Monday, July 27, 2009

Addendum: Bride and Prejudice

Part Two of Rejection Served Up Three Different Ways.

When I first wrote that entry and discussed Liz Bennett's declining Mr. Darcy's affections, I had thought that there wasn’t an equivalent scene in Bride and Prejudice (Gurinder Chadha, 2004). There is a parallel; it just occurs much later in the narrative development than the other versions I've analyzed. This film oscillates between scenes of extreme hilarity and scenes of extreme awkwardness (funny for the wrong reasons); however, the rejection scene isn’t too bad.

Lizzy here, who is named Lalita (Aishwarya Rai) and Will Darcy (Martin Henderson) have just gotten over their mutual pride and prejudice and have started falling for each other. They walk into Lalita's best friend Chandra's wedding together only to run into Darcy’s mother. She’s opposed to Darcy’s liaison with Lalita not on account of the fact that she’s Indian (misunderstandings of that nature between Darcy and Lalita occurred at the beginning of the film, but they’d been gotten over by this point), but because Lalita’s family is far less wealthy. Darcy’s girlfriend, which it should be noted Lalita didn’t know he had, is also present. Lalita has also just discovered that it was Darcy who discouraged Balraj (Naveen Andrews) from proposing to Lalita's sister Jaya (Namrata Shirodkar) and is primarily devastated by this knowledge.

Given these immediate circumstances, the rejection scene takes on an extra poignancy and understandably, Lalita is angry. Rai is not an amazing actress, but Henderson isn’t a superb actor either, so their combined ingenuity makes the scene feel very natural. Instead of going off into a long, frustrated speech, Lalita’s brevity of response to Darcy’s confession of love is quite refreshing. She says, cool as cucumber, “Only you could say that you love me and insult me at the same time.” Lalita handles the scene with maturity and level-headedness that is distinctive from the other Lizzy’s.

The rejection scene actually starts at 2:30, but I provide the entire clip for context. Chadha was sharply tongue-in-cheek in including Ann’s mispronunciation of Lalita’s name. A similar circumstance has happened to me on a few occasions too. Except for me, it’s been “Evita… like Don’t cry for me Argentina?” My reaction: [. . .] followed by awkward laugh.

There’s also something very definitively Indian about Rai’s posture, tone, and manner in which she handles the scene. I’m not sure I can explain this properly -- perhaps some mix of keeping anger under wraps, wanting to save face, and just needing to leave an embarrassing situation -- except to say that I probably would have reacted the same way.

Lalita has more agency in this scene than the other Lizzy Bennet’s. She’s the one who walks away. The dramatic vocals that begin at 4:32 are quite typical of a Bollywood/Indian film. Lalita’s exit in the sheer white sari is also well done – although it’s not clear exactly where she’s going.

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