Jane Austen’s plots are perfect for Bollywood, especially Pride and Prejudice. There is always the large family, the single girl who must be safely married off, and the wrong man that must be gotten rid of before she can marry the right one. Sound familiar?
Lalita Bakshi meets and doesn’t fall in love with William Darcy at the same wedding where her elder sister, Jaya, meets and does fall in love with Balraj. The initial conflict between Lalita and Darcy is cultural and taken a bit far. Darcy says some truly offensive things about India; Lalita fires back with some equally offensive things about the US and the UK.
They are forced to spend time together because Lalita must chaperone her sister when she wants to spend time with her new love. Instead of spending time at Balraj’s house, they all go to a hotel in Goa that Darcy (whose family owns a large chain) is looking to buy. It is here that Johnny Wickham turns up, handsome and bad news from the start. Not too long after they return, Kholi turns up looking for a bride. He is a successful accountant in California with a house worth $900,000, but he is as smarmy as you would imagine. Of course, Lalita turns him down and he ends up marrying her best friend Chandra.
To attend their wedding, the family travels to LA, stopping in London on their way so that Jaya can see Balraj. Unfortunately, Balraj is in New York, but Lakhi (the youngest Bakshi) hooks up with Wickham in a scene that was filmed less than a block from the flat I lived in.
The second half of this movie deviates a fair amount from the book. There is a montage where Darcy is wooing Lalita, a staple in every rom-com ever produced. The first proposal comes after this montage, so Lalita’s turning him down feels a bit forced. Catherine is Darcy’s mother and Anne is his girlfriend from New York. Georgie, his sister, immediately becomes friends with Lalita and it is she who spills the secret about Darcy breaking up Baljar and Jaya.
Darcy saves Lakhi from Wickham, Jaya gets her man and our favorite couple ride off on an elephant together -- complete with a Just Married sign hanging off its backside.
Bollywood movies are also about the music, the singing and the dancing. Austen loves her dances, so many of the big numbers here have a natural place. However, there is a lot of extra singing and dancing that, frankly, gets old after a while.
It is a colorful movie. All the dance scenes and many of the crowd scenes are a riot of color that is visually amazing to watch. Certainly the color was as tightly choreographed as the dancing was.
This is a version of the classic tale that has had every rom-com trope you can think of added to it. There is the meet/cute; the initial dislike; the subsequent realization that s/he may not be so bad; the conversation that changes the game; the wooing montage and the happily ever after ending.
You have to go into this movie with an open mind. It is Austen's story set to music and amended to fit certain genre expectations. Is it corny and cliched? You bet. Will this be one that sits on my shelf and becomes an Austen favorite? Nope. But, having said all that, if you take this movie for what it is, it is a perfectly pleasant way to spend a couple of hours that won't have the Austen purist in you screaming.