The other day V and I were waiting for a take-away pizza when a middle-aged Indian man approached the counter and placed his order. His final instructions to the man with the paper cap were: "Please tell the chef that I would like it well done."
In my experience second only to Argentinians in this respect, a good number of English-speaking Indians exhibit enormous comic potential when it comes to delusionary social pretensions. Llenos de mierdas as Guatemalans would say − not so much full of shit as full of shits. Many seem to feel that they have to constantly compensate for the fact that everybody else might not be able to intuitively detect their inner social status (especially when material circumstances are unable to offer any clear pointers).
Bride and Prejudice is not really a film for grown-ups. Gurinder Chadha has refined all the deeper, maturer and perhaps thornier matter out of Austen's scenario and to a great extent this has deprived the updated story of any adult thematic payload. Yet it strikes me that in some senses the medium is the message; what we have here is a celebration of well kept-up superficial appearances. (There's one scene in particular, set at a private residence in Windsor, where the gag reflex needs to be stifled quite forcefully.)
There's a buzz of xenophobia in the scene where Darcy introduces Lalitha to his battelaxe of a mother, but this coy, kissless film was never really going to explore the sociology of interracial union. And anyway the very striking Aishwarya Rai is just a bit too light-skinned for anyone to bother much about the ethnic angle to this singsong romcom. (Though at least she's not blonde and nose-jobbed like most of Mexico's adored feminine icons.)
You can almost hear the stammers when Roger Ebert delivers his plaudits on the lustrous beauty of Aishwarya Rai: "Never sweaty, never short of breath. What a smile."!
He also inadvertently reveals his dependence on the IMDB in his review, as he suggests that Rai is "not only the first but also the second most beautiful woman in the world", surely a reference to the error in her IMDB biography which appears to state she was both the winner and the runner-up in separate Miss World competitions. In fact she became Miss World in '94 after coming second in the Miss India pageant. She can certainly act, so let's hope she's offered a role or two beyond banal Bollywood kitsch.