Saturday, October 09, 2004

Bride and other Prejudices! 

Bride and Prejudice

Bride and Prejudice Gurinder Chadha’s tribute to the Bollywood cinema tradition comes across as an overdone, excessively exotic piece of work, which is quite patronizing towards the culture it seeks to exalt. Bride And Prejudice seems to shout: Look, look, Indians are such a loud, uncouth, ill-mannered, noisy bunch of people. In India, the phones don’t work, electricity is unreliable, hotels are awful and people waste all their time singing and dancing. In the movie, the best thing anyone can about India is that the families stick together!

When the real Bollywood does this sort of thing, it places its cinema in a fantasy world and then piles on the action, emotion, song, dance and festivities. When an outsider, and one with pretensions to literature (it is based on a Jane Austen novel) does it, not only is there no real feeling or conviction in the film, the ‘realism’ makes it difficult to watch. Chadha’s heroine is Lalita Bakshi (Aishwarya Rai), who is supposed to be intelligent and spirited, but seems merely rude and peevish. She is one of four sisters, who even in present-day Amritsar do nothing with their lives, but wait for some eligible man to ‘select’ them. Goaded by their tactless mother (Nadira Babbar), the four girls go through the courtship game in Amritsar, London and LA.

Lalita snaps at the moony American William Darcy (Martin Henderson), turns down the crude NRI Kohli (Nitin Ganatra) and has a mild flirtation with the hippie-ish scoundrel Wickham (Daniel Gillies), before snapping at Darcy some more and than falling into his arms.

Of the bunch of characters, the ones you actually end up liking are Lalita’s sister Jaya (Namrata Shirodkar), her confused suitor Balraj (Naveen Andrews) and the quiet father (Anupam Kher), holding on to his dignity in the overpowering presence of his ridiculous wife. Even Darcy doesn’t look like the arrogant jerk Lalita makes him out to be, and the actor playing him has such a friendly, bland look, that you can’t believe he is in any way a supercilious American millionaire. Aishwarya Rai wears one sneering expression through most of the film.

There are a few laughs in Bride and Prejudice and kind of forced bonhomie, but much as one hates to say it, nobody can do Bollywood better than Bollywood.

Wajahh: A Reason to Kill

If a film begins with a terrifying murder which turns out to be a nightmare a woman is relating to a friend, you know the movie is going to be a ‘cheat’-- one of those trying to hang cheap thrills on to a non-existent plot. Gautam Adhikari, veteran of many TV thrillers, cannot get over his predilection with loony camera angles and jumpy sound effects which are poor substitutes for real scares in his film, Wajahh: A Reason to Kill. Trishna (Gracy Singh) spends all her time alone in a huge, dark, creaking house, probably built in Bombay for the express purpose of shooting horror films. She fears that someone is trying to kill her and a palmist (Zulfi Syed) confirms that she will be murdered by her husband.

The husband, a neurosurgeon Dr Aditya (Arbaaz Khan, wooden as a teak tree) claims to love her, but refuses to do anything about the strange attacks on her. Even when a former patient (Shamita Shetty), who loves him, turns up, he ignores his wife’s hysterics. There is the local cop (Satish Kaushik), who finds everything funny, including the death of Trishna’s best friend, who is killed in a gas cylinder explosion.

The final twist is admittedly quite unexpected, but in the light of this revelation, a lot that has gone before does not make sense. The many twists and turns in the plot are more annoying than engrossing, and the terrible performances don’t ease the viewer’s burden at all. The best thing about Wajahh is the opening qawwali, which is tacked on and has no connection with the film, but is terrific all the same.


Anupam Sinha’s copy of Meet Joe Black has none of the original’s bitter-sweet, life-affirming qualities. In Shukriya, a London-based millionaire Karan Jindal (Anupam Kher) is on the verge of celebrating his sixtieth birthday with his loving wife (Rati Agnihotri) and two daughters, when he discovers he has very little time to live.

He challenges Death to experience life as a human, and Rohan (Aftab Shivdasani) arrives at his doorstep. As singer Ricky, he had already fallen in love with Jindal’s younger daughter Sanam (Shriya Saran), now as Death he has to bear the pangs. Even in its Indianized form, the film misses all the heartrending moments of a man trying to enjoy his last days, and all the comic potential of Death learning to live and love.

Shukriya is a just a slow-paced dud, with Anupam Kher trying to hold it together--unsuccessfully. Aftab Shivdasani in the Brad Pitt role? No way he could have made it work. As for the leading lady, she is a simpering champ—she is supposed to be a doctor in the film, but if she does anything useful, it is painting her face!


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