What a pleasure it was to watch an Indian television adaptation of Pride of Prejudice last weekend. Titled Trishna (Thirst or strong desire), the old-fashioned show is an almost faithful reproduction of the beloved novel, and far superior in its casting, characterisation, dialogue and execution compared to the vulgar Bride and Prejudice (an attempt at adapting the novel into a film partly set in India) which was a waste of two hours.
It is a testimony to the universal theme of the novel and Austen’s genius that the story set in the Regency era in England adapts so naturally to Bombay in the 1980s. Despite the limitations in the technical quality of the series, the novel comes alive through the actors who do complete justice to their respective characters. The producers have done a fantastic job finding the perfect cast. It is not just the actors who play Elizabeth and Darcy who are perfect for the role as the intelligent and lively young woman from a middle-class background and the snooty aristocrat with a heart of gold. The scholarly and apathetic Mr Bennet, beautiful but simple Jane and gullible Mr Bingley, flirtatious Lydia and handsome rake Wickham, the affectionate and concerned Gardiners and above all, the silly and loudmouthed Mrs Bennett live their characters on screen.
I have sometimes wondered why generations after generations of readers swoon over Mr Darcy. He does score a tad higher when placed next to some popular Austenian and Victorian heroes; Edward Ferrars, for instance, is too wishy-washy, Edgar Linton of Wuthering Heights is pleasant, though some readers regard him as a wimp as he is too mild, and Rochester is too creepy, while most Dickensian heroes are too busy trying to be the heroes of their own lives while their heroines are more often than not stereotypes rather than ‘real’ characters. The devoted Captain Wentworth and down to earth Mr Knightley come across as more likeable characters when compared to haughty Mr Darcy.