This is another outstanding film by director Mira Nair, who has previously directed such wonderful films as Academy Award nominee "Salaam Bombay", the lush and erotic "Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love", and "Mississippi Masala". This is a director whose very touch turns all her films to gold. She is truly an artist, and her films are palpable with feeling and emotion that move the storyline.
Though a low budget film, it features high budget, quality acting, as well as an absorbing story and world class direction. It focuses on the arranged marriage of a young, upper class, Punjabi woman in Delhi, India, which is a mecca for Punjabis. It offers a birdseye view at a family in transition, one that is ringing in new values, while maintaining the old ones. Moreover, as in all families, there are many joyous moments, as well as troubling ones.
While the focus is on the wedding celebration and all the preparation and rituals surrounding it, there are five subplots in the film, all of which are interesting, but it is the acting by the ensemble cast that makes the film so memorable. Naseeruddin Shah gives an award calibre performance as Lalit Verma, the financially strapped patriarch who wants all to go right with the wedding, but who, at the eleventh hour, is forced to confront a secret tragedy from the past and make a decision that shows his sensitivity and love for his family. His is truly a magnificent performance.
Shefali Shetty, with her large, expressive eyes, is superb as Ria Verma, Lalit's dead brother's daughter, who is forced to reveal a terrible secret from her past in order to prevent a tragedy from taking place in the present. She gives a performance so soulful that the viewer cannot fail to be moved. Aditi, the daughter who is to be married, is a walking paradox, agreeing to an arranged marriage, while simultaneously having an affair with a married man. The role is beautifully played by relative newcomer, Vasundhara Das, who in real life is an Indian pop star. Her prospective bridegroom, Hemant Rai, is played with modern sensiblility, by the very attractive Parvin Dabas, a real life, male fashion model, in his first silver screen role.
Vijay Raaz, in a breakout performance as P. K. Dubey, the wedding events coordinator, adds a deft comedic touch. It is his poignant wooing of the Verma family's maid, Alice, that nearly steals the show. Look for the nightime marigold scene in which Dubey puts Shakespeare's Romeo to shame. Tilotama Shome, in her first silver screen role, brings a subtle, sensual shyness to the part of Alice that is touching. Theirs is an interesting coupling, as P. K. Dubey personifies the new India, with his cell phone, his entreperneurial flair, and his email address, while Alice, the shy servant girl who is always dressed in a sari, seems to symbolize a more traditional India.
The film is a polyglot of languages, with English, Hindi, and Punjabi spoken at different times by various family members. I confess that I found it a little confusing to have the subtitles crop up, on and off, and I also found the English spoken a little difficult to understand, at times. So, thanks to DVD technology, I was able to watch the film with English subtitles on the entire time, so as not to miss a thing. The cinematography is beautiful in this film, with lush, vibrant colors throughout. The occasional use of handheld cameras throughout the film gives it the feel of a docudrama, at times, which is very effective, as the film is a voyeuristic look into a family. Moreover, this filming technique adds to the cacaphony of feeling and emotion that abounds in this film.
The DVD offers a limited number of features, the most interesting one being the director's commentary, which is an insightful look into the making of the film, as well as the backround and reasons for each scene. It is clear that for the director, who is herself Punjabi, this film was a labor of love. Bravo!
on October 6, 2002
Occasionally, we Americans are treated to a delightful foreign film. I suspect that lots of these are made every year, but the powers that be long ago decided that we have neither the patience nor the inclination to watch them. One that did get through was the joyous Indian treat, "Monsoon Wedding".
A family in Delhi is overjoyed after one of its daughters accepts an arranged marriage with a successful Indian engineer who lives in Houston, TX. The girl's reason for accepting isn't out of respect for tradition. She's simply given up hope that her married lover will ever divorce his wife. When the prespective groom arrives, he turns out to be a really nice guy, and the bride-to-be agonizes over whether or not to be honest about her past. Meanwhile, the man hired to build the wedding tents finds himself head over heels in love with the family's shy young maid.
There are lots of laughs in "Monsoon Wedding", as well as many witty and insightful observations about middle-class Indian society. While there is a fascination in seeing some of the more exotic aspects of life in India, the most satisfying aspect of the film is its way of showing how universal the joys of love and of family are.
Typical of cosmopolitan families outside of the USA, the characters often switch from one language to another while speaking. In this case, they speak Hindu, Punjabi and English. I know some moviegoers can't stand subtitles, but, to me, the use of multiple languages simply adds to this film's charms.
on December 5, 2004
Grinning from ear to ear for hours after watching this movie, I happily commend it to the humble viewer.
