Across the ocean, Phillip French wrote a review in the United Kingdom-based newspaper, The Guardian on the 10th of October, 2004. The review did not flatter this particular movie in the least. French categorized the film as popular fare, keeping in vein with Chadha's earlier works, and still having nothing clever to offer.
"Chadha, as she has shown in her previous pictures - Bhaji on the Beach, What's Cooking? Bend It Like Beckham - is a crowd-pleaser, and the chief characteristics of her new film are populist cheek and cosmopolitan chic rather than subtle social observation." (The Guardian, 2004)
French's scathing review seems to almost call the film cheesy and overdone, it's overly geared to be popular and cosmopolitan that it completely misses the mark on being a film that can comment on social circumstances in a subtle manner and instead throws itself into the cultural mix in an overly over and ostentatious manner. French further comments on other reasons that the movie did not work well, as characters like Rai and Henderson had no on-camera chemistry.
"There is, however, so little chemistry between the two that this encounter between East and West fulfills Kipling's claim that never the twain shall meet." (The Guardian, 2004).
In the director's haste to make this a cultural mix of characters, the characters themselves were not cast properly leading to an unenjoyable and awkward watching experience for the viewer, according to French.
Another, major feature of the review is the discussion of transposition in the film. French particularly chooses to mention Hertfordshire becoming Amritsar, and Wickham the soldier turning into Wickham, the India-loving backpacker. But what really stands out in the review are the questions posed by French about the inherent nature of the film director. While Gurinder Chadha is seen as 'celebrating Bombay cinema' (French, 2004) through Bride and Prejudice, that very fact is mentioned as its downfall.
"The movie is ultimately trite and banal rather than poised, and this comes from its chosen form." (The Guardian, 2004)
According to French, Chadha tried too hard to merge these two seemingly different worlds- Austen era England and modern Bollywood India. This forced merging contributed to the downfall of the movie as it was just of common quality, rather than being a film that a celebrated Bombay cinema director should be proud of.
French poses the question many Indian viewers later had about the film- are we supposed to be watching a take-off on a typical Bollywood movie? According to French's review, the answer would be no. There are far too many components that are wrong with the movie that make it almost impossible to see the connection between these two worlds. Much like Nair and her cultural context of being an Indian woman, it maybe that French is also so deeply embedded in his English culture that he cannot see the connection between the two places, characters or cultures.
Different from the English newspaper, the English media conglomerate, the BBC wrote a rather appreciative view and gave the film its general endorsement. The review was date 07 of October 2004 and commented quite positively on Chadha's film.
"For the most part, Bride & Prejudice is a romantic comedy that amply delivers on its Eastern promise." (BBC, 2004)
This 'eastern promise' that the BBC refers to are the colorful saris or traditional Indian dress for women, bhangra music and general flamboyance that are associated with India. The 'Bollywoodisation' of Jane Austen is embraced wholeheartedly here.
"Bride & Prejudice marries a quintessentially English romance with classic Bollywood bombast - different in style yet both trading in the discord of love across borders." (BBC, 2004)
It also focuses attention on songs and lyrics in the film, and how they have enhanced the point of entertainment in the film. The lavish musical sets are mentioned as adding to the Bollywood propensity for melodrama. On the whole, according to the BBC, despite minor hiccups, garnered general approval and appeal for the film with credit being given to Gurinder Chadha for a great execution in merging the two cultures in a unique way.
"What Chadha loses in the sly subtext that made Austen's novel so compelling, she makes up for with wit and mischief." (BBC, 2004)
Compared to French's review in The Guardian, this English source offers a very different perspective on the matter- a more global one than country one. The BBC is a source that has more global presence that the Guardian, so it is possible that the reviewer in this article was watching the film differently and evaluating it in a more global context, where cultures are harmonious and not that different from each other. The perspective that the BBC article offers is one of appreciate and beauty of the 'Eastern promise' and also the ability for the director to fill in the gaps of an antiquated literary classic.
Set 3: Indian Media
The Hindu, a prominent newspaper outlet in India, came out with it's own review of Bride and Prejudice on the 15th of October, 2004. The newspaper labeled the film "…all about marriage mania, Gurinder Chadha's "Bride and Prejudice," as the title itself gives an unmistakable indication." (The Hindu, 2004) Similar too many reviews already examined, this particular one also draws up the conclusion that, like Austen's book, the film lacks subtlety about the topic of marriage.
The idea of being 'Indian' in today's world has also been explored. The review points out that Lalita's conflict with Darcy was not a class equation but rather "… a clash between so-called Indian idealism and perceived American arrogance" (The Hindu, 2004) This notion of an "Indian identity" is looked at further with Chadha being held responsible for an outdated representation of Indians, especially women, in the film. Chadha chooses to portray women in the Indian women in this film as marriage crazy and obsessed, trying to find suitable men with financial means to support them. This portrayal is not progressive or in tune with how Indians would like to perceive themselves in modern society and the film is seen as regressing the Indian culture in an international forum.
"What one fails to comprehend is this kind of desperation among Chadha's girls to walk down the aisle: the director is quite out of sync with modern Indian women, who no longer bet their lives on bells, at least a vast number of them. Chadha's "Bride and Prejudice" is indifferent to not only current social trends, but also to Austen's subtlety of documenting the undercurrents of loneliness and helplessness." (The Hindu, 2004)
Despite giving credit to imaginative cinematography, the review ends up considering the film typical Bollywood 'Masala' fare as somewhat negative and unhelpful to Indian women in the modern society.
The Hindu is considered a rather progressive newspaper that appeals to well-educated Indian people, both men and women. Women in India are becoming increasingly educated and rising through the ranks in the professional and social world. Watching a movie that back pedals on the progress, makes The Hindu have a different perspective than others.
Rediff.com, a popular Indian cultural news website, wrote its review of Bridge and Prejudice on the 8th of October, 2004, describing the movie as 'feel good', while being "reassuringly funny and cleverly scripted, Gurinder helms a magnificent ride, the feel-good-est of recent Indian fare." (Rediff.com, 2004)
Focusing on everything that makes the film watchable, the review makes special mention about all the characters in the film specifically mentioning supporting roles, including Mr. Kohli, Mrs. Bakshi and Balraj's sister Kiran. These characters, in the author's opinion, are the best part of the film as they capture the essence of both the old world English original characters and join it with the new modern Indian twist. With the exception of Aishwarya Rai, every other element of the film is applauded here. Unlike the Austen purists, this piece actually goes on to say that the adaptation is better than the original.
"Gurinder succeeds, and how. She has taken Austen's dreary work and infused it, lovingly, with life, showing the Brits just what they've been missing, adding the curry to their chips." (Rediff.com, 2004)
Rediff.com being a pop culture website for India may embrace the very new and modern and applaud the evolution of a classic into a modern day classic. The background of this website and the context of this website provides a foundation for a review like the one above as it is progressive in thinking and applauds taking chances and moving away from tradition and into a new era of India.
Different Strokes for Different Folks
In this section, the essay concentrates upon interpretational patterns as seen from the American, U.K and Indian reviews that are cited above. The aim is to determine the differences that every context offers to the review, which in turn expands on different approaches and perspectives which is essential to understanding the film.…