It’s almost impossible for me to review this film in any sensible manner… so taken aback am I by the astounding beauty and charm of Aishwarya Rai, I am finding it hard to compose coherent phrases, let alone well-formed sentences. But, then again, this film was designed to bring Rai to a Western audience – by taking Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, making it a modern day intercultural (as opposed to class) tale set in India and America, and letting loose the undisputed ‘Queen of Bollywood’ in her first English-language film, Chadha was always going to use Rai’s talents to their best effect.
With a brighter than bright colour palette, rousing score, dancing in the streets and singing in the rain, Bride & Prejudice is wonderfully entertaining. Not content with bringing Rai to the West, Chadha seems determined to show us the best of Bollywood as well. Perhaps, as a result, we will start to see more of such fare in our multiplexes?
Following familiar lines to anyone who has read Austen’s book, or seen any of the countless live action adaptations, we see Will Darcy meet Lalita Bakshi (Elizabeth Bennet), and immediately the friction begins. With Henderson giving Darcy an arrogance and self-certainty, he and Lalita were never going to gel smoothly. Lalita’s intelligence and unwillingness to settle for less than love ensure she isn’t overwhelmed by the rich Western businessman. It is the ensuing chase that provides the fun, even allowing for Lalita’s dalliance with the evil Johnny Wickham. Whilst it is fun, there are moments when the characters aren’t as well drawn as they could be, and perhaps more time could have been spent making Darcy’s interest in Lalita more believable – their initial conflict seems to morph into obsession pretty quickly.
Henderson is passable as Darcy, and his profile is rising higher and higher – it is a long way from New Zealand’s ‘Shortland Street’! The real star is Rai, however, who aside from being stunningly beautiful, shows a quick wit and a smile to die for. Her charm truly lights the screen – it is hard to appreciate how radiantly she glows in this film without seeing it for yourself – if she doesn’t make a successful move into mainstream Western fare soon I will be both shocked and disappointed.
As mentioned above, Chadha uses bright colours to paint an appealing picture of life in India. Although she could have moved the action on a little more at times, and perhaps lingered elsewhere as well, Bride & Prejudice never loses the viewers’ attention.
This is not perfect, but if you’re wanting to explore a side of film not often seen in the mainstream Western oeuvre, this could be an unchallenging introduction to what the Indian style of film-making has to offer.Rating: