Bride and Prejudice Gurinder Chadha

On paper it looks promising: adapt a Jane Austen novel to modern-day India, mix white suitors with lovely Indian daughters, blend Bollywood dance numbers with classic Hollywood, shoot in locales like Goa and L.A., and cast a beauty queen (Indian superstar Aishwarya Rai). On screen, however, the mixture fizzles. Rai plays Lalita, the smart daughter in a middle-class Indian family full of unmarried girls. Rai's parents want Lalita to find a husband but she will only marry for love. Lalita rejects Will Darcy (Martin Henderson), an American hotel tycoon visiting India. Darcy makes tactless remarks about India and is constantly distracted by business. Predictably, we sense they will wind up together. Before that happens we encounter a series of lavish dance numbers that cleverly blend traditional Indian and modern rock music, including one by Ashanti. Director Chadha gave us the wonderful Bend It Like Beckham but falters with Bride and Prejudice. Rai is the most beautiful woman to grace today's screens and has the talent to back it up. However, her Lalita is equal parts wit and snob; she overpowers the miscast Henderson who comes off weak and lost. The film empowers Indian women but at the cost of the men. The subplot of Kholi (Nitin Ganatra), a Californian seeking a traditional Indian wife, is excruciating to watch, because he's played as such an idiot. At least the extras are generous. Chadha and co-writer Paul Mayeda Berges deliver an informative commentary. Add to that six deleted scenes (interesting), and five dance numbers in complete form (useful or frivolous, depending on your tastes), the obligatory "making of" featurette (bland), short interviews of Rai and Henderson (also bland), some background on Ashanti's number (brief but good) and a glimpse of the crew performing a dance routine (very fun). Plus: deleted scenes, more. (Alliance Atlantis)