Saturday, April 09, 2005

FILM: Bride and Prejudice

We weren't sure what exactly to expect from Bride and Prejudice, but it turned out to be quite a fun romp. This will be hard to imagine, but this film takes the Jane Austen classic, resets the story in present-day India, and makes a Bollywood movie with an MTV sensibility. Amazingly, it works. The Austen themes of families of strong bright daughters seeking true love and marriage, with character triumphing over class, transplant quite well, finding fertile ground in the Indian soil of arranged marriages and matchmaking, and traditional cultures confronting new world capitalist excess. And having become acquainted with the character struggles faced by young Indian women thanks to other excellent movies such as Monsoon Wedding and Bend It Like Beckham, made the Austen transplant even easier. However, being unacquainted with the genre of Bollywood movies, we were caught off guard at first when the characters in our romantic film suddenly burst into big-scale song-and-dance production numbers. These numbers were sometimes funny and sometimes spectacularly colorful, featuring a rainbow of traditional Indian costumes. They were sometimes a bit corny, and sometimes a bit sexy (don't know how much of that is authentic Bollywood, and how much is an MTV sensibility infused for American audiences), and sometimes both at the same time, for example, some great smoldering longing gazes between the main hero and heroine. (One thing that is authentic Bollywood is that there are no actual on-screen Hollywood kisses.) The musical numbers allowed the movie to take itself lightly, while also taking itself just seriously enough. The successful balance calls to mind Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge, where occasionally corny musical numbers didn't undo the romance. Since we knew the Jane Austen ending already, it was just a lot of fun to how the story spins out in its new setting. It's a delight.

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