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'Bride and Prejudice about Indo-American relations

By Hindol Sengupta, IANS

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British-Indian director Gurinder Chadha says her new film "Bride and Prejudice" is not just a kitschy, colourful tribute to love, Bollywood style, but is also peppered with references to India-US relations.

Chadha is the director of acclaimed films like "Bhaji on the Beach" and "What's Cooking?" Her 2003 super hit "Bend It Like Beckham" was made with about $2 million and raked in around $75 million. British Prime Minister Tony Blair even sent Chadha a bottle of the House of Commons claret to congratulate her on the film's success.

"Bride and Prejudice" is an adaptation of Jane Austen's husband-hunting, social machinations-revealing novel Pride and Prejudice - with an Indian bride and an American groom.

"Essentially, the novel is about the pride and the prejudices of a small town but proud girl and a snooty, upper class and misunderstood man and how they misunderstand and are yet fascinated by each other," said Chadha.

"That to me is a lot like America and India and the changing relations between the two greatest democracies in the world - America a world power and India, proud and full of aspirations and growing fast."

So, in the film, when wealthy American Will Darcy, the only name kept intact from the book, is dismissive about the heat, pollution and corruption in India, Lalita Bakshi (Elizabeth Bennet in the novel) hits out against him strongly.

"She turns to him and says, 'Where was America 60 years after its independence - just fighting over gold and slaves. Give us (India) time and see'," Chadha told IANS in New Delhi during a promotional visit for her film.

"That, in a sense, for me tells a lot about the ties between the two countries and how they are negotiating their spaces. The film is apparently about love but it's also an international debate about what progress really means and how important traditions and culture are - and the definition of civilized."

The film is also her homage to Bollywood - India's mammoth film industry that churns out 800-1,000 films a year.

"I love the images of Bollywood - the colour, the positive messages, the happiness. I'm carrying all this to the world," said Chadha.

"It's my tribute to directors like Raj Kapoor, Manoj Kumar, and the chiffon romance of Yash Chopra."

Her films are also about the immigrant Indian experience. "Some people try to cheapen this experience. But I am very proud," said Chadha, in a lime T-shirt, dark pants, red sports shoes and a leather jacket.

"I was born in Kenya, grew up in Britain - where Indians have formed their own little Indias. There is no pining for a homeland in India because that is home."

She believes it is Indian immigrants across the world who are keeping Indian traditions alive.

"My films are seen by more people than Hindi films from Bollywood, so I am playing a greater role in spreading the message about Indian culture."


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