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The Bride and Prejudice

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The Bride and Prejudice is a 2004 film directed by Gurinder Chadha, and written by Jane Austen. In summary, the story concentrates on the family of Bakish and their four daughters living in a run-down mansion in Amitsar in India. The domineering Mrs. Bakshi wants nothing other than seeing her daughters getting married off, starting with Jaya the eldest daughter. When Balraj arrives from the United Kingdom with the aim of attending the wedding of his friend, he ends up falling in love with Jaya. The second daughter of Bakshi by the name Lalita is not flattered in any way, when one of the Bakshi’s best friends, the American Hotelier Willy Darcy, ends up paying her attention. However, she finds him too pride and his comments about the backward state of India upsets her. In its place Lalita ends up being charmed by Jonny Wickham, who happens to be on the forefront embracing the Indianness. Wickham even moves a step higher by moving to stay with the family of Bakshi. Nevertheless, Wickham is not the man of honour as compared to his appearance. This is based on the fact that, his affections turns to another daughter of Bakshi. At this moment, Lalita is trying as much as she could to avoid the affection of another Los Angeles resident by name called Mr. Kholi, whose hilarious ideas concerning marriage as well as complete lack of self awareness adds humour to the story.

The film Bride and Prejudice has taken the audience from India, Los Angeles as well as London. It is an all-singing, all dancing extravaganza; a colourful Bollywood movie written for the western audiences to attain maximum enjoyment. On the other hand, it has also remained to Austen’s novel and most of the original characters are instantly in their Indian counterparts. It should be noted that, this is a multi-cultural world. There has been no single interpretation that the movie is good or bad to the Indian culture.

There have been various commentaries concerning the film from three different sectors of media based in UK, America and India itself. For instance, the New York Times strongly identifies areas that make the movie so much interesting. It especially majors on Aishwarya and confronts of western notions of the West, (Dermansky, 2011). On the other hand, Monsters and of UK centers on the variety of songs used in the film, (Sung, 2005). In addition, Times of India concentrates on the failures of the film in wooing Ambarsaris, (Chandigarh, 2004) While In this easy, due to different interpretations that have been brought forward in different reviews, I will critically examine the reviews from newspapers and review websites based in UK, U.S & India and will delve the interpretations offered by the two. By doing this, the essay will be in a position of explaining that, the interpretations are contextual, meaning that, they just differ due to different point of views, or even cultural background that every viewer originates from. The presence of various interpretations will be justified with help of Laclau’ Discourse Theory, majorly. The Newspaper and movie production company reviews have been used with the aim of illustrating the point of differing interpretations, just as a sample. Otherwise, the scope of the analysis made in this essay is not restricted to newspaper to ensure a variety of sources, to solve the problem of being biasness in the analysis.


Take 1: American Media

The New York Times

The review in the New York Times dated 27th January 2011, looks at the main points that the movie majors on to be come entertaining. It looks at the dialogues which are times cracking a part from being laugh-out loud funny. It also looks at Aishwarya Rai, who is the greatest being the film draw, but in this film, she turns out being the weakness. The review looks at her as being lovely as Lalita, however, it points out that, her traits- like being independent, and a woman who is free thinking only wants to marry because of love. However, the characterization of Rai’s is described as being demure. Her existence in most cases is upstaged by those surrounding her: an inappropriate Indian Suitor a Californian, a sister of hers’- the sex-pot, as well as her mother who is ever overbearing, ends up shining pleasantly in what the paper describes as the screen play of Chahda, in the confrontation of the Western notions of the West. The paper describes her as “Displeased with the man who calls her hometown “Hicksville, India” and complains about unreliable Internet connections, Lalita educates the wealthy but provincial Darcy about his misinformed views of Indian culture; the hotel mogul, smart enough to be smitten, receives a quick education. Patrons of Hollywood films, not used to Bollywood cinema, will also get a spirited education to the popular genre”, (Dermansky, 2011).  Another entertaining moment that the New York Times examines is the number of songs and dances in it. Such incidences are well arranged by the Bollywood choreographer called Saroj Khan. Such incidences have been described as being entertaining. Another entertaining incident looked at is taking Bakshis to sunny California. Concerning this incident, the director is looked upon as playing with traditions. Other instances include; staging of comical Bollywood production on the beach, the casting of Gospel choir entirely, passionate surfers, as well as lifeguards’ singing, (Murray, 2011).

Generally the New York Times takes Gurinder Chadha as a woman who has the capability of making impossible things coming real and entertaining, “She transplants the traditional tale of manners to colourful India, infusing the tired story with the energy of some rousing dance numbers, bright saris, orange marigolds, magnificent elephants, and the stunning Bollywood star, Aishwarya Rai herself”, (Dermansky, 2011).


