TV Times

Aishwarya hits Hollywood
The movie Bride and Prejudice puts an entirely different spin on Jane Austen's story of spirited courtship - Bollywood-style.

Music, dance and spectacle merge with love, vanity and social pressures, as director Gurinder Chadha transports the comic tale of a witty young woman trying to find a suitable husband to a cross-cultural setting that spans 21st century India, London and America.

As in Austen's "Pride and Prejudice, Pride and Prejudice brings together two people with polar opposite views, but this time they are also from opposite ends of the earth, as East literally meets West in a riot of color, comedy and emotion.

East and West have always fused in the films of Gurinder Chadha. Ethnically Indian, raised in London yet also having lived in Los Angeles, Chadha is herself a kind of cultural mosaic, and draws artistic influence from the distinctive filmmaking styles of all three countries.

Her unique sensibility first came to the fore in the award-winning film "Bhaji On The Beach." More recently, she won fans around the world with the award-winning, Golden Globe-nominated "Bend It Like Beckham," which blended cross-cultural humour, a rousing story about girls' strength and Chadha's trademark cheeky exuberance into a runaway hit.

Since the 18th century, Jane Austen's novels have themselves travelled the world, and have been translated into dozens of different languages. More recently, they have provided creative inspiration for numerous feature films - from extravagant costume dramas to the thoroughly contemporary comedy of "Bridget Jones's Diary." But was Jane Austen ready for Bollywood? Chadha believes that Jane Austen and Bollywood were always meant for each other.

In the movie Chadha has moved the classic story of a young woman seeking to break away from social conventions in the name of love from 18th century England to 21st century Amritsar, India. It is here that the meddlesome Mrs. Bakshi sets out to find suitable marriage matches for her four beautiful daughters - only to have her plans foiled when the ravishing but headstrong Lalita (Aishwarya Rai, known as the "Queen of Bollywood") announces she will only marry for love.

When Lalita meets the wealthy American hotel tycoon Will Darcy (Martin Henderson), at last sparks fly. But is it love or spite that's creating so much tension between them? Lalita is incensed by Darcy's seeming lack of respect for India; while Darcy is flummoxed by Lalita's impression of him as a spoiled American. And yet . . . they can't seem to stop thinking of one another.

Alternately enchanted and suspicious, Lalita and Darcy soon fall prey to a series of comedic misunderstandings as Lalita is pursued by two other suitors: the mysterious English lawyer Wickham (Daniel Gillies) and the hilariously unsuitable California transplant Kholi (Nitin Ganatra),with whom a marriage has been arranged.

It seems the closer Lalita and Darcy get to one another the more pride and prejudice conspire to come between them until their undeniable feelings knock all their preconceptions about each other's lives and countries for a loop.

Director Chadha believes that Western audiences are more familiar with Bollywood conventions than they think. "I think there is a very strong link between Bollywood and the great Hollywood tradition of musicals that have recently become popular again," she notes. "I grew up watching Bollywood movies in the same theatre where I also saw 'The Sound of Music' and 'West Side Story' and there was something very similar in them - that same spirit of freedom."

With BRIDE and PREJUDICE, Chadha hoped to capture the psychedelic colours, winking sensuality and campy outrageousness of Indian choreography while blending in Western-influenced, Broadway, dance club and urban styles to create unique East-West dance numbers. She started by bringing to the film two of Bollywood's most legendary artists: choreographer Saroj Khan (who is said to have worked on more than 2,000 films in her career!) and award-winning composer AnuMalik. Then, Chadha explained to them that she wanted to bust out of the typical Bollywood formula.

Bolly Mega Star Rai has starred in films shot in many of India's diverse languages, from Hindi to Tamil to Bengali, but BRIDE and PREJUDICE marks the first time she has performed in English. "I might speak English every day of my life, but this was still a fresh and challenging experience," she says. Anyway Hollywood Meeting Bollywood or vice versa will be quite a moment for all cine fans.


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