This 2005 film is based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice novel from 1813, which was made into movies a number of times. It was a BBC production in 1996, starring Colin Firth and then remade again, starring Firth as Bridget Jone’s Diary. Firth played the Darcy character in both films. The Jones film is based on a novel by Helen Fielding, and her book was a retelling of the Austen story.
Directed by Gurinder Chadha who directed Bend It Like Beckam, Bride is very funny and lavishly photographed. India has beautiful, modern locales and they are on full display. Witness the beach scenes at night with the rave starring singer Ashanti. The characters are mostly extraordinarily attractive, thanks especially to former Miss World 1994 Aishwarya Rai, and her on-screen sisters. Martin Henderson plays the brooding Darcy, someone who was immediately smitten but not comfortable showing it. Rai’s Lalita (Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet character) is whip smart, opinionated and won’t marry for money over love.
Essentially, the Bakshi family, farmers, have four daughters, with two being pushed into marriage by the matchmaker mother. When rich family friends come to visit for a wedding, the mother encourages the attraction between a couple of them and the two oldest daughters. One hooks up with Lalita’s older sister, played by he stunning Namatra Shirodokar, a former Miss Universe runner-up. His friend, Will Darcy, whose family owns luxury hotels, is into Lalita, but so is the nerdy rich one from L.A., Mr. Kholi and Darcy’s nemesis, the charming cad Johnny Wickham. Seeing all the beautiful people in this film can make you a believer in love at first sight.
Most of the dance numbers are typical Bollywood save for the one in which Lilita’s sisters tease her about how the rich nerd has “no life without wife.” It’s meant to recall the movie Grease and is a refreshing change of pace. All the songs were written by Indian songwriters with the goal of appealing to Western ears. Mission accomplished.
Lalita appears too eager to dismiss Darcy. He’s nuts about her but at the same time, she can’t stand him. The film would have had more heart, too, if they removed some of the flash to focus more on the characters. At times, it’s just a tad too much like music video. They also should have kept one of the deleted scenes in which Darcy visits Balraj (Naveen Andrews)to apologize for talking his friend out of marrying Lalita’s older sister, due to the gold-digging attitude of the mother. Lalita’s friendship with Johnny Wickham also appears to develop too quickly.
Compared to the Austen films that came out about 10 years ago, Emma (with Gwen Paltrow) and Sense and Sensebility (Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant), Bride and Prejudice comes close but isn’t quite in the same company.
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