Unlike the New York Times which described entertaining features in the film,  SAWF, dated 27th December 2007, looked at the disappointment issues in the film, it looks at the director; Chadha as a women who failed to maintain her high position in movie production, as compared to her earlier productions like Bend it like Beckham. It describes the movie as being “a flippant interpretation of a masterpiece as the characters are changed into shadowy figures,” (Deepa, 2007). It describes Martin Henderson as not fitting the haughty, standard of Darcy. It describes that, though Darcy humbleness version has been accepted, but he does not show the vivacious sparking lizzie that was experienced in the Austen’s Elizabeth. Lalita on her part has also been described as being a disappointment; this is based on the fact that, her presumed intellectuality is just restricted to platitude mounting, about the idealistic India. Going against Elizabeth Bennet, the Lalita portrayed by Chadha never grows in the course of the film. It is very hard for the viewer to comprehend her transition from being a woman who is prejudiced to a more perspicacious kind of woman, who has the capability of learning how to appreciate Darcy. Deciphering the changes is just next to impossibility, which SAWF things that, even they might be absent in the film, concerning the attitude of Lalita towards Darcy.  As a result, SAWF thinks that, the theme of pride that is multilayered could have been dealt with in a better manner as compared to what Chadha did in the film. In contrast with the New York Times which brought out entertaining incidences in the film, SAWF explains that, “Some of the best moments in the novel are either missing or are distorted in the film. The classic scene where lizzie enters Bingley's house in a muddied dress, looking wild with fatigue after having walked 4 miles to meet her ailing sister is strangely left out,” (Deepa, 2007)

In addition, Deepa Nair (2007), explains that, the proposal that Darcy made in the novel, can be descried as being a very effective scene, however, this simply ends up losing its charm in the film. Deepa describes the efforts made in Bride and prejudice in bringing out some very novel ideas as very weak efforts. Accordion to (Deepa 2007), in case it was Darcy’s aristocratic standard con concerns that prevented him from acknowledging his love for Elizabeth in the Austen’s novel, the film portrays it as if it was Darcy’s Orientals. This is because; Darcy has been portrayed as a person who looks at India from his coloured Western Eyes. At long last, it is his love for Lalita that makes him to understand the real India. In the last scene, one has the capability of seeing a completely changed Darcy. He has been changed completely to become a real Indian. His characters have really changed, and Deepa (2007), describes him as being a new person.

According to Deepa (2007), Bride and prejudice has been mostly Indians’ favourite. This is not much different from Austen’s world, which is the middle class Indian home. This is compared to the 18th century England of the novel by Austen. However, the world in film by Chadha, is majorly concerned with the matter of matrimony. This is due to the fact that, the marriage for Bakshi sisters, along with their friends, depicts the sole mode of escape from the small town in which they were given birth in. The craze of getting NRI groom for the daughters is also something that still happens in India, so it is real.

On the other hand, Deepa (2007) sees the presence of humble ample songs and dances in the film in a different perspective as seen by Dermansky, (2011), in New York Times. Though SWAF recognizes the opulence and their colour, he describes them as being flat. The initial wedding has been described as being “too chaotic even for the Indian taste. Some of the songs are so bad that you feel like tearing your hair out”.

Deepa (2007) in SAWF claims that every thing in the film seems disappointing. The only glamour is placed on Aishwarya, and nothing else offered to her. There are some cases even furniture was emoting more as compared to her. She fails to fit in the Elizabeth’s shore, in terms of character.  As a result, Martin Henderson ends up faring better as compared to Aishwarya, though he is too stiff in other scenes as compared to Darcy in the novel.

Take 2; United Kingdom Media


The BBC review Updated 07 October 2004, focuses much of its attention on songs and lyrics in the film, and how they have enhanced the point of entertainment in the film. This is in contrast with SAWF, who found songs and dances disappointing, Papamichael, (2004), sees the musical sets as being lavish while sending up the Bollywood propensity for their melodrama. Papamichael (2004) mentions a pyjama-clad knees-up, as the one trying to bring to mind the song of Sandra Dee from Grease, though there were times according to Papamichael that its lyrics were too flat. This according to Papamichael is as a result of Rai’s and Darcy’s failure in the generation of required electricity that quite befitted their suppressing passion. Due to this flatness, the inherent charm ends up wining out over their characters’ foibles. However, BBC admits that, “Bride & Prejudice is a romantic comedy that amply delivers on its eastern promise,” (Papamichael 2004).

