Peter Leithart is an expert on Jane Austen. He wrote this brief review of Bride and Prejudice, the musical bollywood Indian version of the popular Austen novel. I am sure Dr. Leithart is right about the problems with the pacing and balance in the movie. I also agree that having no scene equivalent to the original’s confrontation between Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Elizabeth Bennet is disappointing. However, the movie still works, and it is very true to the plot of Austen’s original.
First, the Indian caste system seems a perfect backdrop for a contemporary retelling of Pride and Prejudice. In western cultures, arranged marriages and the hunt for a husband are not nearly so important as they are in India.
Second, the Indian actress who played Lalita Bakshi, the counterpart to Elizabeth Bennet in Austen’s original was forthright and believable as the strong, idependent thinking female lead character. I also appreciated some of the other innovations that had to be made with characters to make them fit into the Indian setting. No offense to accountants, but having a well-off LA CPA who is a native citizen of India play the counterpart to the dithering Mr. Collins was classic.
In Bride, there are only 4 sisters in the main family instead of 5 as in the original. The 2 least sisters, Mary and Kitty, have sort of been combined into one in the form of Maya. One of the best and most hysterical scenes in Bride is the adaptation of Mary’s scene in Pride. In this version, rather than insisting to play the piano and sing poorly for a socially unacceptable period of time, our Maya does the Indian equivalent. When all the main characters are gathered at the Bakshi home for a meal, Maya performs a belly dance that is embarassing and invasive of everyone’s personal space. I thought the lack of decourum that was present in the original is equally present in the Indian scene.
This version of Pride and Prejudice was only 2 hours long–not 6 hours like the BBC version. Some pacing issues were bound to arise. The fact that this is a musical with several coreographed numbers interspersed also throws off the timing from the original. Also I suspect the Wickham incident was downplayed somewhat because of the audience for which this movie was intended. If you took the situation with Wickham in the original to its logical contemporary end, it could get pretty explicit, which wouldn’t be appropriate for the audience or for the upbeat tone of this film.
There were some other things left out of this film as well. For instance, the relationship between the eldest two sisters and the relationship between Darcy and Bingley are barely developed at all. This takes away from the story somewhat, but again lack of time to include every aspect of Austen seems the obvious culprit.
Despite what Bride and Prejudice lacked, I enjoyed this fun, energetic contemporary adaptation Austen’s classic. If nothing else, it might expose an entirely new audience to the great Jane Austen and make them want to at least see the BBC fillm, and they might actually take the time to read the novel for themselves.