From the opening sequences, the fabulous scenes of monsoonal India, this lovingly detailed film is part Shakesperean comedy with Dubaie the event planner as [...] part realistic family drama, and round to pure escapist romance.
The movie follows a couple of tangents, and various romantic subplots, but is set around a wedding (as the title shouts).
Deciding she can not wait any longer for her married lover to divorce his wife, Aditi asks her parents to arrange a marriage for her and is hopeful that moving to America to live with her new husband will help her overcome her heartbreak and build a new life.
Her doting parents are struggling to put on the most wonderful celebration they can afford, and preparing to receive all the extended family members who are arriving for the wedding.
The parents utter absorbtion in the task is demonstrated when the mother nearly leaves the house with her curlers still in - a feeling mother's around the world about to launch their children into married life would relate to!
When Dubaie (the wedding planner/event manager) first debut's in the movie, he comes across as an abrasive, obnoxious cockrell, entirely self absorbed until someone else intrudes on his sphere, then he falls desperately in love.
I thoroughly enjoyed his portrayal, his ability to skull water whilst grinning cheesily, and the wonderful quote "10 minutes exactly & approximately", which is just such a commentary on the Indian schedules. The meddling workers were also a delight.
Aditi's cousin Ria is troubled by Aditi's decision to go through with the arranged marriage, and proves herself a wise counsellor with a fierce love for family. Her character is well fleshed out with another thread involving some painful family secrets, which I must confess, I saw coming.
Nontheless the film, and the characters, handling of the emotions is superbly done, and very tear-inducing.
The moment the taps really turned on for me, was when Aditi's father (in a sublime performance)says "sometimes when I look at my children, I feel love which I almost cannot bear" which is a sentiment I relate to on such a deep level.
On another note, it was refreshing to see so many "full figured" girls. They were beautiful in their bounty, and in particular Ria was a gorgeous full-bodied celebration of womanly curves & the appeal of a warm smile and glowing personality. She (the actress) look strikingly similar to Elizabeth Taylor in her Cleopatra!
I was amused to see the "Australian cousin" what a genuine accent he had, and if you watch, do notice how even with his broken finger he is the one who ends up carrying everything (all the time) as well as serving at the bar, which is a bit of a comment on his heritage isn't it!
Loved the wonderful Indian accents, and their sharp little witticisms that were peppered through the script, and the interesting variation in their colouring. Half the families relatives looked no more than partly Indian, in particular the main villian.
I want an Indian Wedding with the amazing bamboo construction bedecked in silks & flowers! (and I wouldn't mind the roominess of a sari, come to think of it!)
Interestingly after I pressed my father to watch it, he had an entirely different reaction, commenting on the degradation of their society & integration of Western values. But that's a different review all together.
There are moments of sublime beauty, the cinematography and the eye to fine detail are exquisite, and this combined with the script, actors (That and the constant procession of gorgeous males) & humanity of the film found me elated by the final scenes.
kotori Dec 2004 - firstname.lastname@example.org
on April 27, 2002
This movie is a little bit of everything: a great family drama, a musical, a romantic comedy...I LOVED it!
The movie is set in New Delhi and takes the audience for a wild ride covering the last 4-5 days leading up to a big wedding between the daughter of an upper-middle-class Punjabi family and a "NRI" (non-resident Indian) who's an engineer living in Houston. They're meeting for the first time in the days before the wedding, which is only one of the movie's engaging storylines. My favorite was the romance between the goofy wedding planner and the family maid (culminating in one of the most romantic, make-you-weep moments I have seen in any movie). The movie also includes the requisite creepy uncle, who drives a disturbing storyline that helps take the saccharine edge off the movie.
Director Mira Nair does a fabulous job introducing her characters -- they are so finely crafted that dialogue is totally unnecessary in a number of key scenes. The actors were wonderfully adept at communicating with little more than their eyes and hands.
The music is GREAT and makes you want to get up and dance along with the characters (whose exuberance in the wedding scenes was such a joy to watch). The cinematography is lush and gorgeous -- I attended a wedding in India several years ago and this movie really took me back to the riot of color at Indian weddings. I also loved the authentic feel of the movie -- especially where the characters move seamlessly between three languages, sometimes in a single sentence.
