Desire in pastel costumes

Gurinder Chadha takes on a gargantuan task in "Bride and Prejudice"

Claire Joseph

Artists always do best when they work with what they know. Luckily for filmgoers, director Gurinder Chadha knows a lot about both the West and the East.

Chadha, who was born in Kenya to Indian parents and grew up in London, made her name with the cult women’s soccer hit “Bend It Like Beckham.” She has a talent for making movies using influences from England, the United States and, most obviously in her new film, “Bride and Prejudice,” from India.

The plot of Jane Austen’s classic “Pride and Prejudice” acts as the backbone for Chadha’s movie.

But this is no Georgian costume drama. Chadha moves Austen’s tale to contemporary Amritsar, India. And she makes it a musical.

The film opens as Mrs. Bakshi (Nadira Babbar) decides it’s time to find husbands for her four daughters. One daughter, Lalita (Aishwarya Rai), is not happy with any of the suitors her mother suggests.

Intent on finding someone she truly loves, Lalita is satisfied with single life until she meets the son of a wealthy, hotel-owning family, Will Darcy (Martin Henderson), an American vacationing with his Indian friend.

Complicating matters and creating the mandatory Bollywood love triangle is Will’s arch enemy, Wickham (Daniel Gillies).

At first, Lalita and Will do not understand each other’s cultures. Lalita thinks Will is disrespectful of India’s traditions, and Will believes Lalita is unsophisticated and cynical about his business life.

The pair will have to convince their friends, families and, most importantly, themselves that a relationship between the East and West is possible, if they’re going to have a chance at love.

Like many of Austen’s books, “Pride and Prejudice” has frequently proven vulnerable to remakes of varying quality and faithfulness. Chadha’s use of Bollywood-style costumes, sets and musical numbers is more than just another tweaking of a familiar plot, however.

Bollywood’s annual output makes it the largest film industry in the world. Hollywood’s distribution system and reputation have made U.S. movies impossible to ignore.

Like the star-crossed lovers of Austen’s novel, these two gorillas of entertainment have pursued their parallel courses for years, only occasionally meeting, often with disappointing results.

Chadha’s attempt to pair these complementary cinemas might not register as a success at first, but like Will and Lalita, their eventual mating seems inevitable.