Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Bride and Prejudice

Lowdown: A contemporary Indian take on Pride and Prejudice.
Bride and Prejudice could not have hit Channel 9 broadcasting schedule at a better time. Just as we were thinking our Jane Austen festival over, after watching Pride and Prejudice (both TV series and film) as well as Emma, Bride and Prejudice came marching in.
A 2004 Indian production aimed at Western viewers, Bride and Prejudice does two things: It takes the Pride and Prejudice story across time to a contemporary 21st century setting, and it takes it across space from an English setting to an Indian one. Other than that, it's all the same affair: A family with four (instead of the original's five) daughters is going through the ordeal of getting them married. The eldest daughter is beautiful and comes under the watchful eye of an admiring celebrity that happens to be rich, while the second daughter seems to be caught in a chain of bitter arguments with the celebrity's best friend: the American hotel chain mogul, Mr Darcy. Things get even more complicated when Darcy's accountant, Mr Kohli, an Indian living in Los Angeles, comes over to find an Indian bride to take back to LA and through circumstances ends up with an eye on the second daughter.
At this point I will stop outlining the plot and assume you know the rough outlines of Austen's original. Indeed, Bride and Prejudice follows those outlines all the way; where it does stray is in its broad daylight advertising of India and what it stands for. Not that there's anything wrong with that; it's just that in between exposing us to the positives of Indian culture, the film also takes us a bit too deeply into Bollywood. While there, we're attacked by a few musical pieces that entertain in a "what the hell is that" sort of a way but can also get on your nerves, and production values that wouldn't dare come out of Hollywood such as poor lip syncing on songs. At least the soundtrack is pretty exciting with its aggressive use of the surrounds in the musical numbers, even if fidelity is left wanting.
That said, I really enjoyed watching Bride and Prejudice. I can put it down to two reasons, both directly related to my current familiarity with the original work.
The first is the nice way in which the original was migrated to contemporary times. Darcy, the rich aristocrat from Derbyshire, is now an American real estate emperor; Lidia, the youngest sister who used to chase officers, is now busy texting guys; and Mr Collins, the old fashioned and rather silly priest, is now an accountant who thinks highly of himself because he owns a house in LA with two swimming pools. It left me wondering whether I would they should have turned Mr Collins into a lawyer instead...
The second thing I liked about Bride and Prejudice is the nice way with which the film remained loyal to the original. The various character names are very similar but they went through Indianization; London remained London but Derbyshire was replaced by LA; and time spent in Mr Bingly's estate is now time spent on a beach at Goa. It all works exactly as before and as intended; it keeps the original spirit of the story intact while applying Indian charm and wit.
Best scene: Mr Kohli performing body stretches before proposing to the second daughter. It's way too slapsticky a scene, which means it's silly, but it totally fits the spirit of Bride and Prejudice. Besides, the execution of the film's Mr Kohli character was by far the best thing about it.
Overall: I've enjoyed this one a lot, so although it is compromised I will be very generous and give it 4 out of 5 stars. Highly recommended to Austen fans and to those seeking an easy but entertaining film to watch.

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