More than anything, the movie is a lot of fun -- any large gathering of family members is likely to generate laughable moments, and Nair mines the heck out of this one. I can't wait for this to come out on DVD so I can watch it again and again!
on April 12, 2002
Mira Nair has done it again! As an Indian living in the United States for the past 15 years, I was extremely glad this film got the response it did. I've seen it twice. I am a child of modern India, and have no connection to the India of Kipling and the Raj or of Mother Teresa, poverty and mysticism. Until this film came along India was portrayed either from the perspective of the "good old days" of British rule (when Indians were treated as second class citizens) or as a land of grinding poverty peppered with snake charmers and mendicants as quaint interludes amidst the sheer hopelessness. Sadly, Lagaan, India's Oscar nominee did nothing to dispel this myth. "Monsoon Wedding" however, is about the India I know. Vibrant, joyous and real. The family depicted in the film could have been mine - and Dubey and Alice were as real to me as it is possible for characters in a film to be. This was also the first film in English to address the issues that are very real for the Indian diaspora - issues of identity and of belonging to two cultures, yet to neither. In fact the first to acknowledge that they do not all run laundrettes, corner stores or drive taxicabs. If you're interested in India, forget the Jewel in the Crown and the City of Joy. This is the real India... a land where cell phones and PDA's co-exist with rickshaws; a country with the highest number of computer engineers, where electricity is not taken for granted; a country where sand traps at golf courses are painstakingly raked over by hand...The cinematography, script and music were fabulous. Naseerudin Shah is probably one of the best character actors in Indian film, and his portrayal of Lalit was very believable. The ensemble cast was outstanding. Probably the best film set in India I have seen and one of the twenty or so best I have ever watched, I'm going to buy this film on DVD when available.
on March 15, 2002
Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding, from the perspective of this non-Indian Westerner, does an excellent job of portraying the mix of traditional and contemporary that makes up Indian culture today. The intercut scenes of street life in Delhi are rich details that complement the story of a well-to-do family whose oldest child, their daughter, is about to be wed in an arranged marriage--still practiced, judging by this film. When the daughter questions the arranged marriage, it's based not on the tradition itself, but on her possible attachment to another man, her ex-boyfriend. The resolution of this situation is satisfying because the obvious vacillating of her emotions is shown so clearly and sympathetically.
Another integral part of the story is a second marriage of a man not as well off to a young woman domestic with whom he's smitten.
This second love story is, in fact, much more poignant and gripping; the smitten man is, in spite of his initially crass behavior, full of loneliness and heart.
The juxtaposition of these two strata--wealthy and working class--is handled very well, as is the complexity of family dynamics: the young, spoiled, possibly gay son; the rich, corrupt family friend; the "duffer" (a young Indian male relative living in Australia--complete with an Australian accent--who comes back to Delhi for the wedding); the adopted niece who suffered child abuse much earlier in her life; the women relatives who, in one great scene, sing together about the trials and tribulations of finding the right man.
After the visually and musically stunning yet somewhat vacuous Kama Sutra, it's great to see Nair returning to the peak of her talents, applied to Indian life with the same sensitivity and attention to detail she displayed in her first (and some say, her best) film, Salaam Bombay.
on May 22, 2002
I loved this movie! As an Indian, I thought it was a wonderful and very accurate portrayal of Indian families. It was a realistic slice of life in New Delhi. This movie brought back a lot of memories for me visiting India - that shows how right on target it is.
The actor who portrayed the bride's father was absolutly brilliant - with the way he could change from being a negotiating payer, loving dad, leader of the family, and showing his own insecurities.
I particularly loved the part of the movie where the bride has just told her husband to be that she had extra - marital outings, and the husband pours out all of his frustration - saying they would take the family to Disneyland, send pictures of the happy family - it is just how Indians live in this country - this also portrays how they relate back to thier families how they are living.
The bride was very modern in this movie - they made her work at a television station - a working woman - she really represents the vast majority of young Indian women. I loved that.
This was a great example of how little foriegn films can really raise the bar on movie making standards - even with out the big studio budget - it gives the American public a glimpse of Indian culture - which I think is badly needed.
Wonderful movie - with truly great music!
on January 3, 2003
Mira Nair's latest romp into Indian culture takes us to the rain soaked outskirts of Delhi as the colorful tale Monsoon Wedding unfolds. Filmed on a tight schedule with minimal resources over a course of merely 30 days, the film chronicles the days leading up to the wedding of the daughter of Punjabi businessman Lalit Verma (Naseerudin Shah) and his high society wife Pimmi (Lillette Dubey). In Monsoon Wedding, Nair makes a 180 degree turn from her days of slum hopping in Salaam Bombay, by weaving aspects of India's rapid globalization into the thick fabric of Indian traditionalism. As patriarch Lalit golfs with his friends, he discusses his troubles financing the wedding despite his shipments to Macy's. All the while, his golf cart coasts past village women walking along the greens, donning fruit baskets on their heads as they have done for centuries. Meanwhile the comical marigold munching wedding planner Dubey (Rajiv Vaaz) talks on his cell phone with his stock-market obsessed mother who later laments in a single breath, the downturn of one of her investments before switching to complaints that her son has "not taken an interest in any girl and will never allow me to see the face of a grandson".
