Monkeys and Marriages

I like art that takes something familiar and turns it on its head, giving us a new way to look at something old, so when I saw that Bride and Prejudice, the Bollywood version of Pride and Prejudice is available on DVD I was pretty intrigued. The same week I picked up a copy of Grease Monkey, a graphic novel by Tim Eldred about a spaceship populated by humans and intelligent apes gearing up for war with an alien race. A good story about interstellar warfare is an excellent find but when you throw in feisty gorillas you've got yourself something special.

Bride and Prejudice

Bride and Prejudice bills itself as Bombay Meets LA and is a retelling of Jane Austen's classic novel, which of course starts out with this immortal line; "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." Or as Mr. Kholi, the crazy cousin, puts it in this transplanted version, "No life without wife." It seems like everyone in this film is plotting to get married or marry someone off, except for Mr. Darcy, a Los Angeles businessman who is in India for a brief visit and Lalita Bakshi, in the Elizabeth Bennet role. They're too busy fighting and misunderstanding each other to have time for romance.

While you can enjoy this film on its own merits (singing, dancing, beautiful women, handsome men, colorful clothes, confusion, schemes and did I mention dancing?) it's also a lot of fun for Austen fans to figure out which movie character matches which character in the book. Do you remember the scene where Mary plays the piano and does a horrible, horrible job, embarrassing the guests who have to watch her? In this film her counterpart, Maya, does a snake dance that is as funny as it is appalling. Some of the character names stay the same, Darcy, Wickham and Mr. Bingley, although now his first name is Balraj, but others are very different with the Bennets becoming the Bakshis and Charlotte morphing into Chandra. One of the Bennet sisters vanishes completely, leaving poor Mrs. Bakshi with only four daughters to marry off.

Most of the acting in the film is high quality, with the notable exception of Martin Henderson as Mr. Darcy who is unfortunately quite stiff and dull. Aishwarya Rai is charming as Lalita and Nitin Chandra Ganatra is very funny as the desperate Mr. Kholi. Naveen Andrews (who you probably know from his role is Lost is very, very pretty as Mr. Bingley, so pretty in fact that I was compelled to comment about his flowing locks every time he came on screen. I particularly enjoyed his first dance number when the boys meet the girls at the country dance and he sings about what live wires they are.

And really, I know it's terribly shallow of me but I liked the singing and dancing best in this film. I really wish more American films would feature people who are bursting with such emotion that they have to express it with joyous movement.

Grease Monkey

Tim Eldred's Grease Monkey, begins as Robin Plotnik boards Earth's flagship, ready to start his first assignment spaceside. He's a little nervous and unsure about his new job and he doesn't feel any better when his colleagues tell him his new boss ate the guy he's replacing. Mac Gimbensky, the aforementioned new boss who happens to be a gorilla, is grouchy, touchy, clever, wise, sports a shirt with a no crap emblem and is a mechanical genius. He has no interest in training a new cadet and treats Robin with scorn. To his great surprise Robin turns out to be just as talented and irreverent as he is and they're able to work together without anyone being eaten.

Mac and Robin are the mechanics in charge of keeping the fighting ships of the Barbarian squad in tip top shape. The Barbarians are an all woman crew, determined to be the best on the flagship, and their mechanics are the objects of much attention as their shipmates try and get close to the Barbarians or get inside information that will influence the gambling that takes place during every match.

There are many stories in Grease Monkey; some action, some philosophical, some political and some romantic. Mac is quite smitten with the Admiral, a gorilla who has a terrible time making room in her schedule for dating. Meanwhile Robin is in search of some female companionship but isn't quite sure how to find it. When he starts sneaking new additions into the ship's library he meets a possible candidate but immediately starts to bungle his chance. Other story lines involve the visits of Mac and Robin's mothers and fathers and the consequences of outlawing one of the main relief valves for the crewmembers.

You can read the first six (six!) chapters for free at the official website, http://greasemonkeybook.com where you can also find an art gallery, an interview with the author and a list of recommended reading.

Guest One-Paragraph Review

This week's one-paragraph review is from Punkmaster C who reviews the book Circus Lunicus by Marilyn Singer (excerpt here.) Punkmaster C says, "Solly is a boy whose mother has died so now he lives with his awful stepmother and two bullying stepbrothers. When he sneaks away to his mother's favorite circus he discovers that he has secret powers. This is a witty book good for all ages. It's pretty much Cinderella meets Harry Potter." Have you got a one-paragraph (or smaller) review? Send it in to me and I'll run the most interesting ones. You can reach me at feedback@qualitytimeweekly.com.