Monday, September 27, 2004

Gurinder Chanda Goes Musical

Dazzling Aiswarya Rai is cloned in Madame Tussauds & stuns, at the Bride & Prejudice Premiere

Text by Ashanti OMkar
Photos by Akin Falope and film press shots

This week has been a very exciting one, for the most beautiful woman in the world (not just an observation from her Miss World crown, back in 1994, but most recently, by Hollywood star, Julia Roberts); Aiswarya Rai, the lovely lady who has not only been cloned, in wax, at Madame Tussauds (Amitab was the 1st Bollywood personality to have had this honour), but also sees her 1st Hollywood outing, with Gurinder Chanda’s much anticipated ‘Bride & Prejudice’, which premiered in grand fashion, at the famous Palladium Theatre, in London.

The word “fun” seemed to be Aiswarya’s signature, which she re-iterated many a time, when speaking about the film, the dancing and the wax model. In her stunning beauty, she arrived at Madame Tussauds, fashionably late, dressed to perfection (maroon net with black embroidery), with not a strand of hair out of place. Ash, as she is fondly known, is the highest earning female, in Indian films and with her immense talent and total commitment to every film she acts in, it is not at all surprising that she has been chosen by Madame Tussauds, who have started their ‘Bollywood for beginners’ season, with the unveiling of Ash’s statue. Dressed at the last minute, by Ash’s designer, the wax model may not be a total resemblance to this Bollywood beauty, but they have certainly captured her essence, with her model striking a dance pose, the red embroidered saree, falling over her curves and impeccably matched jewellery, to make it one of great splendour.

Aiswarya and Gurinder Chanda walked into the cordoned off area, which incorporated many press photographers and media, as well as spectators and a live English brass band (playing some wonderful AR Rahman tunes and thoroughly enjoying it), where the statue was and gasped with surprise, as they saw this ‘clone’. Ash then went round the model and seemed astonished at this, in her most humble manner – peals of sweet laughter came from her, as she examined it. She then called her stunning Mother, Mrs Rai, to come and see her wax twin! This was indeed a sight to apprehend, as they both look in awe, at the model. Gurinder commented that the model was not as beautiful as the real thing – a very true fact indeed.

Having graced the cover of Time magazine, in April 2004, South Indian, Aiswarya (meaning prosperity), who is from the small Tulu speaking community of Mangalore, has become a true international star – she has the face that has graced top class stores like ‘Les Galeries Lafayette’ in Paris, for her work with Longines watches, to the familiar London buses, which show her with her co-star, Martin Henderson and the rest of the Bride & Prejudice cast. Aiswarya was also present at Cannes film festival, as the 1st Indian jury member, indeed an honour for her county, which she serves well; not to mention, she will be visiting Pakistan shortly, amongst her busy schedule, as the goodwill ambassador, for ‘Pink Ribbon’, the breast cancer charity.

The premiere for ‘Bride & Prejudice’ was done in sparkling fashion, with bright pink carpets (instead of traditional red) laid out, a full Indian setting, changing the Palladium theatre into a mini-Bollywood. With the traditional Dhol players welcoming the guests, a fully star studded event was about to begin. As Ash was presenting awards at both the MOBOs and the Sangeet awards, she was no doubt already used to the screaming fans, who stood around the area with wide eyes and mobile phones, to snap away, the oncoming celebrities.

Gurinder’s family (her Dad’s Brother and wife) especially flew down from Australia, for this event, with her elderly Mother dressed so simply, to be there to support her daughter, who she was certainly very proud of. Everyone from Bobby & Nihal (with his lovely fiancée), The Rishi Rich Project, Raj Ghatak, Ray Panthaki, Pooja Shah, Laila Rouass, Raj & Pablo and Liz from Atomic Kitten turned up, to see this movie. Of course, the main star of the day was Aiswarya Rai, who turned up in an Armani dress, backless, strappy, in dark blue, with gold patterns. Her Mum turned up in a matching saree, again dark blue, with intricate Zardozi work in gold. Ash wore a funny looking fur, in a beige colour, which was probably keeping her neck warm. As the spectators screamed her name, she went over and signed plenty of autographs and was full of smiles. Her co-star, Martin Henderson wore a bread and moustache (thus tarnishing his handsome face) and accompanied her inside. The other star of the day, Gurinder Chanda was dressed in a pristine White Lhenga suit, with her husband wearing a Nehru collared embroidered suit, in contrasting Black. Both looked extremely happy, with Gurinder looking particularly radiant. Of course, many of the other co-stars also came, looking very smart indeed, with Indira Verma attracting many a photographer and of course, the favourite comedian in the film, ‘Mr Kholi’ of Kholiwood, Nitin Gantara.

