Monday, January 28, 2008

Bollywood lite?

Bride and Prejudice.

As a semi-fan of Bollywood movies and a sucker for (almost) any type of Jane Austen adaptation, I probably went into this movie with higher expectations than it deserved. This movie should have worked, actually. The casting was excellent (except in the case of Darcy, who was far too bland), and the idea of mashing an Austen novel with a Bollywood movie (both of which are often obsessed with the idea of finding the right mate and getting married) is inspired. And I thought it was going to work. The initial wedding scene appears to drop any pretension at watering Bollywood down, with an excellent guys vs. girls song and dance number (“Kites Without Strings”) that could have a place in any good Bollywood film. But then the filmmakers decided to show they didn’t trust their audience, and far too much of that excellent little song was spent focusing on Darcy as someone translated the lyrics for him and tried to explain the culture on the fly as well.

And then the rest of the musical numbers were, frankly, too westernized. One (“No Wife, No Life”) was a bland, insipid mixture of hip-hop and reggae that combined only the most superficial elements of each. Others were plain love ballads or other bland songs that are more appropriate over the end credits of a movie, rather than as show stopping musical routines. Clearly, this was meant to be Bollywood-lite, a way to give western audiences a small taste of what a Bollywood film might be like. But, it really isn’t that at all. Instead, it’s a “Hollywood” (in the generic sense) film that borrows a few elements of Bollywood and waters them too far down. Perhaps it’s like cinematic homeopathy – the belief that the most effective dose is the one where the solution has been diluted so many times, the original substance is undetectable.

There are other problems. The Elizabeth Bennet character (Lalita, played by the drop dead gorgeous Aishwarya Rai) is not near as witty as the original, despite a yeoman’s effort. The wittiest lines she has come from slightly altered quotes in the original novel, but most of her supposedly witty remarks (“What do you have against books? They don’t leave enough room in your bag for make-up?”) aren’t all that clever or funny. Instead, she comes across as rather shrewdly mean and witlessly sarcastic.

Perhaps this might be a good film for those afraid to take their Bollywood straight up, but a better starter flick would be the award-winning Lagaan (if you can take the four hour running time). I can’t recommend this film at all, except for those who absolutely must see every version of Pride and Prejudice (including the Mormon one).

1 comment:

Friar Tuck said...

Wow. Never really been a fan of either. Well, never saw a Bollywood film