Come to think of it, I have yet to watch Aishwarya Rai in a movie role other than an English speaking one. So far, she had starred in Mistress of Spices, Provoked, and The Last Legion, all of which didn't really make an impact at the local box office. And Bride and Prejudice marks her first starring role in English. I am likely to soon check out her works in the Bollywood movies, probably starting with Dhoom 2 (yes I know, don't reel your eyes).
Directed by Gurinder Chadha, who brought us the movie Bend it Like Beckham (and probably handed Keira Knightley a recognizable lead role), and now combines Bollywood movie sensibilities with the literary classic Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, and surprisingly, the story still worked wonders, despite a shift in cultures and era, now set in Amritsar, India, before going to London, England, and Los Angeles, USA.
The basic storyline and skeletal structure are still the same as per Austen's novel, but now the clash of cultures provide an additional angle for the story to dwell upon, with brief commentary on the caste, and system of reputation, having Mrs Monoama Bakshi (Nadira Babbar) on the prowl for eligible bachelors (read: Rich is the only criteria) to marry off her daughters to. And of course, the headstrong one is now played by Aishwarya Rai, whose Lalita is the equivalent of Austen's Elizabeth, and eligible bachelor William Darcy now played by Martin Henderson, who probably isn't one of the strongest Darcy out there unfortunately.
Observations like pandering toward all things west as good, and dreams of instant emigration often get shot down, in no part due to rebuttal from Lalita, who exudes all things pro-India, and come to think about it, it's quite true as a universal theme if you discount the country in question, addressing the attitudes of migrants who forget their roots. But one of them who epitomizes such negative qualities happen to be Mr Kohli (Nitin Ganatra), who brings on a very comedic quality and just cracks me up. besides the very insane statement made by Darcy about the Bollywood dance steps, involving screwing a lightbulb and petting a dog!
And what's a Bollywood movie without those music and dance sequences! However, I thought some of the songs done in English just did not work, as if the lyrics are somewhat forced to fit into the rhythm and groovy beats of Indian music. But the magic of the mass dances still managed to come through, though some were really weird with spoofs involving Baywatch type lifeguards and church choirs. What gives?
All in all, still a decent romance movie, though am not sure if Austen purists would like to see that literary classic take a Bollywood turn. But those who enjoy Bollywood movies, might potentially see the promise of some other classics take on this twist (for the better?) too.
The Code 3 DVD by Alliance Entertainment, for a movie encompassing the Bollywood spirit, comes in a disappointing letterbox edition. While the transfer is without any visible flaw, I cannot imagine why it decided to have the feature film in less than an anamorphic widescreen format, which surprisingly, all the special features are.
Scene selection is available over 16 chapters, and while the list of extras might seem somewhat substantial, the total duration is no more than 10 minutes! The special features include the main featurette (3:32) which features the director and cast talking about the movie in a short making of, a Behind the Scenes in UK (4:30) which had the bulk of it in the wedding scene in the beginning, and in India (0:42) which has only Aashanti shaking her booty. The trailer (2:04) rounds up the dismal features section.