The monster and Criticscom review is dated Mar 31, 200, like the BBC reviews which emphasized on songs in the film, Monster and majors on the use of soundtracks and their significances. However, the review goes down to specific songs as compared to BBC which generalized the songs and dances. The Punjabi wedding song is not performed in English, but is much interesting. It is much easier to know what the song is all about just by observing participants’ behaviours. A group of men and women were singing at one another. Another entertaining song though surprising is R&B star Ashanti, who “provides two tracks for the soundtrack with ‘My Lips Are Waiting’ and ‘Touch My Body,’ which was used in the end credits. ‘My Lips Are Waiting’ is the better song out of the two and it fits in surprisingly well with the rest of the soundtrack”, (Sung 2005).

Take 3 Indian Media

Times of India

Just like SAWF, Times of India, in its review dated October 6, 2003, sees the movies as being as big disappointment from Chadha as it failed to woo Ambarsaris. The film is seen as a failure in catching the Amritsar real essence. Hindu Times majors its argument on the Amritsar city, explaining that, “The Amritsar shown in 'Bride and Prejudice' is not what the city of the Golden Temple is about. The Golden Temple has just been used as a prop, they did not show the girls actually going there and accepting the 'parshad” (Channdigarh, 2004). In addition, the film has been described just as a show up of vulgarity, as well as denigrating the moral values of Indianness.

Different Strokes

In this section, the essay concentrates upon interpretation patterns as seen from the American, U.K and Indian examples that are cited in the above section. The section seeks to determine the differences that every context offers to the review, which in turn spins out different approaches essential for the film understanding. In this section, I will try to examine if there was any correct or wrong interpretation in any of the five mentioned, or if the chances are that, all interpretations in their context are correct.

In its own right, the film Bride and Prejudice can be considered as being a text in its own right. As an effect, it just remains in open to any kind of interrelation. This is because, text, is “complex of interrelated meanings which its readers tend to interpret as a discrete, unified whole” (Couldry 2000). On the other hand, there are several kinds of texts apart from literal texts. This includes media texts, starting from TV and radio, expanding into video and computer games, as well as the internet.

The different reviews provided by different Medias from different regions and culture, can be seen clearly with the help of Laclau’s empty signifier theory. According to Laclau, the intrinsic emptiness in discussions is what a discussion constitutes, for it to become importantly unstable, as well as attaining a contingent formulation. Without openness, it will mean that, such a discussion has already been given its conclusion, and this might prove to be far much resistant to any change. In the context of this essay, such conclusions should be made by the director or the scriptwriter, who might not be influenced by any thing, or circumstance, but his or her own intentions over the film. This has particularly been shown by Laclau in the linguistic structure; everything is given its meaning from its relational context. In such a system, meanings are only found by the use of different ideas, and in character, every sign is rendered non-essential, but the systems meaning is much essential. This implies only when the meaning is given not based on anything else.

Due to different backgrounds and contexts, the field of discussion is characterized as being infinitude. This character prevents any attempt made with the aim of fixing meanings, as there is the probability of being put in a different circumstanced, which might result to a different meaning. As a result, every discussion is termed as “a semi-stable fixation of the field of discursively and there is always something outside every discursive formation – structure in Saussure’s terminology” (Laclau, & Mouffe, 2001). Just like in films, viewers are mainly unaware of the director’s or script writer’s intentions. As a result, in this film, Bride and Prejudice, Chadhi’s intentions for the film are unknown; she did make any conclusion concerning the movie. As a result, there are no conclusions made over the film, hence reviewers are free to discuss the movie in the context that best suits them. This is what laclau terms as the concept of emptiness signifier.

According to Laclau & Mouffe, these empty signifiers form the basis of any discussion, as it allows the gathering different ideas, and bids them together by the use of discursive formulation. As a consequence, this will only be achieved by emptying some signifiers. This is based on the fact that, with emptiness the point of contention is rendered universal in its scope. However, there is no way the issue is completely universal, because the meaning is only given by certain elements that are related to it. This means that, it is through openness that a discussion becomes successful, but there should be some conditions governing the discussion. This explains the importance of emptiness, not only in the discussion process, but also in the struggle of forming a discussion. Going with the words of Laclau, the character of emptiness in every discussion is the driving force behind movie reviews. Reviews looked upon from such an angle, becomes a struggle provides the room of filling the emptiness with a certain content. As an effect, film reviewing is a struggle of identifying essential meaning. Movie reviewing should aim at getting the meaning and towards the end of contingency “the realization of a society fully reconciled with itself” (Laclau, 1996, 69).

