Part II: Pride and Prejudice, cont’d.

We have a “two-fer” today since yesterday was a holiday.  I finished my homework early in the day and watched movies.  Here is what I watched:

Pride & Prejudice: A Latter-Day Comedy was released in 2003 and is a modern-day version of P&P.  It stars no one I’d ever heard of, but I was intrigued by the concept: P&P at Brigham Young.  The film was written, produced and directed by Mormons and the DVD was released with an “Easter Egg” that contains the original Mormon version of the film.  If you go to the Scene Selection area of the menu, and then go to the second page of scenes, hit the down arrow on your remote until a ring lights up on Lydia’s finger.  You will then see the “Restoration” version of the film, complete with Mormon cultural references.  There is also a “pop-up” version of the film that, alas, does not work on my copy of the DVD (it did work once upon a time, but it does not work now).  This “pop-up” version explains the Austen references that are sprinkled throughout the film.  For example, the girls live in a house on Longbourn Ave., Lydia and Kitty (who are sisters – the other girls only rent rooms in their house) have the last name “Meryton” and Mary’s last name is “Lambton.”  Graduate student Elizabeth Bennet works for “Gardiner’s Books,” and she and Darcy meet up at “Rosings Restaurant.”  Lydia and Wickham elope to Vegas, and head to the “Wee Chapel on the Strip,” a reference to Gretna Green in Scotland, the destination of many elopers in Austen’s day. The most clever reference is when the girls are in Lydia’s car heading to church, and a radio announcer says that they are listening to “181.3 FM,” which is when P&P was originally published.  Also, at the end of the film, Darcy goes to visit Elizabeth during her 3 months in London, and they take a trip up to Lyme Park.  There is a small picture of Jane Austen in what is supposed to be the interior of the house, and that’s also a nice touch.

This film sticks more closely to the original plot than does Bridget Jones’s Diary, and includes more of the original characters, including Charles Bingley, Lydia, Kitty, Jane and Mary, Collins and even Charlotte Lucas (who is played by Carmen Rasmussen of American Idol fame).  In this film, Mary ends up with Collins and it’s a Good Thing (I don’t think the book’s Mary would have been a good fit for Collins), but Collins does propose to Charlotte after both Elizabeth and Jane turn him down.  This Wickham is too slimy to be a believable good guy here, and Charles is a Simon Woods-type Bingley rather than an Osmund Bullock-type of Bingley and is therefore not really believable as a close friend of Darcy.

But I do like the portrayals of Caroline, Darcy, Elizabeth and Collins.  All of them are instantly recognizable and are a credit to the characters created by Jane Austen.  This film is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I like it (the soundtrack is particularly good) and watch it periodically.

Bride & Prejudice was released in 2004 and is a hybrid between Bollywood and Western movies.  It stars Aishwarya Rai as Lalita Bakshi and Martin Henderson as Will Darcy.  There are several Indian actors whom I’ve seen in other things (including Naveen Andrews as Balraj Bingley, Indira Varma as Kiran Bingley and Anupam Kher as Mr. Bakshi), and actors who are more familiar to Western audiences, such as Marsha Mason (as Catherine [DeBourgh] Darcy) and Alexis Bledel (as Georgiana Darcy).

It’s not as long as a typical Indian movie, but there is a lot of singing and dancing. Most of it is in English, so subtitles are a rarity.  The dialogue itself is in English, so there are no subtitles at all.

In this film, there are 4 Bakshi daughters: Jaya (Jane), Lalita (Lizzy), Maya (Mary) and Lakhi (Lydia), with Kitty being left out.  Mrs. Bakshi is flighty and nervous and is so desperate to get her daughters married that she has signed up with an online Indian matchmaking service to help her out.

Rai seems to have studied at the Jennifer Ehle School of Playing Elizabeth Bennet.  She was likely the star pupil because she’s even nastier to Darcy than Ehle’s Elizabeth is.  She accuses him of being a snob, but she’s more of a “reverse” snob, and I cannot think what he sees in her. She accuses him of being a hypocrite, but she’s one too – she defends arranged marriages, yet is appalled at the thought of marrying Mr. Kholi (Collins). In fact, Lalita is so rude that, while she is partnered with Mr. Kholi at the Garba (Netherfield Ball), she walks off in the middle of the dance, leaving him stranded. Austen’s Elizabeth would never do that. Not even Ehle’s Elizabeth would do that.  And, speaking of Mr. Kholi, the song the girls sing that is inspired by Mr. Kholi, “No Life Without Wife,” is absolutely hilarious.

Naveen Andrews’ Balraj is excellent, and is only the second Bingley I’ve seen whom one can fully accept as Darcy’s best friend. Indira Varma’s Kiran Bingley is interesting – I’m pretty certain her character isn’t interested in Darcy, but she is still the “superior sister” she’s supposed to be.

The basic plot is recognizable, although B&P is “inspired by” P&P rather than “based on” it.  Too many things are different for one to say that it is “based on” P&P.  One major difference is that Lakhi and Wickham don’t marry, and Lalita helps Will find them.  This changes things materially.  Regardless, this is a highly entertaining movie, filled with gorgeous colors and fun song-and-dance scenes.  It’s not as “authentically Indian” as Kandukondain Kandukondain is, but it’s still a lot of fun and I thoroughly enjoy watching it.

We’re now finished with Pride and Prejudice, and I can start reading Mansfield Park in preparation for the next installment of the Jane Austen Odyssey.  I hope you are enjoying this as much as I am.

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