Bride & Prejudice (2004)

2010 #82
Gurinder Chadha | 107 mins | TV | 12 / PG-13

I don’t imagine Bride & Prejudice is going to convert many people who aren’t already predisposed to liking it in some way. That’s not to say it’s not good or doesn’t have potential crossover appeal, but it still has a whole list of things that will put certain viewers off.

Melodramatic love story/stories? Check. A couple of over-acted comedy characters? Check. Characters bursting into song? Check. Bright, colourful, extravagant song-and-dance numbers? Check.

I can’t comment on how much it’s like a Bollywood movie because I’ve never seen one, but it’s a little bit what I’d expect one to be like; albeit a Westernised one, as it’s mostly in English, with some significant British and American characters, and runs comfortably under two hours. Another point of reference that came to mind was Moulin Rouge, though it’s not as MTV-style fast-paced as that, and the songs are originals rather than repurposed pop/rock numbers. Also Mamma Mia, though I don’t wish to bring about the negative connotations — it’s well sung and not as cheesy.

The other main facet is that which is (hopefully) obvious from the title: it’s a Jane Austen adaptation. It’s easy to think we’re in no rush for another version of Pride and Prejudice, what with the iconic 1995 BBC series and the Oscar-nominated Keira Knightley film, not to mention the numerous adaptations predating either of those, but Bride brings plenty that’s vastly different to the table. It converts the novel very accurately (as best I can tell, having only seen screen versions), retaining both the characterisation and the majority of the plot in a similar sequence of events.

On the surface it’s completely different, of course, transplanting everything from 19th Century England to modern-day India, complete with vibrant song & dance numbers, email correspondence and aeroplane-fuelled globetrotting. There’s no danger anyone will confuse this for a straight adaptation. But for all that it is a faithful retelling, the characters and their actions unmistakably Austen’s.

That said, while most characters are fundamentally unchanged, others are suitably modified. Nitin Ganatra offers a very different Mr Collins (here, Mr Kohli), for instance. Removing the awkward creepiness of the usual interpretation, he’s instead Americanised — brash, mannerless, over-enthusiastic — but still odd, unlikeable, and undesirable.

Little of the plot requires such modification, perhaps thanks to the culture it’s been grafted onto — the predominance of arranged marriages wouldn’t really work in a ’00s British setting — and those bits which are changed are relatively minor. Lydia (here, Lakhi) runs off with Wickham for an afternoon at the London Eye, rather than eloping; Georgiana (here, the slightly more modern Georgina) was impregnated at 16, less legally complicated than the novel’s 15.

As I said, Bride & Prejudice certainly isn’t for everyone, but for those that can accept its musical, colourful, comical style and familiar plot (the curse of any version of a much-adapted tale), it’s a wonderful entertainment.

4 out of 5

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