The very notion of movie reviewing according to Laclau is the filling of emptiness through a discussion. However, this notion produces antagonist, since the notion of reviewing determines that emptiness which ought to be filled with a given content.  In other terms, the inherent emptiness can also be portrayed on other terms that still address a discussion as an issue that has no identity, but does not concentrate on need of filling any emptiness, mastered by reviewers. In other words, it has not identified any reason of carrying it out a discussion, hence avoiding any sign that will lead to any failure in a discussion. In such a circumstance, instead of concentrating on à priori on a certain relationship, the concentration ends up having lots of relations, all targeting the identification as well as individuation moments. Such a formation has the ability of widening social space.

There are interesting observations that have found that “looking at the ordinary in places where it takes unaccustomed forms brings out not, as has often been claimed, the arbitrariness of human behaviour, but the degree to which its meaning varies according to the pattern of life by which it is formed”(Geertz 1976:14). This clearly explains the scene Darcy commenting on the power blackout, internet connections and hapless dances in India.  Both American and UK audience reacted to it with laughter, interpreting this as a miserable society, while the Indian audience saw it as an insult of their community. From this point of view, it can easily be noticed that, decisions do very in different contexts.

There are various decisions that audience might have towards a particular empty signifier in discourser, this can be explained in Hall’s ‘Encoding, Decoding’, where he analyses different decisions that audiences can reach at. In the context, audience can be clearly demarcated into U.K viewers, who wrote the views in both New York Times and the SAWF; Indian Viewers who wrote in Indian newspaper, as well as UK viewers who wrote and commented in UK media. In Hall’s work, it sis stated that, a dominant code is always present within a message, as an effect, the massage is understood by audience from any one of the three points of views. That is; dominant hegemonic, negotiated, and oppositional point of views.

As an effect, in the presence of three conditions as it is in the essay, from which an empty signifier needs to be filled, there is probability of having three different decisions. It is not that audience will always agree with the full message content as relayed, they might disagree, or even only partially agreeing. Hall stated that, “there is no necessary correspondence between encoding and decoding” (Hall 1980:515). As a result, it is not possible at any time to have singular filler of the empty signifier, for instance Bride and Prejudice. Reviewers do not always perceivably absorb the massage relayed in the signifier, there understandings or decisions might be a times resistant to the original intention of the massage, which in a film, is the director, or even the scriptwriter’s original intension. As Laclau puts it, these empty signifiers form the basis of any discussion, as it allows the gathering different ideas, and bids them together by the use of discursive formulation.

One thing that comes to the forefront in the reviewers by Indian Newspaper is that, the temple is a very sacred place, where individuals go in to accept parshad. In case one does not enter the temple, then it means the temple is not being used as required. In addition, for one to be Indianness, he has to observe their cultures and keep away from vulgarity as well as denigration of Indianness moral values. This helps in brining out Indianness themselves view religion and cultures. This show how Indians have for instance paid attention to the significance of religion and moral values that accounts if one is a real Indian and knows the culture and traditions of Indians. This is so particularly for weddings and how they should be conducted; they should be conducted in Temples.

On the other hand, there is also one thing that accounts much in the American reviews. The issue deals with entertainment and how individuals get entertained. One of the two American reviews concentrated more on the entertainment part of the movie. It pointed out features that look entertaining in the film. While the other American review concentrated more on the disappointment parts of the film. This has helped in depicting how Americans are much diversified, as it is known, the population of Americans comprises of individuals from all over the world. It contains both the whites and the blacks.

According to the New York editor, dialogues which are times cracking a part from being laugh-out loud funny. Hence, the editors view some dialogues as so funny, hence entertaining. This is particularly when the dialogue is dealing with the confrontations of Western notions with other notions like the Indian notions. For instance, most American breaks into lighters when proudly Lalita gets displeased when Darcy, calls her hometown Hicksville. They also get entertained when they hear that in some countries, there exist frequent power blackouts, along with unreliable internet connections. To most Americans, this is something of the past, and in there own country, it hardly occurs.  In addition, New York Times term different cultures as interesting, this so especially due to dances and songs.

Concerning the SAWF reviews, there are other Americans who get entertained when film actor get into their positions very well. As an effect, if the opposite happens, they get disappointed. The review criticizes Chadha for not getting her actors in there right positions, hence, the film was not entertaining. They also feel disappointed if the director does not show different transitions of actors especially intellectually. This proves that, the majority of American likes maturity and intellectualism in films. In addition, Americans are so much concerned about marriage, and marriage institutions. This is based on the fact that, most of them hardly get married, and if they do, there are other reasons, other than just love. This is why they criticize the film that it is full of matrimony.

