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
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.