This week Natasha Oakley brings you the perfect movie for a girls night in ....
BRIDE AND PREJUDICE.Written and directed by Gurinder Chadda (of Bend It Like Beckham fame) 'Bride and Prejudice' is fun. Based on Jane Austen's 'Pride and Prejudice' you're never in doubt of what's going to happen but this is an indianised version of the classic story filmed in true Bollywood style. Grab some diet pepsi and popcorn - or better still wine and doritos - and settle down in front of this DVD.
The story begins with a wedding in the Bakshi family's hometown of Amritsar. Unfortunately for Mrs Bakshi, played by Nadira Babbar, it's not one of her four daughters getting married. (Yes, I did say four. The character of Kitty is missing.)
Aishwarya Rai plays Lalita, the Elizabeth Bennet character. Here with her elder sister, Jaya, played by Namrata Shirodkar they watch the arrival of Balraj Bingley, his sister Indira and his friend, the super-wealthy American hotelier Will Darcy played by Martin Henderson.
Will's comments about arranged marriages and his reaction to Amristar get a long, long way up Lalita's nose - and we are all set for a great battle of the sexes.
One visit to Goa later, where Mrs Bakshi was delighted to think Balraj would get to see Jaya in a swimming costume and Lalita meets free-spirited traveller Johnny Wickham (Daniel Gillies), it's time for the arrival of Mr Kholi (Nitin Chandra Ganatra) who is so funny it hurts. To Mrs Bakshi's delight he's come to find himself a wife because, as he explains to the family over dinner, American girls aren't quite what he wants.
'You know, in US, they're all too outspoken and career-orientated. And some, have even turned into ... The Lesbian.' Nevertheless, he remains convinced there is 'no life without wife'.
With Jaya shortly to become engaged, Mr Kholi is directed towards Lalita - much to the amusement of her sisters.
Meanwhile, Johnny Wickham arrives in Amristar to see the Golden Temple - and, of course, steal the heroine from our hero. There's also a very funny bit about now where Mary Bennet's cringe-making musical performance is replaced by Maya Bakshi's (Meghna Kothari) equally cringe-making snake dance. But then everyone leaves and Mrs Bakshi's hopes are dashed when Balraj fails to write to Jaya and Mr Kholi marries Lalita's friend Chandra in a quiet temple ceremony.
An invitation to attend Chandra and Mr Kholi's big LA wedding moves the action first to London and then to LA and reunites our hero and heroine. Lalita begins to think her first impression of Darcy might have been wrong - and he really does own a very beautiful hotel!!
If when you watch this movie you feel any strong inclination to run through fountains you'll find them outside Somerset House in London. And, the exterior shots of the Beverly Hills hotel where Mrs Bakshi and her daughters meet Mrs Darcy were actually shot at Stoke Park in Buckinghamshire.
Lalita: There's so much to see in India, Mrs Darcy; you must come sometime.
Mrs Darcy: Well, if I had a hotel I might have. But with yoga and spices and Deepak Chopra and wonderful Eastern things here I suppose there's just no point in traveling there anymore.
Lalita: Well, I don't know about that. After all, people haven't stopped going to Italy just because Pizza Hut's opened around the corner.
Darcy toasts her for being the only person he's ever seen stand up to his mother. It all goes horribly wrong of course when Lalita discovers Darcy is responsible for Balraj not contacting Jaya.
It's only after Darcy has rescued Lakhi (the Lydia Bennet character) from Wickham in true Bollywood style that there's a happy ending - complete with elephants.
The tagline for this movie is Bollywood meets Hollywood ... And it's a perfect match and I wouldn't argue with that.
If you're not familiar with Bollywood movies some of the conventions might seem strange. For example, although there's lots of romantic sizzle in a Bollywood film you won't see any intimate contact. So, no kissing! What usually happens is the scene shifts to a euphemistic one - like waves crashing which gives you a pretty good idea of what's going on. In Bride and Prejudice we have dream sequences, a gospel choir and lots of arm stroking.
I grew up in a bit of London that was predominately Indian so I've seen a fair few Bollywood movies - and, for that matter, I've been to a Sikh wedding and can tie a pretty good sari. The friends I watched this movie with last week say you need to acclimatise for about the first ten minutes before you're completely seduced.
I give it a Pink Heart Fuzzy rating of 8 - but only because I prefer Matthew MacFayden's Darcy to Martin Henderson's. My friend Sharon disagrees (I think it's a combination of Henderson's blue eyes and the drum banging at the end) and she's the proud owner of a Will Darcy screensaver!! You choose.
Natasha's latest release, 'Crowned: An Ordinary Girl', is available online at eharlequin now. Read an excerpt here.
And pop over and join all the shortlisted finalists for the Romantic Novelists' Association Romance Prize as they blog about their prepartions for the Awards luncheon at the Savoy in London. You'll find Natasha and her fellow nominees here.