Swapping corsets for saris, and polite pianoforte for the bhangra beat, director Gurinder Chadha reinvigorates Jane Austen's Pride And Prejudice with fun and flamboyance. Starring Aishwarya Rai and Martin Henderson, Bride & Prejudice marries a quintessentially English romance with classic Bollywood bombast - different in style yet both trading in the discord of love across borders. What Chadha loses in the sly subtext that made Austen's novel so compelling, she makes up for with wit and mischief.
When Lalita Bakshi (Aishwarya Rai) meets Californian blueblood Will Darcy (Martin Henderson) at a wedding in her Indian hometown, it's hate at first sight. She accuses him of being an imperialist snob and he brushes her off as a coddled village girl, blinkered to the ways of the world. Still they find themselves drawn together in a series of fractious but increasingly flirtatious encounters.
"DELIVERS EASTERN PROMISE"
Chadha cannily entwines other aspects of Austen's novel, including a wickedly funny turn by Nadira Babbar as Lalita's overbearing mother - keen to marry off her four daughters to nice Indians boys. Meanwhile, Darcy's half-brother Wickham (Daniel Gillies) messes with Lalita's affections and threatens to bring dishonour upon the family. Then there's the hilariously over-the-top Nitin Ganatra, a stereotypical 'coconut' who's shopping for a wife to take back to LA.
The musical sets are lavish while sending up the Bollywood tendency for melodrama - one of the numbers, a pyjama-clad knees-up, brings to mind the Sandra Dee song from Grease (although the lyrics sometimes fall short). And while Rai and Henderson don't generate the electricity quite befitting their suppressed passion, inherent charm wins out over their characters' foibles. For the most part, Bride & Prejudice is a romantic comedy that amply delivers on its eastern promise.