Bride and Prejudice: Jane Austen Goes To India

10 Jun

The Novel

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is a romantic novel centering around 20-year-old Elizabeth Bennet. Her parents are doing everything they can to find wealthy husbands for Elizabeth and her four sisters. They meddle in their affairs and complicate their love lives, but in the end, love wins out and Elizabeth ends up with Mr. Darcy.

The Film

This wonderful Bollywood film opens at an Indian wedding with all of its lavish accompaniments. We meet Lalita and her three sisters, and Will Darcy, visiting from America. Lalita doesn’t like him at first, considering him to be ignorant about India and its culture, as well as arrogant and conceited. He spends the entire movie trying to prove her wrong and winds up marrying her in the end.

The Adaptation

Bride and Prejudice takes the book and gives it a Bollywood twist. It is all about wealth and class, as is the settings for both film and novel. Money is put on a pedestal, and at times valued more than love. Both the movie and the novel go to great pains to express class differences and the struggles that arise out of them.

The Critics

This movie has been heavily reviewed due to its novelty and international appeal. Roger Ebert gave this movie three stars and commented that the director did an excellent job of using the Bollywood genre to her advantage although felt the movie was overly predictable.

There are also many scholarly responses to this film from the Indian perspective. Prakash Kona noted that Hindi continue to be viewed as dolls and that society can only see them as stupid, beautiful things. This movie doesn’t go far enough in disproving engendered stereotypes.

New York Times reviewer, Manohla Dargis, shredded this movie in his review. He posited that there was an overabundance of political correctness. He was especially irritated with the nauseating emphasis on cultural intolerance and argues that the leading woman is very beautiful but stupid. He was similarly critical of her male costar. He ends with a scathing commentary on the director who can “have her sanctimony and eat her wedding cake too” (Dargis, 2005).

The Critical Argument

It could be argued that Bride and Prejudice is entirely too entertaining to truly approach the cultural understandings that could have made this movie unique. The mindless conglomeration of Bollywood and Hollywood results in pithy comments regarding class and nationality from the characters that never lead to any true understandings and some serious emphases on stereotypes; characters seem overwhelmingly flat. French asked, “Are we watching a parody of a Bollywood musical, or a pastiche? Are we intended to find the broad effects, the musical routines, the crude acting funny because they’re so naive” (French, 2004)? In the movie, Lalita is intent on educating Darcy on Indian life yet Darcy seems to acquire his cultural taste on his own, and only on a subliminal level. Playing drums in the wedding march hardly qualifies as true cultural understanding.

Works Cited

Austen, Jane, and James Kinsley. Pride and Prejudice. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990. Kindle Edition.

Bedell, Geraldine. “Larger Than Life.” Movies: The Observer. The Guardian, 16 July 2006. Web. 6 June 2015. http://www.theguardian.com/film/2006/jul/16/features.review1

Dargis, Manohla. “Mr. Darcy and Lalita, Singing and Dancing.” Movies: Film Review. New York Times, 11 Feb. 2005. Web. 6 June 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/11/movies/mr-darcy-and-lalita-singing-and-dancing.html

Ebert, Roger. “Bride and Prejudice.” Reviews. Roger Ebert, 10 Feb. 2005. Web. 6 June 2015. http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/bride-and-prejudice-2005

French, Philip. “Bride and Prejudice.” Movies: The Observer. The Guardian, 9 Oct. 2004. Web. 6 June 2015. http://www.theguardian.com/film/2006/jul/16/features.review1

Kona, Prakash. Notions of Gender in Hindi Cinema: The Passive Indian Woman in the Global Discourse of Consumption. Bright Lights Film Journal, 30 Apr. 2011. Web. 15 May 2015. http://brightlightsfilm.com/notions-of-gender-in-hindi-cinema-the-passive-indian-woman-in-the-global-discourse-of-consumption/

Leddy, Chuck. “Cents And Sensibility: A Look At The Jane Austen Juggernaut.” Writer (Kalmbach Publishing Co.) 123.12 (2010): 8-9. Academic Search Premier. Web. 6 June 2015.

http://search.ebscohost.com.proxy-um.researchport.umd.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=55232795&site=ehost-live

Nayar, Deepak, Anupam Kher, Namrata Shirodkar, Daniel Gillies, Indira Varma, Sonali Kulkarni, Nitin C. Ganatra, Ashanti, Martin Henderson, Santosh Sivan, Aishwariya R. Bachchan, Nadira Babbar, Naveen Andrews, Gurinder Chadha, Nick Ellis, Justin Krish, Saroj Khan, Annu Malik, and Jane Austen. Bride & Prejudice. United States: Touchstone Home Video, 2005.

“Without Prejudice.” Sunday Times. The Times of india, 11 July 2004. Web. 6 June 2015. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/sunday-times/Without-prejudice/articleshow/773396.cms

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3 Responses to “Bride and Prejudice: Jane Austen Goes To India”

  1. jbates1017 June 11, 2015 at 8:24 pm #

    I could not agree with you more in the thinking that Bride and Prejudice falls short on educating anyone on the cultural norms in India. Although we briefly get bits and pieces here and there such as the first wedding ceremony and a scene in the market, the rest of the movie falls short on actually educating anyone and anything of true substance. Darcy playing the drums does not qualify in my book, of someone learning about another cultural. Even at the end with the wedding of Darcy to Lalita, Darcy marries an Indian girl, that does not mean he has understood the culture itself. Are we to say that because you marry into another cultural you understand it? I think the film touches on culture but still sides with appealing to Hollywood culture versus Bollywood or Indian culture.

  2. ingridmking June 12, 2015 at 3:55 am #

    I’m glad you chose to include Roger Ebert’s review, as I agree with his criticism concerning Bride and Prejudice’s predictability. Pride and Prejudice is not at all predictable (unless, of course, the ending is ruined for contemporary readers by the multitude of pop culture references the novel has inspired), while I found Bride and Prejudice to play out exactly like a romantic comedy; perhaps this is no fault of the film’s creators themselves, but instead simply because Pride and Prejudice has inspired so very many romantic comedies in the modern age that the skeleton of such stories are already well-known by most everyone.

  3. Joseph E. Byrne June 25, 2015 at 7:12 pm #

    OK analysis of the book, film, and adaptation. But instead of plot and character description, focus on themes and bring in the ideas presented by the authors of the assigned readings. The student research links were OK, but they were mostly reviews, which you should try to avoid. And PLEASE include the title and link with each description, rather than listing them at the end. Try some searches using the UMD library database and look at some online film journals. More ideas here:

    https://engl329b.wordpress.com/research/

    The critical argument paragraph was pretty good, though the thesis could have been stronger. You wrote:

    “It could be argued that Bride and Prejudice is entirely too entertaining to truly approach the cultural understandings that could have made this movie unique.”

    Not bad, but instead of pulling your punches with “it could be argued”, just make your argument, which is the film is too entertaining, by which you mean it is too superficial and doesn’t explore the themes in any depth. That idea could have been developed better. And you really needed to connect that thought to the adaptation process: it is the themes of the book that are ignored and skipped over.

    10/10. Joseph Byrne. ENGL329B.

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