Hollywood attempts Bollywood minus its emotional core
Internationally celebrated filmmaker Mira Nair did it with "Vanity Fair" and now Gurinder 'Bend It Like Beckham' Chadha has done it with "Bride and Prejudice".
By Priyanka Khanna, IANS
Are they paying homage to the native exuberance of the Mumbai-based Hindi film industry or churning out globally appealing clones of whatever makes Bollywood? Bollywood minus its emotional core?
In a bid to recreate the success of "Bombay Dreams", is this new trend an attempt to standardise Bollywood and make it fit for assembly production, or is it Bollywood's best ticket for crossing over, wonder observers.
While a section of critics found "Bride and Prejudice" a clone of Bollywood blockbusters sans the strong undercurrent of emotions that is the core of Indian escapist cinema, another has praised it as the most enlivening interpretation of the sombre literary work by Jane Austen.
However, there is a consensus that just as the Bollywood incorporations in "Vanity Fair" were greeted with mockery by non-Asian viewers and reviewers, Chadha's attempts to bend it like Bollywood dream merchants has not gone down well with the targeted international audience.
The British press has panned the film wherein Chadha unveiled Aishwarya Rai as an Indian bride who overcomes pride and prejudice to fall for co-star Martin Henderson in her version of the Jane Austen classic. The same audience that lauded the song and dances of "Lagaan" have found the bride lacking in emotions.
"Gurinder crafted a refreshing little tale in 'Bend It Like Beckham' and Nair got away with artistic licence in 'Monsoon Wedding' because of the soul of the film was solid," said a critic.
"But both seem to have been too dazzled by the external pomp and show of Bollywood, forgetting that even the most lavish Mumbai productions fall flat if emotions are missing."
A British critic has gone as far as to say that Chadha, who is an British immigrant from Kenya via Southall, has done what emigrant Indian bachelors do when they condescendingly return to the old country prospecting for wives who are simple and unsophisticated.
She has in a way paid a high-spirited visit to the Indian escapist genre.
Whatever her intensions, it is evident that Chadha tried to get two birds with one stone. But as things stand, she missed both targets.
It is, however, too early to say how the much-hyped film will do at the turnstiles in the West but what is clear is that it will not emerge as the best postcard from Bollywood to the rest of the world as many had hoped.
Even for leading lady Aishwarya, the film may not prove to be the stepping-stone for global glory. But for the former Miss World, another chance is just round the corner.
Chadha's take on Bollywood is diametrically different from successful Indian expatriate Deepa Mehta's "Bollywood/Hollywood", which was the director's tribute to the spirit of the Hindi film industry.
Mehta is now reviving her film titled "Water", which is a project based on Hindu widows. Like Mehta, Shekhar Kapur has preferred to evolve his own kind of cinema.
Many are still pegging their hope on Shekhar to make Indian's true blue crossover film. But the filmmaker, who has a tendency to juggle with many projects at a time, is not obliging.
At last count, Shekhar had started work on "Paani" to be set in India and one film each on Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama. Cinema fans will just have to wait for him to make up his mind on what he wants to do first and until then peg their hopes on Aamir Khan who is readying "The Raising".