Saturday, April 16, 2005

Bride and Prejudice

I rely on Bonnie to take me to good movies. I often am behind in reading reviews, which means I can sometimes get into the theater without even knowing whether the film will be comic, dramatic, or tragic or a combination of all of these. I enjoy being able to watch a film without any expectations other than it will be good because Bonnie chose it. Last night I did have a sense of what I would see, as the title Bride and Prejudice is a reference too clear for me to miss. I had also seen the ads saying “Hollywood meets Bollywood,” so I guessed there would be song and dance. What I did not know is how very much I would enjoy the film.

Bride and Prejudice is not a realistic depiction of life in India, just as the Hollywood musicals of the 1930s stood far apart from the life of Depression Era America. It is a well-crafted entertainment with no apologies to current conditions. Everyone sings and dances. I most enjoyed the colorful dance scenes in the streets of Amritsar, some including elephants and marching bands. Bonnie picked as her favorite “No Wife, No Life,” a song the four Bakshi sisters sing in their white pajamas at bedtime. In funny ways I was reminded of the Blues Brothers and Grease as much as the Bollywood films that I have seen on Turner Classic Movies.

International film fans should see this movie just to see Aishwarya Rai as Lalita Bakshi, for Rai is said by some reviewers to be the most popular actress in India. I thought she had much more presence than Martin Henderson as William Darcy; he is a soft Darcy who gives in a little too easily. My favorite character is Mr. Kholi, played by Nitin Chandra Ganatra, who returns from Los Angeles to Amitsar to find a traditional Indian wife; his table manners are atrocious.

If there is a serious thought to be nursed after seeing Bride and Prejudice, it is that there are large, affluent Indian communities around the world, who work at preserving their traditions, but at the same time value much from American and European culture. The cast itself represents the American, British, and Asian communities. Both the director Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham) and Ganatra were born in Kenya.

Bride and Prejudice should join A Passage to India, The Jewel in the Crown, Gandhi, Monsoon Wedding, and Shakespeare Wallah in public library collections.

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