She had already successfully matched opposing cultures in the delightful sports comedy Bend It Like Beckham. In her most recent musical comedy Bride & Prejudice, the plucky director Gurinder Chadha attempted an equally winsome matchmaking. And, if you don't expect too much of her, she succeeded.

Aishwarya Rai plays the role of Lalita

Aishwarya Rai plays the role of Lalita

As far as arranged marriages go, the union of modern-day small-town India and Jane Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice, set in 19th century rural England, is a suitable match. True, in Austen's times, no drag queens openly danced in the streets, as they do in Amritsar, India—and lovers sent their letters by couriers, not by e-mail. But in both worlds mothers of pretty young women with meager dowries bank on "a truth universally acknowledged"—namely, "that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife," as Pride and Prejudice puts it. Or, as the film's heroine translates it, "Anyone who's got big bucks is shopping for a wife." Or, as the pajama-clad sisters sing to an annoying melody, horsing around in a silly dance and hinting at their feminist aspirations, there's just "no life without wife." You get the theme of their prayers.

Lalita and Will (Martin Henderson) fall for each other … or not

Lalita and Will (Martin Henderson) fall for each other … or not

In the book's loose and wackiest cinematic adaptation, the officious Mrs. Bakshi nervously searches for rich suitors for her four daughters. Much to her consternation, Lalita, the most beautiful daughter—played with endearing ease by Aishwarya Rai, former Miss World and the most expensive actress in Bollywood—wants to marry for love. This is not to say that she cannot argue in defense of arranged marriage. Come to think of it, her brains get in the way of whatever her beauty accomplishes. "Don't say anything too intelligent" is the advice Lalita gets from her ...

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Bride & Prejudice
Our Rating
3 Stars - Good
Average Rating
 
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Mpaa Rating
PG-13 (for some sexual references)
Directed By
Gurinder Chadha
Run Time
2 hours 2 minutes
Cast
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Martin Henderson, Nadira Babbar, Anupam Kher
Theatre Release
March 11, 2005 by Miramax Films
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