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Bride & Prejudice

The Beautiful People Have Arrived, and They're Dancing

It's no secret that Bollywood movies are rife with cliché, spectacle, and melodrama -- it's part of the package; you get some elaborate song and dance numbers but have to swallow down one-dimensional characters and cookie-cutter storylines along with them. But what happens when you try to combine this mix with a traditional English story from the 18th century?

A Disney-esque song and dance extravaganza (even featuring a musical number from
R & B singer Ashanti) which spans continents but which does little to dispel stereotypes. In fact, writer/director Gurinder Chadha plays right into them offering up a quaint view of "Indian" family life that plays much like the family she created in Bend it Like Beckham. Is this really the new frontier of Asian cinema -- exploiting assumptions and stereotypes for mass consumption, which essentially move no further than Apu from "The Simpsons"?

Of course, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, the novel from which this movie is inspired, isn't exactly the most complicated, groundbreaking piece of literature in the world. It itself was a light romance, full of quips, balls, gossip and antiquated social mores, the crux of which concerned the main character and her sisters' desire for marriage/love. Sounds quite a lot like a Bollywood movie itself.

In Chadha's defense: one can only do so much. You can't remake something like Pride and Prejudice and end up with 21 Grams. Thus, Bride & Prejudice does exactly what a fluffy romantic comedy/musical is supposed to do: entertain. Does the movie make you laugh? -- Yes. Does the movie have good songs? -- Yes. Is there romantic intrigue? --Yes. Are the beautiful people present? --Why, yes. Yes they are.

In fact, this movie is worldwide superstar Aishwarya Rai's first foray into English language films (read: Hollywood). Here she stars as Lalita Bakshi, the second eldest of four daughters whom her mother (Nadira Babbar who does her best in a funny yet one-dimensional "crazy Indian mom" role) is desperately trying marry off. When the family attends the wedding of a friend, Lalita's older sister Jaya (the lovely Namrata Shirodkar), catches the eye of bachelor number one Balraj (Naveen Andrews) whose best friend, the brash, outspoken bumbling American Will Darcy (Martin Henderson), in turn, catches the ire of Lalita. Adding to the melee is Johnny Wickham (Daniel Gillies) a charming cad who romances both Lalita and her youngest sister, the endearing Lakhi (Peeya Rai Chowdhary). The expected shenanigans and spontaneous music numbers ensue.

A scene-stealing Nitin Chandra Ganatra provides the crux of the film's comedic moments as marriage prospect Mr. Kholi. Furthermore, Lalita's very enthusiastic younger sister Maya (Meghna Kothari) offers up what is quite possibly the movie's best scene as she performs what can best be described as a "snake-dance". While Bride and Prejudice does capture all the fun of a wedding, it also captures a dozen or so stereotypes along the way. But, nonetheless, the movie is enjoyable as well as humorous.

Rating: 3 stars out of 5