Bride and Prejudice

    1995 was the year of all things Jane Austen. On television, there was
the acclaimed adaptation of
PRIDE AND PREJUDICE while there were big
screen adaptations of
Writer-director Amy Heckerling even managed to transpose the author’s
EMMA to contemporary Beverly Hills in CLUELESS. With dueling versions
EMMA on television and in the cineplexes the following year, Austen-mania
hit its peak.

    As Heckerling proved, Austen’s stories can survive being updated, so it’s
a wonder why there haven’t been more attempts to do so. Since the novelist
has been dead for almost two centuries, she’s perfect for Hollywood. The
material is in public domain, ripe for the plucking. In 2003, a Mormon
filmmaker attempted to update
PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, but the film only
received a limited regional release, and from all accounts, it was merely
passable. Now along comes South Asian director Gurinda Chada (who scripted
along with her husband Paul Mayeda Berges) to create a cross-cultural
take on the material.
BRIDE & PREJUDICE is Jane Austen meets Bollywood,
and the results are pleasant but not exactly earth-shattering.

    Chada and Mayeda Berges have transposed the Bennets of Hertfordshire
to the Bakshis of Amritsar. Mrs. Bakshi is still interested in marrying off her
daughters to wealthy men, so when Londoner Balraj Bingley (Naveen Andrews)
arrives for a local wedding, she sets her sights on him for her eldest daughter
Jaya (Namrata Shirodkar). Bingley is traveling with his best mate, American
hotel magnate William Darcy (Martin Henderson), who crosses paths with the
second Bakshi daughter Lalita (Aishwarya Rai, who also co-starred in an Indian
version of Austen’s
SENSE AND SENSIBILITY). Thanks to misunderstandings
and miscommunications, Darcy and Lalita take an instant dislike to one another
which audiences know will eventually give way to true love.

    Instead of the confines of 18th-century England, Chada and Mayeda
Berges have set the tale all over the world – the global village in which we
all live. Scenes move from Amritsar to Goa to London to Los Angeles. Along
the way are further complications in the form of Kholi (Nitin Ganatra), an
accountant from Southern California returning home to seek his bride, George
Wickham (Daniel Gillies), a slightly mysterious man with whom Lalita bonds
before he turns his attentions to her much younger sister, and Darcy’s mother
(Marsha Mason).

    BRIDE & PREJUDICE is an enjoyable romp, using Austen’s novel as a
jumping off point and it is candy for the eye and ear. The musical numbers
are staged amusingly enough – the music is terrific and catchy, the lyrics,
however, are on the pedestrian side. The acting is a mixed bag. Rai, a former
Miss World, is appropriately gorgeous and luscious as Lalita. Henderson is
somewhat stiffer than need be as Darcy. Andrews registers well as Bingley.
There’s also a seemingly unnecessary cameo appearance from pop singer

Rating:                     B-
MPAA Rating:            PG-13 for some sexual references
Running time:           111 mins.
©  2005 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.