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Martin Henderson Talks About "Bride and Prejudice"

On India, Bollywood, and Working with Gurinder Chadha


Martin Henderson and Aishwarya Rai in Bride and Prejudice

Aishwarya Rai and Martin Henderson in "Bride and Prejudice"

© Miramax Films
Feb 9, 2005 - Director Gurinder Chadha ("Bend It Like Beckham") unites Bollywood with the classic novel by Jane Austen to create the wildly energetic musical, "Bride and Prejudice." Starring Aishwarya Rai (The Queen of Bollywood) Martin Henderson, and Naveen Andrews, "Bride and Prejudice" sets Austen's story in modern-day India.

In this exclusive interview, "Bride and Prejudice" star Martin Henderson provides a behind the scenes look at filming in India and what it was like working on a Bollywood-style production. Henderson also talks about why this modern version of the classic story should connect with Western audiences.


What was your first reaction to getting a script for a Bollywood-style “Pride & Prejudice” film?

My reaction was what an interesting idea (laughing). I instantly wanted to sit down with Gurinder [Chadha] only because from “Bend It Like Beckham” I knew she was the kind of director who makes very entertaining movies. She’s a crowd-pleaser, she’s very audience-driven. She doesn’t get caught up in doing anything fancy and showing off as a director. I thought that there was just a real innocence to her storytelling that was going to, obviously, serve the script. And it’s just such a novel idea.

I was somewhat familiar with Bollywood films. I used to travel a lot through Southeast Asia and around when I was younger, just backpacking around. I’d see the odd one. Although I don’t think that traditional Bollywood films would be taken that well here in the West, to sort mix the Eastern and the Western film language the way that Gurinder did, I just thought it was such an interesting and original idea.

That brings up an interesting point. Americans are not used to Bollywood style films. What is going to drive a Western audience to see “Bride & Prejudice?” What is it about this film that really sells it to an audience that’s not familiar with Bollywood?

You know, it’s interesting because the reaction of everyone who has been seeing the movie has been pretty much across the board very positive. A lot of what seems to be the reason for that is that the movie is so light and fresh and there’s a lot of energy and fun. It’s the kind of movie that I think people want [to see] to just forget about the world for a while. God knows the world seems to be in a bit of a mess every time you turn on the television or pick up the newspaper. It’s one of those stories and one of those films that just makes you feel good. It’s not complicated. It doesn’t take itself seriously. It’s certainly not cynical. It’s just a really good fun.

In the Bollywood tradition, one thing about Bollywood that I found is that there’s almost like a naiveté to their films and the themes of love and marriage and romance and whatnot. Obviously in the West we’re a lot more cynical about affairs and divorce and the pain of love, you know? Whereas there’s something almost like a fairy tale about the way Bollywood films, and this film, sort of tells the modern romance. I think it’s really refreshing, along with the music numbers and the dancing and the Indian locations and the colors of the film. A lot of people love how colorful it is, the costumes. The songs, people tap their feet along to the music. Obviously I’m hoping that that’s what’s going to drive people to see it. And then based on all the reactions from journalists and some of the test screenings, people have really loved it.

Have you been doing Q&As after the test screenings?

Yes, I just actually did one the night before last.

What’s the most interesting question the audience has asked you?

It depends on who they are. Everyone wants to know what it was like working with [Aishwarya Rai]. She’s so beautiful. I don’t know if that qualifies as an interesting question, but it’s certainly one a lot of people want to know the answer to (laughing). A lot of it is just like the style, “Was it different working in a more Bollywood style film than Western? Was it a challenge as an actor?” In some ways the answer to that is yeah, because it was quite a tough job, I think, to play the token Westerner. And in some ways my character is the most ‘straight’ of the whole piece.

It was an interesting thing. When we were getting ready to shoot the film, Gurinder and I spent a lot of time talking about the character of Darcy. There was always a temptation to just sort of play him as the cool, charming, sexy leading man. But we decided there was a lot more mileage out of what we considered was serving more of the Jane Austen tradition of the story. To have him as more of an anti-hero, especially to begin with, so he becomes quite an unlikable character at the beginning of the film and even in the second act.

Continued on Page 2

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