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Friday Film Review: Monsoon Wedding

Though I hate to give a SPOILER, I feel I must with this film. There is a subplot involving sexual abuse.

Monsoon Wedding (2001)
Genre: Family Dramedy
Grade: B+

Here’s another movie I’ve been meaning to do a review of. I didn’t know what to expect when I watched it the first time. Would it be Bollywood? Or something different?

Welcome to the Verma family of New Delhi, India. The daughter of the house, Aditi (Vasundhara Das), is getting married. Her stressed out father Lalit (Naseeruddin Shah) is going crazy dealing with the wedding planner PK Dubey (Vijay Raaz) who is smitten with the family maid Alice (Tillotama Shome). Family from around the world are descending on them, the wedding tent is white, more saris must be bought for the groom’s (Parvin Dabas) family, the bride has a secret love affair she can’t renounce and her cousin Ria (Shefali Shetty) is hiding something that could test the bonds of the family. Will we have a wedding at all when all’s said and done?

Director Mira Nair set herself a challenge when she decided to shoot this film quickly and on a strict budget. But what a film she’s managed to make. Vivid colors drench the screen, the music makes me want to snap my fingers then get up and dance and my emotions veer from laughter to almost tears as I watch these characters struggle to do what’s right and best.

Nair shows different classes of Indian society with the two romances depicted in the film. There is the semi-arranged marriage of the upper middle class Aditi and Hemant for which the families are going all out, no expense spared. And then the spontaneous love match between Alice and Dubey which generates two of the most touching scenes in the film – when he presents her with the heart made of marigolds and when they marry quietly under an umbrella during the rain.

In addition to seeing the family at home, Nair uses several shots of streets in New Delhi and a gorgeous shot outside of Dubey’s home while his mother harangues him to bring her a daughter-in-law. I haven’t watched too many Bollywood movies but “Monsoon Wedding” seems to be a more down-to-earth, realistic view of the contrasts in modern India.

Another scene which touches me is when Lalit and his wife Pemmi watch over their sleeping daughter and niece with Lalit vowing he would do anything to see that they’re happy. Little does he know that his vow will be tested when a deep secret is finally revealed the night before the wedding. I wasn’t sure where the film would go with this and frankly wonder how this subplot plays out to those who’ve suffered through it. During her commentary, Nair says at least one viewer felt protected by Lalit’s decision. Maybe so but even after multiple viewings of the film, I’m still not sure why she included it.

The character of Aditi bothers me at times. Here she is, about to be married and she’s calling and hooking up with her married lover. Nair uses the scene where Aditi meets Vikram as a way to show the tendency of New Delhi policemen to embarrass couples for public displays of affection but I found myself thinking, “they asked for it.” But on the other hand, Aditi finally realizes the sordidness of the relationship, she doesn’t know Hemant yet so why should she feel much loyalty to him and she does come clean to him and risks her family being shamed should he back out of the marriage.

I will say I’m impressed by the fact that so many of the actors in the film aren’t really actors at all. Some are family members and others are first timers who pull off amazing performances. The dialogue is fantastic as well, both the scripted parts and improvisations sounding like any family which is filled with love but also being strained to the max under the stress of the situation. The film comes with English, French and Spanish subtitles so don’t worry about missing anything.

After seeing all the money Lalit shells out, let me say I’m grateful I’ll never be paying for a Punjabi wedding. However I’d love a chance to enjoy sitting on the sidelines of one. But until I ever have the chance, I can just pull out “Monsoon Wedding” and watch one vicariously.

~Jayne

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

12 Comments

  1. Breiab
    Apr 09, 2010 @ 04:34:56

    I love this movie!

  2. Chicklet
    Apr 09, 2010 @ 08:01:51

    I love this movie! When my friends and I saw it, we went straight to the music store afterward to buy the soundtrack.

  3. Jayne
    Apr 09, 2010 @ 08:34:02

    @Breiab: I feel in love with it the first time I saw it. No questions about whether or not I’d buy my own copy!

  4. Jayne
    Apr 09, 2010 @ 08:37:32

    @Chicklet: Totally agree that the music is wonderful. I love the idea of a wedding band and the final scene, when they were all dancing under the tent, is exuberant fun.

  5. Carrie Lofty
    Apr 09, 2010 @ 09:14:15

    I reviewed this a couple of years ago. You can check it out here, if you’re interested. Although I only saw it once, the moments between Dubey and Alice with the marigolds if burned into my brain. Such an unusual yet wholly romantic scene.

  6. sao
    Apr 09, 2010 @ 09:55:31

    The British mother-in-law of a Sikh commented that her daughter’s wedding had caused problems as they put a limit on the guest list and the Sikh groom’s parents wanted to invite hundreds more. Had to invite hundreds more, not to be rude.

    Apparently, the Sikh groom’s parents’ entire social life consisted of weddings. Everyone threw enormous events and invited everyone they vaguely knew, as their contribution to the community’s social life.

  7. Charlotte Stein
    Apr 09, 2010 @ 09:58:41

    The bit where the Father says he’ll protect his no daughter no matter what- I remember that affecting me powerfully. I liked that it was included- just found it the most memorable and powerful moment in the movie.

  8. Jayne
    Apr 09, 2010 @ 13:04:16

    @sao: Yeow! That’ll do a number on your bank balance.

  9. Kaye
    Apr 09, 2010 @ 13:18:13

    Just wanted to say how much I love your Friday film reviews.

    I was going to put the movie on my Netflix queue, but discovered it’s on instant watch.

    My evening is all set.

  10. Jayne
    Apr 09, 2010 @ 13:41:26

    @Kaye: Thanks! And I didn’t realize it was an instant watch. I love instant gratification!

  11. Jayne
    Apr 09, 2010 @ 13:47:55

    @Carrie Lofty: Great review, Carrie. I agree with you on my initial and final impressions of Dubey. He starts as a clownish figure but ends as so much more. I loved watching the growing romance between Alice and him.

  12. Mera
    Apr 11, 2010 @ 04:56:16

    I’m also a huge fan of this film.
    And the mentioned scene between Alice and Dubey is so romanctic! I cried the first time I saw it, it’s really beautiful!
    I think the film is quite different compared to other ones of the genre…

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