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Bride and Prejudice

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It is so easy and slot-friendly to mistake a celebration of Bollywood's kitsch to be actual kitsch. But to confuse Gurinder Chadha's delicious, walloping and wacky adaptation of Jane Austen as a take on the Bollywood formula is to, quite simply, confuse the wood for the trees. Jane Austen meets Manoj Kumar in "Bride & Prejudice". And they are finally moulded into a vision that's entirely and incontrovertibly Chadha's. In her projection of the classic and the kitsch in the same range of vision, Beckham begum has achieved what no other filmmaker from any part of the world would dare, let alone achieve. The radiant, roomy, billowy frames bulge and dilate with a wickedly spaced-out festivity as the Bakshi daughters get themselves suitable boys... Or rather, their mother, played with a devious combination of maudlin theatricality and graceful subtlety by the wonderful Nadira Babbar, goes at every potential match for her marriageable kittens with hammers and tongs. The comic element in her tragic matchmaking is one of the elements in Chadha's rollicking range of interwoven interests, which turns the Bollywood formula on its head. In how many ways is Nadira Babbar different from the stereotypical Mama's act like, say, Himani Shivpuri in Sooraj Barjatya's "Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon"? The swift and cunning transitions in Mrs Bakshi's character from tragic concern for her daughters to vulgar self interest (watch out for the sequence on the flight when Mrs Bakshi quickly changes her economy-class seat with Darcy's executive luxury) is extended in the film to a remarkably understated comment on cross-cultural differences that define the geopolitical diaspora of a globally-driven ambitious and anxious civilisation. By relocating Jane Austen's trans-Atlantic romance to an Indo-British context, Chadha brings in the whole post-colonial modern Indian dilemma of globalisation and cultural homogenisation. There are some acutely penetrating comments on the colonial hangover in...