Jane Austen (from the novel “Pride and Prejudice”)
Paul Mayeda Berges, Gurinder Chandha
Pathè Pictures, Bride Productions, Kintop Pictures
distributed by: B
Federica De Paolis
Federica De Bortoli
Gurinder Chanda’s film is a modern remake of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”. The story of the four Bakshi sisters, whose mother’s obsession in the search for rich husbands for them, unravels between India, London and Los Angeles.
During a wedding ceremony in Amritsar, Jaya meets the Anglo-Indian lawyer Balraj Bingley, in India with his sister Kiran and his friend William Darcy. Helped by a holiday in Goa where Darcy would like to buy a hotel, the two youngsters fall in love. In the meantime a love/hate relationship begins between Jaya’s sister, Lalita and Darcy. The first one sorted out, it’s now the second one’s turn: why not promise her to the American cousin Kohli? But Mrs Bakshi hasn’t done her reckoning very well, so that Lalita refuses Kohli and Balraj is convinced by Kiran and Darcy that Jaya is only interested in his money. The invitation to Kohli’s wedding will be the solution that will solve every problem. Darcy and Lalita will have the time to understand that their love is real, Darcy will realize the mistake he’s made with Jaya and will manage to make Balraj change his mind.
This Bollywood version of the novel is perhaps simplistic and a little honey-like, but arriving in India, the characters seem to brush off the dust of centuries past, opening themselves up to new interpretations and rediscovering a trait of mischievous irony which seemed lost. The film tries to combine traditional Indian cinema with Western cinema, maintaining the typical Bollywood musical format, sung though in Hindi and in English with a sound track which mixes pop and Indian melodies, creating a fairytale atmosphere. Gurinder Chanda constructs a number of scenes with a sense of color unknown to Western directors, for example the wedding or temple scenes where rather than the actors, it’s the colors which create the real magic of the choreography.
Despite differing opinions by the critics the winning combination of the film is precisely this mixture of two different ways of doing cinema. India is perhaps one of the countries where traditions like combined marriages are still in vogue, giving credibility to the story and the fact that it’s set in modern times, despite the fact that it’s a culture we scarcely know, brings the story and the characters nearer to the spectator, contrary to the effect produced by the transposition of the novel in costume dress which encloses the story within the 19th century.
There are three types of English in the film: Darcy’s American, Balraj and Kiran’s English upper-class accent with an Indian influence, and that of the Indians, an English characterized by Hindi rhythms and dotted with expressions in the Hindi language. Obviously in the Italian version it was impossible to keep the first two distinctions but the third is kept in some characters making them speak with the tone which Indian immigrants have in their mother tongue. However something absurd happens: the older generations, like Mr. and Mrs Bakshi, maintain this lilt throughout the film, whilst their daughters and the younger generation have a perfect Italian speech. It might have been a good idea if all the Indians had the same manner of slow speech and differently accented.
The speech used in the film is composite, full of slang expressions and strongly rooted in Indian culture which strengthens the characterization of the characters. However, as far as the Italian adaptation is concerned we find ourselves before a true encyclopedia of errors/horrors. Everything is flattened to a correct, middle-class speech. Even to Lakhi, the sixteen year old, youngest of the Bakshi sisters, the use of certain expressions like: “É fichissino, mamma!” (It’s killing, mama!) or “Papà non rompere!” (Papa, just chill) translated with “È divino, mamma!”(it’s divine mamma), or “Papà, rilassati” (Papa, relax) is forbidden. Mrs Bakshi’s comments on Lakhi’s excessive décolleté is censored: But we want Balraj to look into Jaya’s eyes, not your mames! – which translated becomes: Noi vogliamo che Balraj guardi gli occhi di Jaya, non le tue curve! – substituting mames (tette) with the innocent curve (curves). Also unsuitable is Johnny’s insult to Darcy “…I’d have to talk to the wanker” where the “stronzo” becomes “…è veramente un cafone” (he’s really stupid).
The dialogist has made a strange choice in canceling all Indian expressions from the Italian version. The effect is often funny, for example: when two Indians meet, they put their hands together and slightly bowing exclaim Nameste, which in Italian, depending on the moment, becomes Buongiorno (good morning), Buonasera (good evening) etc. Other analogous examples can be seen with the names of things, like: Let me fix my dupatta – which becomes Devo solo sistemare il velo (I only have to tidy my veil). Dupatta is the long scarf which female Indians wear with their sari, often worn also on the head, not really a veil; we even see the gesture so it wouldn’t have been difficult to maintain the original name. Further on in the film, Lalita asks if she can bring an English friend, Johnny Wickham, in Amritsar to see the Golden Temple in the Garbha. In Italian the term is substituted with tempio (temple), but Lalita’s asking to bring him along with the family to a ceremony which is held inside the temple. Garbha in Indian, in fact, indicates the most internal part of the temple. The Indian name of Bombay, which is Mumbai, has been kept and is perhaps the only term which would have been okay to translate.
