Why South Asians Love Jane Austen

Family, marriage, and class collisions. The British writer’s novels seem like the perfect subcontinental literary canon. But not for the reasons you might think.

Bride and Prejudice 11
The Bakshi sisters (Bride and Prejudice)

Sadaf Ahsan


January 31, 2023


10 min

“A match made in heaven, just like milk and honey. You make aloo gobi, he’ll make the money. Every day will be the same, according to his plan. Forget what you want, Mr. Kohli’s now your man!”

It’s hard to forget the infectious, silly lyrics to “No Life Without Wife,” from 2005’s India-set Bride & Prejudice, director Gurinder Chadha’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s most famous work, Pride and Prejudice, which turned 210 years old this past weekend. The film follows the Bakshis as they attempt to marry off their four daughters. Like the original novel’s Elizabeth Bennet, their second eldest, Lalita (Aishwarya Rai), wants to marry for love, not other practical considerations. In walks Mr. Darcy (Martin Henderson), and her standards are thrown for a loop. 

The film is one of a growing list of Austen adaptations that South Asians have created: 2010’s Aisha, inspired by Emma; 1985 Indian television series Trishna, based on Pride and Prejudice; 2000 Tamil film Kandukondain Kandukondain, inspired by Sense and Sensibility; and a slew of novels. South Asians just can’t seem to get enough of the Austen canon — from the biting humor to the morals to the class warfare to the focus on family and marriage. So how did an entire subcontinent and its people around the world fall in love with the writing of a British woman from the early 1800s? And why can’t we seem to quit her?

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