Who Is The Fairest Of Them All?

Over lunch with friends this afternoon, we got to talking about our favourite books. Naturally, I stated mine as Pride and Prejudice, that enduring classic by Jane Austen. 

The first time I read Pride and Prejudice, I was just 8 or 9  years old. It was an abridged, illustrated version which helped me form mental images of the protagonists. A few years on, I discovered the original book in my father's bookshelf. There was no looking back after that. To say that I've read the novel a thousand times is an understatement. Each time I read it, I like it a bit more - if that is possible. 

Television and film has time and again given shape to this classic. Today I got to thinking that I should really do a post listing these and putting my personal take on it. 

Tarun Dhanrajgir
The very first time I saw a screen version of it was on Doordarshan, many years ago. Back when I was in the sixth standard. So that would be around 1986-87. Anybody remember a serial by the name Trishna? It was a 13 episode serial based on Pride and Prejudice that aired on Sundays. I was totally enthralled by this desi retelling of the classic. In the lead as Darcy was one Tarun Dhanrajgir. To my 12 year old self he was gorgeous! That he was a native of Hyderabad, my home town was a bonus. Near where I lived, there was this old mansion which was owned by 'Rai Bahadur Dhanrajgir' or something along those lines. Someone told me that Tarun Dhanrajgir lived there. I used to pass by the gate frequently in the hope that I would catch a glimpse of my heart throb. 

Sangeeta Handa
My present research indicates that the Dhanrajgirs were indeed an illustrious merchant family of Hyderabad who had risen to prominence under the patronage of the Nizam. A famous member of this family is Zubeida Begum who starred in Alam Ara. Also from this family is Rhea Pillai, known for her marriages to Sanjay Dutt and Leander Paes. 

The actress who played Elizabeth Bennett was Sangeeta Handa who later went on to act in A Mouthful of Sky (claiming to be India's only English soap opera) and a few other serials. 

Both these actors have faded away from the limelight. The only enduring name from this serial is that of Kittu Gidwani who played the role of Lydia Bennett and if I recall, did a fairly good job of it. 

The first English version of Pride and Prejudice I saw was on the erstwhile TNT channel. Made in 1940, it starred Lawrence Olivier as Darcy and Greer Garson as Elizabeth. Although Olivier fits the image of Darcy very well, somehow I it doesn't sit fine with me. Greer Garson as Elizabeth was unremarkable. 

In 1995 the BBC version aired an adaptation of the classic in a 6 part mini series. The series starred Colin Firth as Darcy - a role that won him world wide recognition and critical acclaim. The series itself received positive response and a whole host of awards, notably the BAFTA Television Award for "Best Drama Serial", "Best Costume Design", and "Best Make Up/Hair" in 1996. Jennifer Ehle was honoured with a BAFTA for "Best Actress", while Colin Firth and Benjamin Whitrow lost their BAFTA nominations for "Best Actor" to Robbie Coltrane of Cracker Firth won the 1996 Broadcasting Press Guild Award for "Best Actor", complemented by the same award for "Best Drama Series/Serial". The serial was recognised in the United States with an Emmy for "Outstanding Individual Achievement in Costume Design for a Miniseries or a Special", and was Emmy-nominated for its achievements as an "Outstanding Miniseries" as well as for choreography and writing. Among other awards and nominations, Pride and Prejudice received a Peabody Award,Television Critics Association Award,and a Golden Satellite Award nomination for outstanding achievements as a serial. There is also a 1979-80 BBC version which I have not seen. 

The 2005 version with Kiera Knightley was disappointing. The cast assembled for the movie was great. Knightley was a good choice for Elizabeth. Donal Sutherland as Mr. Bennett was good and Dame Judy Dench as Lady Catherine de Burgh was outstanding. But somehow, even this wonderful ensemble of actors were not able to save the movie. Mathew Something for Darcy was disappointing. I do not know who this actor is although this is probably my own ignorance. And for some strange reason the film was poorly lit and everyone looked very grubby - as if they never had a bath! 

Gurinder Chadda's 'Bride and Prejudice' was AWFUL. The choice of Aishwarya Rai as Elizabeth was blasphemous. Playing Elizabeth Bennett would be a career high for any actress worth her salt. And to give it to this ice cube, this plastic doll was too much for me to take in. And secondly, why on earth was Darcy a gora?! Where is the clash of social strata that the story is known for? It just did not make any sense. Totally killed the story they did. 

