There was a time before “Chicago” and “Moulin Rouge” when the movie musical was an endangered species in Hollywood. Musicals are expensive and risky sells to American audiences. Thanks to the likes of Clint Eastwood’s vocal abilities in 1969’s “Paint Your Wagon,” audiences have good reason to be skeptical. But these days, we’re not in Hollywood anymore, Toto.
India produces more films in a year than any other country on the planet. Out of all of those films, guess which ones are the most successful? If you answered musicals, then pat yourself on the head right now – don’t be shy. Thanks to good old Clint and other musical flops, American studios never release these fine films stateside, or in the majority of Indian cinemas for that matter. Only when something exceptional comes along does it make the journey from Bombay to your local theater. Coincidentally, the latest triumph comes from the creative team behind India’s last big import, “Bend It Like Beckham.” “Bride & Prejudice,” loosely follows the novel of a similar name by Jane Austen, but adds the distinct fun and imagination that only a product of Bollywood could. Owing its writing credits to Austen, Paul Mayeda Berges and Gurinder Chadha take over to make the appropriate lyrical alterations to her classic. Martin Henderson and Aishwarya Rai play the reluctant headstrong lovers in this singing, dancing tale of opposites attract.
As full of life and color as “Bride & Prejudice” is, there still somehow seems to be a drought of catchy songs. The musical numbers come out of nowhere and feel out of place within the movie. The choreography is excellent, incorporating huge spectacle street dances and even a Hijra interlude at one point. The stunning colors of the movie add even more beauty to the tropical landscape the action plays out in. Despite all this, a good rule as far as musicals are concerned is that you know a good one when you come out of the theater humming your favorite song. That is where “Bride & Prejudice” leaves the audience a little short.