I went to a hen’s party today.
That may seem strange, but the bride-to-be is an old friend I used to work with and a BtVS fan, whereas I hardly know the prospective groom. They are having a small wedding and couldn’t invite all their friends to the wedding, so I and another male friend were invited to join Robyn and her girlfriends at a screening of Bride and Prejudice.
Being a big Jane Austen fan (although a bollywood neophyte), I was quite interested to see how the work was adapted. As others have stated, it seems that India is the logical choice to transplant Austen’s masterpiece, due to the family and social attitudes.
From the moment the film started, I was transfixed – often with delight and often with incredulity. The adaption was well done. I felt that they deftly handled the way in which the Elizabeth Bennet and Darcy characters changed towards each other. Certain segments of the book, such as the living in sin, were wisely not used in the film, and an abbreviated version of that plot thread was used instead to good effect.
The most surreal moment was on a beach at LA where the bollywood song and dance was transposed to a black choir and surfers surrounding the hero and heroine. The weakest moment for me was in the early scene mirroring the Bennett girls’ trip into town, where (in this version) all of Amritsa burst into song and followed them down the street. Maybe that’s the bollywood tradition, but the artificiality of it stopped my suspension of disbelief. I guess that, for the rest of the movie, I was either getting into the style, or else the song and dance sections were better integrated into the plot.
I felt that the way the scope changed from a small country drama to a globe-trotting scale was well done. To have a rustic Indian family interact with English and Americans could have been clumsily handled, and that didn’t feel the case here. Also, the transposition of the well-drawn absurd character types of Austen was well done. The mother was the cliched matchmaker, and the standout was of course the frightfully over-the-top Mr. Kholi as the Collins analogue. Of course the versions of Mary Bennett and Caroline Bingley were also well done, if generally more subtle.
Aishwarya Rai was as beautiful as Jennifer Ehle, but I’m afraid that Martin Henderson is not Colin Firth. The performance of Peeya Rai Chowdhary as the youngest sister was as delightfully silly as that of Julia Sawalha. While I might prefer the text-faithful English version, Bride and Prejudice is wildly fun and highly recommended.