Bride and Prejudice

The other day, in Sydney, I went to see Bride and Prejudice with my daughter. In case you don’t know, this is a Bollywoodised version of Jane Austen’s great work(which is always put at no 2 on world ‘top hundred’ reading lists these days, behind Lord of the Rings!). I’d heard all kinds of mixed reviews of it–the director, Gurinder Chadha, also directed Bend it Like Beckham, which is a rather different film, to say the least. Some reviewers sniffed at the exuberant vulgarity of the movie, and others seemed to think it quite extraordinary that an Indian–albeit a British Indian–could have the temerity to tackle such a classic work. But I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is much, much better than that silly, trite Bridget Jones’ Diary, another ‘updating’ of Pride and Prejudice, which never rang true to me either in its characters(how could empty-headed, fluffy Bridget ever compare to intelligent, witty, independent Elizabeth Bennett, and what on earth were two hunks fighting over her for!!)or its updated setting. But this movie, despite some infelicities, does.

The film stays true to the central issue of Pride and Prejudice–the marriage market, and the corrupting influence that money or the lack of it have on someone’s emotional wellbeing and future. Modern India, with its strong traditions of arranged or at least family-managed marriages, and the desperation of parents finding themselves with four daughters to marry off, is more easily likened to Jane Austen’s England than modern England is. And the brilliant social comedy of Pride and Prejudice, starting from the hideous yet very human Mrs Bennett, and flipping through a range of wonderful portraits such as those of the ineffably silly and dull Mr Collins, is very well reproduced in Bride and Prejudice–you get the feeling the director knows her Austen very well, and has been able to graft the essentials of it onto Indian family life. I thought that the way the various characters were reproduced, in fact, was excellent, in most regards, and well-thought out (except that I must admit to being disappointed that the Darcy character, though good-looking, was nowhere near as charismatic as Colin Firth in the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice!)
In its chaste romance, this Bollywood Austen also gave you much more of a feel for the original than did Bridget Jones. And I loved the Bollywood aspects–the wonderful song and dance routines, the music, the sheer colour and fun of it. In true Bollywood style, the lovers didn’t even lock lips, but moved towards each other against a glorious orange karaoke-machine style sunset!
Though it isn’t as good as my favourite of all these hybrid British-Indian films, the gorgeous, brilliant Monsoon Wedding(directed by Mira Nair), this is a really fun film that I found much more enjoyable than, not only Bridget Jones’ Diary but also My Big Fat Greek Wedding, to which it has some superficial similiarities. The difference, I think, lay in the wisdom of choosing the Austen story and characters as a base; much more satisfying. There are some infelicities–for instance, a couple of very stilted dialogue sections when Alita Bakhshi(the Elizabeth Bennett character, played by the stunning and spirited Indian actress , Aishwarya Rai)upbraids William Darcy, here an American rich boy, heir to a hotel fortune(and played by the handsome but rather poker-faced Australian actor Martin Henderson, who used to act in Neighbours!)for wanting to buy a hotel in Goa, the kind of place she reckons just isn’t Indian at all. Clunky and patronising and preachy, I thought; but quickly out of the way, thank God.
Would be interested to hear from anyone else who’s seen it.

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Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago
Vee
Vee
2022 years ago

Bridget Jones Diary was an updating of Pride and Prejudice?

How woefully inadequate it was then.

I’d rather watch the original series and first few early versions whatever form they come in.

Admittedly its set in period in that context but it is so much better understood in that context.

Now if I may speak on Jane Austen novels, I’ve only ever read two or three but I just want to say Pride and Prejudice is far superior to Emma.

Though Emma, the movie wasn’t that bad.

Nabakov
Nabakov
2022 years ago

Yeah, B.J’s Diary was crap.

A good example of why was the film version. Renee was cute in a OK PA kinda way but had absolutely no cut through -and just could not be seen as the fight starter for two major glossy mag middle-class chick magnets.

Whereas she was brillant in “Chicago” ‘cos that was a story where the risks were real, nd which was told with the vigour that Austen brought to her original text of high stakes in a world where if women took the wrong step, they could be completely ruined – and not just because they were an unmarried research assistant for a BBC5 contractor, nagged by their mum.

Nicholas Gruen
2022 years ago

Bridget Jones Diary was an updating of Pride and Prejudice? – my feelings entirely. I did quite enjoy the first one. The second was a shocker.

Thx for the tip on B&B sophie. One of the most useful attributes of blogs – movie tips. Btw, before you go see Million Dollar Baby read Tim Dunlop on it. Says its basically a vigilante movie. What a waste of space. His last one – Mystic River got rave reviews too – and it turned out to be a vigilante movie. So I’m not going to see the next one.