Naseerudin Shah and Lilette Dubey give strong performances as the preoccupied parents of Aditi (Vasundhara Das) the daughter who tries to do the right thing by entering into an arranged marriage despite her passion for her former boss and married lover Vikram (Sameer Arya). Nair doesn't shy away from taboo topics as the arrival of a family friend leads the orphaned older niece Ria (brilliantly acted by Shefali Shetty) to expose a terrible secret from her past that threatens to break up a long friendship. Meanwhile Rahul (Randeep Hooda) an NRI from Australia and Ayesha (Neha Dubey), Aditi's promiscuous cousin act on each other's attractions towards one another under the very noses of the elders. Never one to lose sight of the labor class, Nair tenderly portrays the blossoming romance between wedding planner Dubey and the pretty young servant girl Alice (Tilotamma Shome).
Despite brilliant performances by Naseerudin Shah as the dutiful father and uncle, Lilette Dubey, Rajiv Vaaz and Shefali Shetty, Monsoon Wedding is not without its weaknesses. The hand-held camera, a by-product of the low budget makes the film look at times more like a home video taken by the unsteady hand of a thirteen year old. Wavering shots, extreme close-ups and noticeable breaks in the film are distracting. Also disappointing was the pallid performance given by Vasundhara Das. As the confused bride, Das pouts and blinks, but for all her lip -biting and knit eyebrows, she appears to be acting in her own film. One begins to wish that she would return to her old lover and allow a romance to blossom between her understanding fiancé (Parvin Dabbas) and her more mature and worldly-wise cousin Ria.
But Nair once again surprises at the end and manages to serve up a Bollywood style-ending that allows for an enjoyable distraction on any rainy, if not monsoonish afternoon.
Film Director, Mira Nair ("Salaam Bombay!","Mississippi Masala") has done it again by bringing us this very entertaining comedy/drama about family, titled "Monsoon Wedding".In this almost Altmanesque, movie we follow four days leading up to to an Indian families'wedding. There are multiple storylines, which unfold as we watch various members, friends, acquaintances and employees of the Verma family get ready for the impending nupitals of their eldest daughter.This includes the Bride, who is trying to convince herself that an arranged marriage is the path to take, while still being in love with a married man.A story line revolving around a female cousin (Shefali Shetty) who holds a dark family secret and finally decides she must take a stand before it is to late.Then there is the touching and almost magical romance between the wedding planner (Vijay Raaz) and the families' maid (Tilotama Shome).This is all presided over by the families' totally stressed out, patriarch (Naseerudin Shah), who seems to be at wit's end trying to keep everything from imploding.This father may be brusque, short tempered, and screaming a lot, but by the end of the film he proves to us how much he really loves his family.'Love of family' seems to be the movie's theme as we watch the various parties, ceremonies and customs. Sure, there are all sorts of little psycho-dramas being played out.That happens in all families no matter what the country or culture.But in the end, just about everybody gets swept up away by the joyfulness of the celebration.You really feel like your at a wedding!The script to this film is complicated and involving. It's captures your attention as you try to figure out who is related to who and what the relationships are. The acting is first rate especially from Naseerudin Shah (the bride's father) and Vijay Raaz (the event planner).The film makes brilliant use of it's cinematography, which just explodes into vibrant color (lots of reds and golds) giving the story an almost magical flavor by the end. Finally, I have to mention the wonderful dancing and music which greatly enhances the film. This is a very entertaining comedy/drama which I highly recommend!
on September 24, 2005
Mira Nair's "Monsoon Wedding," is a fantastic film that gives you a very good idea of how an Indian marriage is conducted, what happens behind the scenes before the actual ceremony takes place.
The film at one level gives you a peek into a typical North Indian style wedding, but at the same time addresses a couple of very interesting social issues. The first one is how young girls and women become the victims of older male relatives, and the second is the changing attitude of the younger generation to pre-marital relationship. Both the themes are very skillfully woven into the storyline, and do not bog the film, but instead lift it up and make us sit up and notice what is unfolding in front of us.
Nair pays tribute to Bollywood in this film, and has incorporated quite a few songs from Hindi films in this movie.
Watch it, and you will like it.