The globalization of romance: Bride and Prejudice
As a Jane Austen fan, I couldn’t miss Bride and Prejudice, the latest rendition of Jane Austen’s classic. It was the funniest, wildest, most joyful, all-singing, all-dancing Austen adaptation ever made, in today’s version of “full technicolor” style. Directed by the brilliant Gurinder Chadha (she of Bend It Like Beckham), the film has one outrageous dance number after another (her cast really knows how to cut a rug), handsome men, lovely women, spectacular international settings, catchy songs, beautiful costumes, and homage not only to Jane Austen but to Sandra Dee and Bollywood movies. I can’t wait to watch the DVD special features and commentary. The cast looked like they were having a great time, something unusual in the average film. Their enjoyment is contagious and I smiled through almost the entire movie.
But a complete updating of the novel like this, or like Amy Heckerling’s “Clueless” (1995), which saw “Emma” as a Valley Girl, is in a way more honest than the Masterpiece Theatre-type costume dramas that import modern attitudes into an ostensibly Regency setting. In treating the business of courtship as not just incidentally, but essentially comic, as it is in Jane Austen, it doesn’t leave us with the same sense that something is missing.
Bowman objected to Bride’s version of Mr. Collins, who is now Mr. Kholi. Like Mr. Collins, Mr. Kholi (played by the very funny Nitin Chandra Ganatra) knows he’s “a good catch”, and he is, but that doesn’t prevent him from being a dork. Ms Chadha (who I’m sure has met a Mr. Kholi or two along the way) goes to town showing the dorkiness, but a key scene has the new Mrs. Kholi explaining her choice, and it made sense.
Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are now Lalita and Mr. Darcy, played by the very gorgeous Aishwarya Rai and Martin Henderson. The camera loves them, and so will you, especially in the Take Me To Love spectacular number, which starts in a Mexican restaurant, travels to the Grand Canyon and ends at the beach. This is The Romantic Scene — shameless in its sentimentality, visually engaging, and outrageously beautiful. The on-screen chemistry is almost enhanced by the fact that Lalita and Mr. Darcy never kiss on screen. (Actually, only Ms Chadha gets a kiss, in the credits.)
Yes, it’s a chick flick. But Jane Austen is alive, and well, and dancing in Punjab.