As you can see, there have been varied versions and interpretations of Jane Austen's classic. My favourite version is the 1995 BBC version with Colin Firth. Doordarshan's Trishna was also good - not because the production values were great, or the acting was great. But because it was the first time my favourite story was played out by real people and for the most part, the lead pair kind of came close to my mental images of Darcy and Elizabeth. 

Which version is your favourite? 

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17 Responses to Who Is The Fairest Of Them All?

  1. Rachna says:

    I remember Trishna and Tarun Dhanrajgir as well. I had swooned over him, I remember :). Out of the other versions, i enjoyed Bridget Jones's Diary the most.

  2. An interesting post. No doubt Pride and prejudice has had a wide appeal and perhaps one of the best of Jane Austen. Nevertheless I could not believe that a novel could make such a deep impact making one to read it many times and see varied versions of the play on screen. The story content lends itself to many ways of presentation It was also a surprise that you could remember so much of details, the actors, roles and different producers. Hats off to you particularly when I cannot recall the many novels that I have read including what was prescribed in college and frequently mix up the actors of different films. I am in no position to answer your final question as I haven’t seen even one version of this story and leave it to readers who have seen the different films.

  3. Renu says:

    I rememebr Trisna and I liked Mouthful of sky too..Samir soni used to look so dashing then. And Tarun Dhanrajgir was really very handsome, even his sister too, she was a model...

  4. Jack says:


    First visit. Read all current posts. A time comes when older generation should give way to young one. I am with you on what you say about choice of Hitler. Thanks for insight into some of the famous serials. How about writing more frequently?

    Take care

  5. SM says:

    Pride and prejudice is best

  6. Deepa says:

    Jack: Thanks for your comment. I certainly wish to write more frequently. But somehow seem to be pressed for time. :(

  7. Sudeshna says:

    hi dips...good to read your posts again.... I have not read the classic....heard a lot but cud not get myself to read it.....had seen few episodes of Trishna...do not really remember your heartthob...sorry...but do remember Kittu Gidwani....smart,sharp, brash, dashing girl....I think I should read it for my 'teen'-ing daughter...nice read....

  8. Pattu Raj says:

    Lawrence Olivier and Colin firth ofcourse!:-)

  9. Pattu Raj says:

    We used to have a Sabita Dhanrajgir , in our college . She was very impressive.

  10. Deepa, I have not seen any of the BBC or the other series. I have only seen Trishna and I think it was decent. I agree with you about Aysh and Bride n Prejudice - horrible! But then I do not like to watch on screen books that I love- I prefer the images in my mind.

  11. I have seen all the versions which you've mentioned. My favourites remain Trishna and the BBC series. I was born in '89, but I was very lucky to catch a rerun of Trishna on DD, when I was probably in my early teens. I still swoon over Tarun Dhanrajgir and Colin Firth. If you've seen Aarohan (Pallavi Joshi was a Navy cadet in this serial), you'll find that, here too, Tarun Dhanrajgir has a very Darcy-esque role.

  12. AMODINI says:

    I've seen Trishna, and the BBC version and the Colin Firth version. I prefer the Firth version, because he is magnificent in it, as is the female lead. Trishna was very nice too - it was a pity Dhanrajgir never showed up in any other serials :-)

  13. Anuja says:

    I liked Lizzie Bennet Diaries the most!! :)
    It's modern adaption.. But it suits me well..
    The grad school student, Lizzie Bennet, who has her own vlog describes her life after new rich handsome guy Bing Lee and his Snobbish friend William Darcy swoop in.. :)

  14. Deepa says:

    @ Anuja...that's interesting. I'll get a hold of it. Thanks for the info :)

  15. Yes Yes...and Yes

    My first love (I should say out...my sister too) with Trarun.
    Colin firth next and no one else.

    I came across your posting while searching for Trishna.
    Hope you are enjoying all the period dramas around.
    Yes...I am also from hyderabad.
    Write more.

  16. Yes Yes...and Yes

    My first love (I should say out...my sister too) with Trarun.
    Colin firth next and no one else.

    I came across your posting while searching for Trishna.
    Hope you are enjoying all the period dramas around.
    Yes...I am also from hyderabad.
    Write more.

  17. came across this blog while searching for trishna , can anybody help me get a link to that serial.