The situation is slightly better regarding the translation of references from English and also the similarities used by Kiran to explain the initial dance: “The Indian version of American Idol” and “He’s about to transform into the Indian MC Hammer” become “La versione indiana di Grease” (the Indian version of Grease) and “Adesso si trasforma nel John Travolta indiano”, (now he’ll change into the Indian John Travolta). The example fits perfectly and is extremely clear to us Italians. Darcy defines Amritsar a Hicksville India, Hicksville is a graphic novel of new Zealander Dylan Harroks: he means a colorful happy place but non-existent and in Italian it becomes “Siamo fuori dal mondo” (we’re out of this world; not part of this world) renders the idea less clear. Then there’s a reference to a song by Gloria Estefan, a singer known also in Italy and it’s unclear why the translated line is changed into a proverb. Finally Lalita defines dining with Kohli is like observing a Jackson Pollock painting. Not many Italians knows this artist but any abstract European artist could have been mentioned thus not reducing the line to a simple “Si abbuffa come se non mangiasse da mesi!” (he eats as though he hasn’t eaten in months). Finally when Darcy’s mother lists the Indian marvels in America she also talks of Deepak Chopra an Indian doctor in America famous for combining Western medicine with ayurvedic practices, not well known in Italy and is substituted by Pollo Tandoori (chicken tandoori), decidedly more well known.
The adaptation of Darcy’s line shortly after the arrival isn’t very well chosen. Amazed by the confusion he notices as they cross the city in taxi, affirms “Jesus, Balraj where the hell have you brought me?” which translates in “Ma vi rendete conto in che razza di Casbah mi avete portato?” (do you realize in what type of casbah you’ve brought me?); a linguistically bothersome mistake seeing as Casbah in Italian denotes a crowded potentially dangerous place. Culturally however the mistake is even more serious: Casbah is the Arab name of the fortified part of North African cities; furthermore, historically speaking, the region in which Amritsar is situated, the Punjab, at the time of separation from British India was divided between Pakistan and India and the relations between the two communities even today are tense and so to use an Arab term to define Amritsar is inappropriate!
Last but not less important are the translation errors, like the first line of the film: “This is the conveyor belt?” pronounced by Darcy after having seen his luggage arriving drawn by a tractor, which becomes “Arriva una limousine” (here comes a limousine) a sentence without sense if you consider the context. Another inappropriate translation is Balraj’s line at the first wedding ceremony, where he says to his sister “Kiran, I’m his best man” which in Italian was translated in “Sono l’ospite d’onore” whilst the correct translation is “Sono il testimone”. Like Kohli in the original version is a top accountant, that is a commercialista, whilst here Mrs Bakshi defines him as a lawyer (avvocato). A particular case is Maya’s line (the fourth of the Bakshi sisters) regarding Lakhi’s terrible behaviour, saying: “I’m telling you, she’ll give us all a bad name. You know she is spending all night texting boys?”, which is translated in “Vedrai che alla fine per colpa sua perderemo il nostro cognome. Lo sai che ogni benedetta sera esce con uno diverso?” (you’ll see, in the long run we’ll lose our good surname. You know she goes out with someone different every night?) the Italian is correct and more or less renders the idea of what Maya is saying but more than losing the surname, Lakhi risks ruining it and, she doesn’t go out every night she’s spending that particular night getting to know young men. The translation of a line Lalita says to Darcy is similar “I don’t want you turning India into a theme park” where the Parco a tema becomes a ‘park of games’ (parco giochi), maybe it would have been more appropriate to keep the literal translation seeing as theme park creates a notion of a make-believe India recreated for tourists. The translation of Kohli’s line is terrible: “Power walking. It’s so healthy. Everyone in LA is so Healthy” which in Italian becomes: “Portentoso, no? È il fitness, tutti a Los Angeles fanno Fitness”, (powerful no? It’s fitness, everyone in Los Angeles does fitness) Kohli makes wide use of adjectives like exceptional, wonderful etc. and doesn’t demonstrate great intelligence or capability of speech during the film but even for him the expression seems forced! Another subtlety lost in Italian is Mr Bakshi’s line at the end of the film, when Lalita and Darcy return home after having found Lakhi, who addressing the young man, says “Come, Darcy, son. Come sit down.”, the translation is “Vieni, Darcy, siediti qui”(come Darcy, sit here) formally there aren’t any mistakes but that son –figlio – indicates that the father has understood the feelings of his daughter towards that man and that in a veiled manner has accepted him in the family.
[original review in Italian by Francesca De Rosa]