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Bride and Prejudice (2004)

Bollywood meets Hollywood... And its a perfect match

Directed by:

Gurinder Chadha

Rating: 6/10

Running Time: 111 minutes

US Certificate: PG-13 UK Certificate: 12a

Country: United Kingdom, United States

Like a three-week old bowl of egg vindaloo, ‘Bride and Prejudice’ can be a little hard to digest. As you’ll probably be able to guess from the pun-tastic title, it’s a take-off of Jane Austen’s legendary toff tale ‘Pride and Prejudice’. The twist? Most of the cast are Indian, it’s got some finger-gnawingly bad musical sequences, and Mr Darcy’s an American yuppy with a chip on his shoulder about arranged marriages. If it were somehow possible to throw Bollywood and Hollywood really hard against each other, the resultant splat would be this movie.

The idea to nick the basic plotline from a classic piece of English literature, mix in some generic romantic comedy, and present the whole thing in the style of an overblown Bollywood musical is the brainchild of writer-director Gurinder Chadha, the Kenyan-born Brit who previously brought us the thoroughly enjoyable ‘Bend It Like Beckham’. But, in trying to merge together so many massively different styles and present them to a mainstream audience, there’s always going to be a worry that she may have bitten off more than she can chew.

There’s nothing particularly complicated about the plot itself. Aishwarya Rai plays eligible Indian gal Lalita who, for the stream of men longing to have themselves fixed up with such a hottie, is full of Eastern promise. Romance looks like the last thing on the cards, though, when she bumps into the smarmy Will Darcy (Martin Henderson) at a family bash. With his refusal to even attempt to conceal his complete ignorance of Indian culture and his condescending remarks about “Delhi Belly”, he’s every bit the obnoxious Yank abroad. Brainless bestubbled beach hunk Johnny Wickham looks a far more appropriate object of her affections – but is he all he appears? In a word, no. Of course he’s not.

Most of the lead performances are less than polished, and it’s generally the supporting players who are left to provide the memorable turns (notably Nadira Babbar as Lalita’s marriage-obsessed mum and David Baddiel look-a-like Nitin Ganatra as an uncomfortably Americanized suitor). If you head along to watch it you should also brace yourself for some of the outright worst musical segments in celluloid history, with some genuinely terrible melodies hidden only by the sheer horror of the lyrics. One more criticism: it’s far too long to maintain its self-imposed in-your-face momentum, and could easily have had 20 minutes lopped off its running time.

But, for all its faults, it’s actually quite good fun. It captures the colours and brightness of Bollywood fantastically well, and has been put together with such spirit and gusto that it’s impossible not to enjoy at least some of it. True, parts of it are really, REALLY bad – but at times it’s almost as if everyone involved is having such a good time that it seems cruel to tell them. So I’ll hold back from knocking it any further and simply say that if you’re a little bored of standard cinema fare and fancy seeing something upbeat and different, give ‘Bride and Prejudice’ a go.

It's Got: Cross-dressers, surfers, a Gospel choir, more midriff than a Britney greatest hits DVD, and me in the mood for a curry.

It Needs: To do something about those God-awful musical numbers!

Summary

A lively attempt at adapting Bollywood for the masses – all you need is a set of ear-plugs and you’re good to go.

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