Last but not least, the U.K based reviews looked at depicts entertaining elements. They all concentrate on songs and soundtracks as the entertaining part in the film. Fin addition, they appear to be keen in observing how soundtracks and songs tent to much some situations. If the track does not match with situation, they tent to term it boring.

Generally, the American and U.K based reviews referred to in the easy, tent to speak of a dual dilemma in finding the best balance between being Indianness, Americanness and Britishness. They are written by individuals seeing the movement of American and U.K individuals into a foreign setting. They enter the culture overlap that has trapped most Indian Immigrants or visitors, the first stroke of their pen concerning this movie is the finding the right cultural balance. For instance, Balraj arrives from the United Kingdom with the aim of attending the wedding of his friend; he ends up falling in love with Jaya. Also, Mr. Darcy, always complain of hopeless dances, frequent power blackouts and unreliable internet connections. The reviewers based in UK and US were fully a ware of where Mr Balraj and Darcy were coming from, however, they didn’t know the real indianness.

The three sets of reviews bring to bring forth two different characterizations of a movie and its characters. From the American standpoint, perhaps, the movie is about striking the right balance between cultures; a cross cultural film that depicts individuals trying to find their own place in countries not of their. The reviews here depict an understanding of an individual based on the little that he does not know about Indian culture and upbringing. Perhaps that is why; the reviewers find it entertaining when Darcy complains about unreliable internet connections, frequent power blackouts and hopeless dances that rarely occur in U.S. On the other hand, Indian based review, majors on Indian culture and religion, as they feel the movie exploits them in a vulgarity manner.

Of the various decisions arrived at concerning the film, there is non that can be considered right or wrong as compared to the other. This essay argues that each of these interpretations are correct in their own frame of reference, each author has viewed the film against his/her own experiences. Hence, there are guaranteed to be differences in their approach and understanding.  When viewing a film that works around a certain cultural framework, it is impossible that every interpretation is fully aware of the cultural context of the film. In that light, both the American reviews as well as the UK are correct, the importance given to a particular incident in one review that may not have found a mention in the other is simply because of what one knows or does not know of the other culture. Given the frame of mind in which a particular scene, movie or film was approached, any of the interpretations are correct within that framework. This is especially true of films that cut across two cultures, where two different sections of society can relate to the movie- it naturally puts forth two different cultural interpretations, each seen from its own shoes.


This paper sought the understanding of different commentaries in the film review.  On that note, the Bide and Prejudice has been reviewed with different interpretations by the three main audiences in, the U.S, Indian and the U.K residence. In doing so, the paper was not restricted to any media like newspaper alone, because, there are different examples of Medias which examines the differences in the film interpretation. As understood by the film under review has been placed under the empty signifier realm. Due to different interpretations and discussions, an attempt has been made to understand the Discourse Theory explained by Laclau in the backdrop of various reviews that the Bride and Prejudice has garnered, to highlight the possibility of various interpretations and discussions, and that there has been no single interpretation that can said to be more or less correct or wrong as compared to the other.

Hall’s ‘Encoding, Decoding’ has also been utilized to understand the various positions within which an audience may seek out the message within a text, and that these positions in themselves cater to the possibility of different interpretations. However, different interpretations are not right or wrong, they are informative about the background (ethnicity, class, gender, generation) etc. of the commentator.  So we get quite different understandings of culture itself. This where the metaphor of ‘balance’ is interesting, because it is curiously static and fails to address the lived process of learning how to manage effectively in another society, what are the costs, the losses and gains or however the film-maker and commentators put it. This is where the study of the presuppositions of the different reviews (often accessible by their metaphors) would have been interesting. This would have lifted the essay from a solid merit to a distinction. This last part has been used with the aim of brining out the subtle differences in the three approaches, that is, American, Indian and the UK towards film understanding.

However, it is much interesting to note that, discussions offered in the reviews affects the interpretations of different audiences who read them after or before watching the film. They get to know to what extent pare the notions of the other society (other society depends on the citizenship of the audience, either from U.K, U.S, India, or even both), decorated by the massage relayed in America, Indian or the UK review, or even resistant to it. Though this paper dealt with the responses of only two issues that portrayed the film as being entertaining or disappointing, it is more pertinent to understand exactly how cross cultural movies, and interpretations of the same can be extrapolated to different communities who might have gone through similar circumstances, such as migrating to America and blending in, and at the same time, holding on to a spectre of their past, or these who went to UK and did the same.

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