Nicholas Gruen
2022 years ago

Btw, “His last one – Mystic River” ie. Clint Eastwood’s last one – not Tim Dunlop’s”

sophie
sophie
2022 years ago

Glad to see we agreed there, Mark!
Exactly right, Nabs, re the high stakes aspect–BJ’s Diary was just lame because there was nothing like that in it, whereas in both Austen and Bride and Prejudice, there is, despite the social comedy. There’s always an underlying tone of melancholy and almost-despair in Austen, under the layers of fine characterisation and light-as-air comedy and social observation, and the relief at the end when the heroine finds her man, and the right one at that, is palpable..
Re the series made on the originals, I love the BBC Pride and Prejudice, and Sense and Sensibility was pretty good too. Very nicely tuned to the books. I liked the film of Emma with Gwyneth Paltrow, but not that of Persuasion, with Emma Thompson(who is nevertheless excellent in Sense and Sensibility). Persuasion in fact was rather grim.
Have just got out of the library the BBC series of Elizabeth Gaskell’s ‘Wives and Daughters’. Looks good. Anyone seen it?

Andrew Frazer
Andrew Frazer
2022 years ago

“I liked the film of Emma with Gwyneth Paltrow, but not that of Persuasion, with Emma Thompson(who is nevertheless excellent in Sense and Sensibility). Persuasion in fact was rather grim.”

Emma Thompson hasn’t (to my knowledge) been in a version of Persuasion. If you’re thinking of this version (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0114117/) with Amanda Root as Anne Elliot, I thought it was fantastic. Probably the desparation that you spoke of runs closer to the surface in Persuasion than in P&P, but the depiction of the rest of the Elliot family is very funny.

I agree though that the recent BBC P&P is fantastic. Haven’t sen B&P, and I doubt that I will. (Did enjoy Bend it Like Beckham though).

Fyodor
2022 years ago

Sorry, Sophie and Nabs, but you’re way off on BJ’s Diary. Sophie said that:

“There’s always an underlying tone of melancholy and almost-despair in Austen, under the layers of fine characterisation and light-as-air comedy and social observation, and the relief at the end when the heroine finds her man, and the right one at that, is palpable…”

How many single women do you know in their early to mid-thirties who identify absolutely with the “melancholy” and “almost-despair” of perpetual singleton BJ, who dreads being eaten by Alsatians in her lonely dotage? IMO BJ’s Diary is an exceptionally well-executed translation of the core story to modern London.

As for the hunks fighting over her, Lizzie Bennett’s attractions are far from obvious in P&P, either: her older sister Jane is more attractive and she’s plainly a difficult, intellectual sort of gel, with no money and deplorable connections. Wickham’s interest in her turns out to be mostly mercenary, and D’Arcy’s proposal of marriage, given his position, is fairy-tale miraculous by the standards of the day.

BTW, Sophie, Emma Thompson wasn’t in Persuasion, though her sister (Sophie) was. The 1995 film of Persuasion that was actually shot for TV but released here as a movie is my all-time favourite adaptation of an Austen novel (I’ve read them all, even that drek Northanger Abbey). It is the most faithful translation of any of her novels, the best-acted (by relative unknowns) and the best-shot: all on location, in natural light. Yes, it’s a bit grim, but so was the original novel. It was Austen’s last novel (published posthumously), and it’s saturated with the melancholy of a woman approaching thirty who fears that she’s missed the love boat. A bit like Austen’s own situation at the time.

sophie
sophie
2022 years ago

I stand corrected re Emma Thompson appearing in Persuasion–sorry.
Yes, I do understand why Persuasion was grim, but then I much prefer the earlier novels(and the films of them.)
And I take your point, Fyodor, re BJ’s Diary but I’m afraid I still found it exceedingly annoying, silly and lame compared to the original. And in my opinion BJ, tho’ she’s meant to be in her 30’s, behaves like a teenager–rather the opposite of Elizabeth Bennett, who tho’ she’s rather younger than BJ, tries to act older than her age!

Gaby
Gaby
2022 years ago

Movie tip: “Sideways” is a terrific film. Very funny and engaging.

But does anyone make a “champagne” out of only pinot noir?

Rob
Rob
2022 years ago

Have to admit I quite liked Bridget Jones’s Diary, although I fell asleep during the sequel.

(And I’ve got to ask – why is Lord of the [bloody] Rings numero uno on the literature charts?)