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"Bride and Prejudice" Movie Review

It's Wild, It's Fun, It's Bollywood Meets Hollywood

By

Martin Henderson and Aishwarya Rai

Martin Henderson and Aishwarya Rai star in "Bride and Prejudice"

© Miramax Films.
If you’re willing to accept Jane Austen’s classic “Pride and Prejudice” novel revamped, re-envisioned, and reconfigured into a loud, brassy, in-your-face Bollywood musical, then you’re ready for “Bride and Prejudice.” Gurinder Chadha (“Bend It Like Beckham”) updates and reinvigorates Austen’s story, moving the setting to modern day India and changing the supporting characters to fit the updated environment.

“Bride and Prejudice” is a wild celebration of life and love. In this fresh take on Austen’s story, an Indian mother, Mrs. Bakshi (Nadira Babbar) is searching for suitable (read ‘wealthy’) husbands for her four beautiful daughters. Her ‘husband radar’ working at full tilt, Mrs. Bakshi lets the world know how she suffers because her daughters are unwed. She’s not in the least bit shy about letting everyone within earshot know her daughters will make wonderful wives to any appropriate suitors (credit check and bank account statements required prior to taking a walk down the aisle).

At a party to celebrate the upcoming wedding of a family friend, the Bakshis oldest daughter Jaya (Namrata Shirodkar) falls under the spell of Balraj (Naveen Andrews), a handsome, wealthy Indian who lives in London and who all the mothers have set their sights on nabbing. In other words, he’s 100% prime husband meat. Meanwhile, Lalita (Aishwarya Rai), the second oldest daughter, meets and rejects American millionaire Will Darcy (Martin Henderson). Will comes across as a jerk, making comments about India and Indian women that infuriate Lalita.

Despite the very rocky start, Will’s attracted to Lalita but can’t figure out why she detests him so much. Lalita sees nothing attractive about his personality, viewing him as a spoiled American capitalist. Still, there’s a connection between the two that seems to draw them together almost against their wills.

With mom still hoping to march her daughters down the aisle in short order, the Bakshis invite Mr. Kohli (Nitin Ganatra), an Indian who has moved to Los Angeles and who spouts bizarre, dated American sayings, to come and choose one of their luscious daughters. Kohli selects Lalita but she says no, claiming she will only marry for love. What’s a mother to do?

The situation gets even more convoluted when Johnny Wickham (Daniel Gillies) appears on the scene. Wickham and Darcy have history (and it’s not pretty) and when Wickham wins Lalita’s attention, Darcy does what any man would – he leaves India and returns to his home in Los Angeles.

The story is kept moving along by frenetic dance numbers and snappy songs that leap from pop to classic rock ‘n roll to touching ballads. Even Ashanti makes the scene playing a singer at an Indian-style rave.

As for the cast, Martin Henderson is charming even when his character’s not at his most likeable. Naveen Andrews (an actor whose career is taking off thanks to the success of the TV series, “Lost”) shows off flashy dance moves and makes the most of his supporting role.

The actors who make up the Bakshi family are terrific. In fact, they sell the ‘family unit’ so well it’s easy to fall into their world and believe these people are indeed related. Aishwarya Rai (the Queen of Bollywood) and Namrata Shirodkar are more than just attractive eye candy. These women can act and easily steal the show from their male counterparts. There’s truly not a weak link in this large ensemble cast.

The success of “Chicago” and “Moulin Rouge” have helped pave the way for contemporary American audiences to embrace the return of the movie musical. Hopefully “Bride and Prejudice” will help sell Bollywood newbies on the Indian cinematic experience. The style is visually stunning and the romance is sweet and innocent. How refreshing!

GRADE: B+

"Bride and Prejudice" was directed by Gurinder Chadha and is rated PG-13 for some sexual references.

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