Bride and Prejudice is British, says Gurinder Chadha
"Forget Bend It Like Beckham", Gurinder Chadha told the audience before the screening of her latest film Bride And Prejudice. And so it was.
A special press preview at Leicester Square's Odeon had a packed crowd, eager to relish the film, to be released in...
...October. The film opened beautifully, but the promise withered away gradually. The Bollywood-style interpretation of Jane Austin's novel, where the Bennetts are the Bakshis in Amritsar, with stars from India, the UK and the US, had masala, to say the least. It is a celebration of colour and vibrancy.
The film it seems has made a laboured attempt to squeeze in every success formula available in the two-and-a-half hours or so. There is glamour but there is kitsch too. If the musical Bombay Dreams is a yardstick, this film will succeed. Although Chadha did not particularly like the musical, and thought it was: "Terrible. An awful pastiche." However, she praised its choreography: "The only elements that worked in Bombay Dreams were the ones done by hard-core Bollywood people, like the choreography." She hopes to have paid tribute to the genre in her film.
True, Bollywood films have enough songs and dances around trees in the rain. There are songs galore but trees in the rain have been replaced by sprinklers in the US. Amidst dream sequences and a brief Bollywood-style fight scene, the most bizarre act was a snake-dance sequence by Meghna Kothari, one of the daughters in the Bakshi family. She is the Indian version of the Bennett girl who insisted on playing the piano when her skills were questionable.
Chadha's effort to bat for India and bring it centre-stage has to be admired. The portrayal of the green-card-holder "Amrican" by actor Nitin Ganatra was succint. Naveen Andrews, as the British Asian from London who goes to Amritsar is Mr Bingley, who falls in love with Jaya (Namrata Shirodkar). His sister Keiron's (Indira Varma) attitude fits the stereotype image of certain British Asians who always look down on everything Indian.
Aishwarya Rai, as Lalita, it is believed put on 20 pounds for the film because she apparently wanted her character to look real rather than super-modellish. In the novel, the conflict between William Darcy, played by the handsome Martin Henderson, and Elizabeth (Lalita) revolved around their social status whereas in this Bollywood version, cross cultures added to the problem between the two.
On her experience of getting together actors from different acting traditions, Chadha told The Guardian: "It was tough because every actor thought their way was best. The Americans thought Bollywood was very inferior. The British actors thought they were better than the Americans. I felt like Russell Crowe in Master and Commander; it was my job to keep on course and I kept steering it with my map of British-Asian sensibility. What I've ended up with nods to Bollywood and to Hollywood and elements of it feel like the movie Grease. But it is actually a very British movie." And the British undoubtedly love Bollywood.
A particular song in Bride And Prejudice called No Life Without Wife, touches a special cord for Chadha. It is something her late father used to say to relatives moaning about their wives.