February 23, 2005

"Bride and Prejudice"

"Bride and Prejudice" is a (relatively) high budget Bollywood musical based on Jane Austen's novel, as relocated to contemporary India, by the director of "Bend It Like Beckham." From my review in the March 14th issue of The American Conservative (subscribe here):

Each week in 1930, America's 123 million people bought 90 million movie tickets. There were no televisions, no home air conditioners, and little street crime, so many ladies went to the show most evenings. Hollywood catered to their tastes with countless musicals and love stories.

Today, the average American purchases a ticket less than one-seventh as often, and moviegoers are predominantly male and young. Hollywood therefore specializes, at vast expense, in blowing stuff up.

Foreign film industries can't compete with our $100 million evil-robot-onslaught flicks, but they can make women's movies. The leading supplier to semi-literate Third World ladies is the Indian movie business, Bombay-centered "Bollywood."

India is an apt setting for complicated love stories because it has barely begun the slow transition from arranged marriages to love matches, what Samuel Huntington calls "the Romeo and Juliet revolution." The conflict between a complex social order and true love might be the most compelling and fertile subject in all literature, which is why Jane Austen's novels have been filmed so often. But Westerners now have so much sexual freedom that they dither their lives away, unable to commit because somebody better might always come along. This makes for clever comedy, as "Seinfeld," "Friends," and Bridget Jones's Diary attest, but paltry passion.

In contrast, because the maidens in Bollywood movies, which don't even show kissing, aren't allowed to have sex, they are free to bask in romance.

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