Gurinder Chadha has all the characters from ‘Pride and Prejudice’ . She has tried to indianise everything. So Elizabeth Bennet becomes Lalita Bakshi. Her elder sister Jane becomes Jaya (pronounced as Joya by her love interest), Mr. Bingley, the love interest of Joya becomes Balraj, Liddie (one of the younger sisters) becomes Lakhi, Mary (yet another younger sister) becomes Maya. Lalita’s best friend becomes Chandra Lamba from Charlotte Lucas and last but not the least, the sloppy, weird relative trying to woo Lalita metmorphoses (into an ugly creature nonetheless) from Mr.Collins to Mr. Kohli.
The first scene shows Aishwarya Rai trying to sit pretty on a tractor. Typical case of the beauty and the beast. Here one should note that the sister no. 2 in “Pride and Prejudice” (Elizabeth) is a trifle less good looking than the others (if I remember correctly), but clearly here, the situation is quite different. Gradually the story moves towards the great indian wedding taking place where Lalita and her sisters happen to meet the best man (Balraj) and his phoren friend, Darcy. Of course how can one forget Balraj’s sister who generally behaves like a “cunt” in Balraj’s own description of her. The story has Lalita disliking Darcy right from the beginning because he seems to prefer “high standards”. Meanwhile she falls for another firang she happens to meet in Goa – Wickham, who happens to know Darcy & tells her stuff about him, which makes her dislike him further. Equally or rather more infatuated with Wickham is Lakhi, who’s just a desperate teen out to impress guys. Jaya and Balraj are getting closer to each other in every way imaginable. No, the movie is all prim-and-propah!! Forget any intimate scenes, one doesnt even get a glance at the actual colors of the swimsuits these ladies wear. I am surprised we didnt have the typical bollywood scene of two flowers touching each other to signify that love is blooming. In between the comical character of the plot, Kohli, arrives and is all set to woo Lalita with his sloppy ways, only to be rejected by Lalita but accepted instantly by Chandra, Lalita’s friend, as a ticket to a better life. Here I must mention that Sonali Kulkarni as Chandra, looks quite horrible in indian attire that this movie made her wear. One is finally relieved when she starts wearing westerns in firang land.
In all this while, Lalita has begun to like Darcy but later realises that Darcy for some reason dissuaded Balraj from his Joya. Wickham kinda lures Lakhi into eloping with him and Darcy helps Lalita get her back. This gets him not only brownie points but he also scores a hit. In the end we see Darcy/Balraj getting married to their Indian sweethearts.
The indianness factor figures high on Gurinders list, but it keeps clashing with the fact that this is supposed to be an international movie and the soundtrack is completely in English. Not even a single Hindi/Punjabi song. Moreover the songs sound weird (at least to my accustomed ears) on hearing english lyrics being mouthed on familiar hindi tunes. The background score mostly seems to include only professional western classical singers and their voices just do not gel with most of the indian faces in the movie especially so in “A Marriage has come to town”. Though “No life without wife” and “Show them the way” are still tolerable. Ashanti’s stint in Goa is also not impressive, where she struggles to blurt some heavily accented Hindi in her otherwise English song. Maybe the international junta would have a different take on the musical score. I dont know if there’s an english musical score in “Balle balle, Amritsar to LA” – the hindi version of the movie. It would sound quite drastic to have proper English songs in a hindi dubbed version!
Though the movie does have the masala from typical bollywood movies, Ash’s acting is nothing great. In fact it looks quite artificial. The expressions she makes are not spontaneous. I didn’t go there expecting another spontaneous and very natural Jess Bhambhra from “Bend it like Beckham” but this cold, unnatural, non-spontaneous act wasn’t expected either. She was better in “Taal” and “Hum dil de chuke sanam”. The humour is also a little lacking in this movie considering that it’s a Gurinder Chadha movie. The scenes with Kohli are replete with slapstick comedy, but that’s that – it’s slapstick. The nagin dance by Lalita’s sister, takes everyone by surprise, the audience in the movie itself as well as that in the hall. Overall a masala movie but I would have rather waited for it to be shown on cable than especially checking it out.