Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Bride and Preju-dicey

I spent a lot of time yesterday reading reviews of Bride and Prejudice on the Internet. Unfortunately for me, the movie released in UK and India, but I will have to wait till December (I believe) to get to see it on the big screen in the US.

I was curious about the fate of this movie for two reasons: Can the Bollywood style of film-making be exported to an audience alien to it? Can Ash Rai succeed in opening the doors for other Indian actors?

I have seen Brazilian, Italian, German, French ... in short, movies from different countries. We are so far apart in our style of film-making and our movies from them that you can almost see daylight between the pillars. As an non-Indian filmgoer, it is much easier for me to watch a French movie if I am used to, let's say Hollywood productions. However, the 3 hours+ 6 songs formula is completely opposite of anything I may have seen till date. It is like an arranged marriage at best. Your Indian friend/aquaintance introduces to the a Hindi movie, you sit through the first one shifting uncomfortably in your seat, smiling politely yet trying desperately to enjoy it, and wondering what prompted you to go for it. Some like the colors, some like the music, some like the costumes, some like the dances and others find it amusing for the loud dialogs and overt sentimentality, but for most, it takes time to make the adjustment and enjoy the experience.

How does one win such an audience? I think the answer lies in baby steps. Don't show them a DDLJ outright. Cook up a bhaji like Bride and Prejudice. Make it in English, have some American actors, inject Indian values, Bollywood philosophies, music masala and you have the right Anglo-Indian movie ready to serve. Let them get used to the conventions of our movies: the songs, the emotions, the lack of kissing scenes, the group dancers, the heavy dialogues etc. Then ... take the best of Bollywood talent, a universal story, damn good music and attack the west. I think the reception to that would be much better.

To get back to my two points: Yes, our style of film-making can be exported to a 'receptive' audience (I have already explained how we can make the audience receptive to Hindi films). About Ash. I started off as a fan since her 1994 Miss India days. There were two unchanging facts about her then. She was exceptionally beautiful and she couldn't act. The two truths still hold. Unfortunately, she is the only poster child we have whom we can export to the West right now. The only known 'face' on the international map. As brilliant as Tabu maybe, she may never make a dent in Hollywood for lack of recognition and marketing. When Ash Rai went to Cannes, it was embarassing to see her with people who had such a body of work behind them. All she had was the Body. However, I still want her to succeed. The more of India and Indians that appear in mainstream Hollywood movies, the more the chances for Indian actors to make inroads elsewhere.

So what about Bride and Prejudice? At the risk of making a conclusion without having seen the movie, I can state that it will be a moderate commercial and critical success(based on the extensive number of reviews that I have read). However, it would be foolhardy to expect another hit like 'Bend it like Beckham'. If it were to garner reasonable acceptance with the non South-Asian audience, I think the movie would have done its bit.

P.S. > Ash Rai in a saree is God's gift to mankind(pun intended). However, she never has the same impact in Western clothes. Can anyone proffer an explanation besides the fact that Indian clothes rock?
P.P.S> My attitude isn't one of need for recognition from the non-Indian movie masses, but one of conquering the world, and having confidence in our abilities, inline with the new India in an increasingly culturally diverse world


Sukanya M said...


I too hv yet to see the movie ... but I shall before you (!) since I am in calcutta. The point I want to make is why try and induce other people to see our bollywood movies? Except perhaps for revenues (which is frankly not our headache but the producers or financers). Its an Indian phenomenon and we love it. And lets leave it that. People elsewhere (except in those places where Indian movies sell) simply wont understant it and that's OK. Different strokes for different folks. And I am not very sure Gurinder Chadha or any other NRI or film maker of Indian origin can make a "bollywood movie". Just a song and dance dont a bollywood film, make.

Ash is too skinny for western outfits, I guess.


Sarita said...

I agree...B&P is not going to get there as much as Bend it like Beckham did. Indian films are giving a good enuf glimse of our society ..although its still too Balle a start.Its funny when my american colleagues ask a typical southie like me if I was going to have a dance and song kinda wedding like they saw in Bend It like Beckham :-)).

As for Aish not quite getting to you in western clothes and blowing your mind out in indian , could be as simple as the fact that , she lacks the oomph for western wear ...but is beautiful in a "girl-next-door' kinda way .

my two cents :-)

Parth said...

Sarita, wouldn't it have been great if Ash really would have been the "girl-next-door"? :-)))

Sukanya, somehow I just feel that it would be nice if our films would be a global phenomenon. I think popular culture goes a long way in removing misconceptions, introducing people to cultures etc. Of course, we always run the risk of 'pretenders' short-selling Indian culture to the west.

Must thank both women for insight into the Ash Rai dressing quandry that I had :-)

Bobbie Micheals said...

Super work performed.