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13 January 2006

Bride and Prejudice (2004)

Aishwarya Rai (Lalita), Martin Henderson (Will Darcy), Naveen Andrews (Balraj Bingley), Namrata Shirodkar (Jaya)

Directed by Gurinder Chadha (Bend it Like Beckham)

Summary: "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen is given a musical Bollywood treatment.

I love Punjabi music, so the fact this film contained an entire soundtrack's worth of nifty, funky dance tunes was a good thing. However, I do not love musicals in general, so the divergence into Grease-style song-and-dance numbers was a bit bothersome. (The only reason I can stand Grease is because my parents loved it, and I grew up on a diet of its soundtrack. I hope this process of early childhood indoctrination works on the girls for my favorite films.)

To summarize:
Punjabi = good
Musicals = a little bothersome

With those disclaimers out of the way, I can say that I enjoyed this film, including all of its campy silliness and over-the-top everything. The cobra dance, in particular, rocked, as did Naveen's most excellent and surprising dance number. But whenever the characters would start to become entertaining as serious romantic interests, someone would start singing or a massive African American choir would show up on the beach for a group hug. Ah well... so it wasn't entirely my cup of Typhoo.

Martin Henderson, a Kiwi last spotted as he was eaten by the dead TV girl in The Ring, managed to overcome some of the silliness and approximate some quality, intense Darcy-lite staring. Aishwarya Rai, however, did not have nearly the gumption and spark necessary for an Elizabeth-style character, and I kept thinking that she looked like a younger, ethnic, skinnier Kirstie Alley. Little did I know that she is one of the most popular women on the planet. (It really is astounding how insulated the West can be from radically famous Easterners). And Naveen was great, if far too understated, relegated to the thankless role of Bingley. Funny, charming, sweet, and as satiating as cotton candy.

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