Gurinder Chanda, who grew up with Bollywood movies, has had her 1st foray into this arena, with the film opening in London and India simultaneously, on 8th October and in the US on Christmas day, it seems like Indians are really making a huge mark on International cinema, with Gurinder’s next venture, the sequel to ‘I dream of Genie’, a series of yesteryear - set in contemporary America, all about a 2000 year old genie. As usual, with plenty of good vibes, colour and funny gags, it is bound to be much hyped too. With Bride & Prejudice, the shorts at the end of the movie are a definite highlight, so stay and watch them. As for the music, atrocious copycat, Anu Malik was chosen, on top of Shankar Ehsaan Loy, mainly due to the producer insisting on block dates for the duration of the film, which they were not able to commit – it is said that after Kal Ho Na Ho and it’s musical success, Gurinder regretted the decision to use Mr Malik – which is indeed a shame for this film, where the music remains it’s falling point.

As published in The Asian Post

Bride & Prejudice - Aiswariya's 1st foray into Hollywood!

By Ashanti OMkar

The preview of the much anticipated Bollywood to Hollywood crossover film, Bride & Prejudice was a full house of moviegoers of mixed cultures, all with a view of finding out what the fuss is all about, after the phenomenal success of Gurinder Chanda’s “Bend it like Beckham”. Gurinder made it a point to say that the movie was very much un-finished, at preview point and that one should make no comparisons to ‘Beckham’, as it was a completely different genre to this one, which is very much a ‘Musical’.

The music was a HUGE minus - I think Gurinder could have used Shankar, Ehsaan, Loy, Ismail Durbar or AR Rahman, as the tunes didn't really work, what with Anu Malik trying to mimic other MD’s and relying on his arranger, Ranjit Barot to do the bulk of the work. The Dhandia scene was the only one that sounded appealing to my ears, and that was even because of the traditional music. The inclusion of R&B phenomenon, Ashanti, in a scene was a nice touch, but unfortunately, the music made her song passable and she struggled with enunciating the words. The musical parts, where the characters break out into song, although in Hindi films works nicely, the transition was not at all seamless, as it should have been - I am bearing in mind that the film is still not finished. Perhaps if they broke out into multi-lingual songs, incorporating Hindi lyrics, this would have worked well. A comment a Non-Asian colleague of mine made was: “I couldn’t but help wonder whether I was watching a really bad dubbed-over version of the karaoke acts on Peter Kay's ‘Phoenix Nights’ or a something else. I believe that the use of English as a substitute in singing the songs fell flat on its faces. It became lost in translation, and it was evident.” Even the younger film watchers echoed their opinions that the song sequences were ‘cringe worthy’. In spite of the beautifully coloured choreography and scenery, the songs over-ran their importance and didn’t enhance the storyline.

In terms of acting, it helps to have the right mix of screen chemistry and a good script to produce a winning formula. Alas, it was not to be. Aiswariya Rai, who has excelled under other directors, and brought that on-screen magic of Devdas/Hum Dildhe Chutke Sanam (by Sanjay Leela Bhansali) or Kandukondain Kandukondain (which was by Rajiv Menon, also a Bollywood version of a Jane Austen book, Sense and Sensibility) could not conjure up a convincing performance. Gurinder’s magic of ‘Bend it like Beckham’ and the natural acting she got from that movie is hard to find in ‘Bride and Prejudice’. Darcy (Martin Henderson) fitted the part quite well, but again, seeing him sing corny lyrics did not bode well with me. The un-necessary ‘running away’ of ‘Lucky’ (Peeya Rai Choudhuri) seemed to be irrelevant to the story. I understand that there was a higher purpose, of getting the main protagonists, lovers ‘Lalitha’ and ‘Darcy’ together, but it just seemed so corny, with the mocking fight scene in a cinema in London!

The movie was 2 hours long and because of its musical nature and lack of serious storyline, this was causing boredom. It would be nice to cut appropriately, making the blending of scenes better and finishing with 1.5 hours of viewing – the rest can go into the DVD extras.

The shorts at the end of the movie – these were the highlight for me… This is not a good thing. I was expecting more of the comedic elements and the ‘Kholi’ character (Nitin Ganatra) was the only one who provided it. The ‘Mother’ character was trying, but it seemed so clichéd, the way she presented the humour.

Though the 4 sisters were quite good looking, there seemed to be a lack of chemistry between them, again, the acting was not quite there – it seemed that it was inappropriate that ‘Jaya’ (Namrata) was favoured by the prospective grooms, over Lalitha (Aiswariya), as from the outfits and general grooming, Aiswariya was at her impeccable best, using her grooming people so well! There was definitely no equality between the sisters and their characters, Lalitha was working on her father’s farm, on a bull cart at the beginning, but then the coherence disappears, as she is then seen in high society parties and never shown to work – the educational backgrounds, e.t.c didn’t show in the character development of the girls!

The film just didn’t interweave as smoothly as it could have. The director is trying to enlighten certain audiences about arranged marriages, but unfortunately misses the mark. The characters in the storyline seemed disjointed, which I believe could have been to the script. It would have been more authentic if the actors and actresses could have incorporated not just only English, but also their own mother tongue into the dialogue. I must confess that I did chuckle at the outlandish comical behaviour of the potential groom, played by Nitin Ganatra, and the Mother, (Nadira Babbar).

All in all, my expectations were dashed, as I liked the concept of the film and I am really ‘all for’ Bollywood musicals to be in the mainstream and I really hope that with some clever editing, this film will get a 7/10 from me, in the final silver screen version, releasing on 8th October 2004.