the Bennets have felt if their daughters burst into song on the croquet lawn while guests nibbled cucumber sandwiches and Cumberland pie in the summer drawing room?

Gurinder Chadha's film is not a parody of 18th century English mores, but a parody of Bollywood. Whole streets of people erupt into dance, singing in English and grinning like lunatics. Would-be lovers chase each other between the fine jets of a futuristic fountain. Whenever moonlight softens the harshness of the noonday sun, a lovely girl, usually Lalita (Aishwarya Rai), goes into Pop Idol mode, with a sentimental ballad ("This place called love, is it real or is it a dream?") of mind-mulching banality.

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The theme of pushy mum endeavouring to wed her daughters to rich suitors fits naturally into an Indian setting, where arranged marriages have much scope for comedy (and tragedy). Rather than lightly brush the satire with deeper resonances of malcontent between generations, Chadha pushes the anti-imperialist, anti-US buttons as hard as she can. The result is an odd mixture of farce and polemic.

The American Mr Darcy (Martin Henderson) has all the credentials of a neo-con - arrogant, rich, patronising, intollerant and privileged. He is in India to buy a luxury hotel in Goa and makes it perfectly obvious what he thinks of the natives. Lalita fancies him because he has those studied good looks that come naturally to those born within a camcorder's zoom of the Hollywood sign, but finds his politics repulsive.

An English backpacker, called Wickham (Daniel Gillies), turns up. He has no money, but a right-on attitude towards the nation's vibe, which attracts Lalita and her rebellious younger sister, Lucki (Peeya Rai Chowdhary). Darcy and Wickham hate each other for reasons that are never satisfactorily explained.

Another visitor on the hunt for wife material is an accountant, now green carded and living in L.A, who believes that money is the root of all happiness and overacting in something as frothy as a Bollywood rom-com entirely in keeping with the Asian panto style.

Chadha has discarded the wit of What's Cooking and the charm of Bend It Like Beckham for a vulgar musical romp that follows Bombay tradition, while remaining loyal to the memory of Miss Austen. Almost all is forgiven, because the daughters are fun and exceptionally beautiful, but Darcy is such a spoilt mummy's boy he doesn't deserve them and, in the end, Henderson's self-satisfied posing drives a nail through the heart of the film.

Reviewed on: 08 Oct 2004
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Jane Austen romance, Bollywood style.
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Read more Bride And Prejudice reviews:

David Haviland ***1/2
Symon Parsons **1/2

Director: Gurinder Chadha

Writer: Paul Mayeda Berges, Gurinder Chadha

Starring: Aishwarya Rai, Martin Henderson, Daniel Gillies, Naveen Andrews, Namrata Shirodkar, Indira Varma, Nadira Babbar, Anupam Kher, Meghna Kothari, Peeya Rai Chowdhary, Nitin Chandra Ganatra, Sonali Kulkarni

Year: 2004

Runtime: 111 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: UK/US


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