Bride and Prejudice.
Like many people I know, I have a special place in my heart for Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. During the years that my sister was studying South Asian culture, she also introduced me to the joyous synthesis of squeaky-clean romance, music, dance and colorful costume changes that are Bollywood movies. Bride and Prejudice is the initially unlikely but quite successful synthesis of these two – Pride and Prejudice set in modern-day India, with lots of globe hopping. This setting translates the concerns of the original novel quite brilliantly. In modern-day India, marriage is still much more socially important than it is in the UK or America. I confess I don’t know anything about the Indian province of Amritsar, where Jaya, Lalita and their two younger sisters live, but it’s described in the film as a beautiful backwater. It has lovely cultural artifacts like the Golden Temple, but not much in the way of modernity. Lalita loves it passionately, and defends it fiercely both to American businessman Will Darcy, in town for a wedding with his best friend, and the Indian ex-pat distant cousin. The cousin is crass and wealthy and, even though he thinks America is better in so many ways, wants a nice traditional Indian girl for his wife. Very helpfully to fans of the book, while the girls’ names are changed to traditional Indian names, the men mostly have the same names as in the book. The plot is simplified and Austen’s marvelous dialogue doesn’t come over at all. But there’s music and dancing in plenty, both as part of regular life and when the characters sing and dance out their feelings. This isn’t true Bollywood, as it’s done by the UK team that did Bend it Like Beckham, so hard-core fans may find it lacking. However, for people like me who need to be able to fold laundry while watching a movie, having it in English was a big help. Bride and Prejudice is a delightfully fluffy movie, good for the liberal Austen fan and as an introduction to Bollywood.