The Bakshis celebrate the arrival of a man who may be perfect husband material for one of the family’s four unmarried daughters.
It’s a tale as old as Elizabeth Bennet, but it take place in Amritsar, India. Mrs. Bakshi wants to marry off her four daughters to wealthy prospects, and she’s not exactly subtle about it. As luck would have it, sparks fly between Jaya, the eldest, and Balraj, a visiting barrister from England (which is why I’m being all fancy-like and saying “barrister” instead of “lawyer”). Balraj’s rich American buddy, Will Darcy, however — that dude’s an arrogant jackhole. Or so Lalita, the second oldest Bakshi daughter, thinks. FOR NOW.
And there is dancing. And singing. And SUCH GENIUS to turn Regency England into modern-day India, because OMG I LOVE IT.
Aishwarya Rai as Lalita
Smart and opinionated, Lalita also fiercely loves her culture and country, which adds a great dimension to the Lizzy/Darcy dynamic. She’s played to feisty perfection by Aishwarya Rai, who’s often referred to as the most beautiful woman in the world. Which is still not often enough, because holy shizz — look at her. LOOK AT HER. But she didn’t become one of Bollywood’s biggest stars just by being a pretty face, ’cause the lady can act and dance, too.
Martin Henderson as Will Darcy
OK, so Martin’s not exactly entering the pantheon of best Darcys, but he does well enough as the socially awkward and very pretty dude with serious foot-in-mouth disease whenever he tries to get to know the woman he’s smitten with. I haven’t watched the actual P&P adaptations (I know), but I remember from the book and Lizzie Bennet Diaries* that Elizabeth is so caught off-guard that Darcy’s head-over-heels in love with her, so I like being able to objectively see that he’s been into her the whole flipping time, and that it wasn’t really as contentious as it seems from her perspective. Maybe this happens in the P&P movies, too. I wouldn’t know.
* Yes, I’ve prioritized the modern retellings over the real deals. CAN I LIVE?!?
ANYWAY. 2004 was a great year for Martin; in addition to this gem, he also appeared in Britney’s “Toxic” video as the guy who’s poisoned at the end. A few years later, he starred in Off the Map, aka Grey’s Jungle, with Bryan Fuller Goddess Caroline Dhavernas, darling Matt Saracen, and my beloved Mamie Gummer, backed by the all-mighty power of Shonda. How did this foolproof formula even fail?! And why did I watch every second of it?!**
** Yes, I’ve prioritized many shitty things over the P&P adaptations. Maybe I’ll stop defending myself now.
Naveen Andrews as Balraj
Having been an avid Lost fan once upon a time (which he has also been on), it’s so nice to see Naveen play a morally unambiguous non-torturer — and one that shares his real British-Indian background, too! If he hasn’t won you over when he starts dancing, then you’re a stronger person than me.
Daniel Gillies as as Johnny Wickham
OH HAI, Elegant Uncle Elijah! I’m not sure why George needed to be modernized to Johnny, but here we are. Anyway, Johnny is afflicted with a mild allergy to shirts, which is why he’s introduced thusly:
Indira Varma as Kiran
Most recently seen in Game of Thrones, Indira probably has a completely different role here as the haughty Caroline Bingley character. (I’m assuming, since the HBO show I know her from is Rome and not GoT.)
Alexis Bledel as Georgie Darcy
Poor Rory Gilmore‘s streak of crappy exes continues. (Although Rory and Elijah? I’d ship it.)
Ashanti as herself
Remember Ashanti? You know Ashanti. Well, she’s in the movie, and her only scene looks like Goa Chippendales. #LifeGoals
Couch-Sharing Capability: As High As You’d Like to Make It
True story: Teenage Mandy W. once went over to her BFF’s house and made everyone watch this, even though reading P&P for school probably killed any enjoyment derived from the story for said friends. They never did tell me what they thought of it, but we’re all still friends, so I clearly didn’t alienate them with my ambush movie-evangelism.
I’m not saying you need to force people to watch this with you. But even if you did, they won’t hate you for it. (Because why would they — this movie is a freakin’ delight!)
Recommended Level of Inebriation: Low
Even though I obvi enjoy this regardless of alcohol consumption, it’s definitely not perfect, either. (Which might come as a surprising opinion, given my effuse praise for it so far.) Depending how you feel about second-hand embarrassment, you might want a cocktail ready for any scene with Kholi saab (Mr. Collins).
But my main issue are actually the songs. Catchy and earworm-y as they are — trust, you’ll get at least one of them stuck in your head — there are some pretty awkward lyrics. Not to mention the bad dubbing, which I know is totally par for the course for Bollywood movies. (Well, the dubbing; not sure about the bad part.) That’s probably why I love the first number so much, since I can’t understand and therefore judge a word of it. Plus, it gives me outlandish expectations of Punjabi weddings.***
You might also feel like drinking when you realize that director and co-writer Gurinder Chadha (also of Bend It Like Beckham and Angus, Thongs, and Perfect Snogging) hasn’t made a movie in YEARS (by her own choice, I hope). And that mainstream Hollywood kind of decided that, between this, Bend It, Slumdog Millionaire, and Life of Pi, they had enough films with Indian casts to last for a while.
Use of Your Netflix Subscription: Excellent (Unless You Hate Musicals and, By Extension, Happiness)
Alix has already covered this movie’s watchability before, and I wholeheartedly agree: watching this movie is a GREAT life choice. (In fact, I just recommended it at book club last night! Twice!) It’s fun, colourful, and energetic. And if that doesn’t convince you, synchronized dancing in matching white pajamas also happens at one point.
I mean, come on. How do you say no to this?!