"Monsoon Wedding" could be seen as Bollywood's answer to "Father of the Bride," but such a comparison would be selling short this choice culture clash comedy-drama.
Said clash is an internal one, however, between the modernized, Westernized everyday lives of an upper middle-class New Delhi family and their Punjabi rituals and traditions that include the arranged marriage at hand.
Beautiful, stunningly blue-eyed young Aditi (Indian pop singer Vasundhara Das) has agreed to the match made by her parents because she's become bewildered by her mixed-up life and wants to force herself to take a direction. This is easier said than done, since even the night before the wedding she's still being led to temptation by a lover she's trying to leave behind -- a married, egocentric and manipulative TV talk show host.
Meanwhile, amusing pre-wedding chaos includes an endless parade of family arrivals, a constant ringing of cell phones, a gaggle of aunts and female cousins dominating Aditi's time with henna tattoos and other traditions, and the bride's flustered father (Neseeruddin Shah) humorously butting heads with everyone. His smart-mouthed slacker nephew is forever telling him to "chill" (in English) and he's constantly trying to keep an eye on the weasely wedding planner (Vijay Raaz), who is happy to over-charge his clients for every little unexpected need.
Directed by Mira Nair ("Salaam Bombay!," "Mississippi Masala," "Kama Sutra") with a light touch and a palpable affection for her characters, "Monsoon Wedding" mixes joviality and sincerity as easily as the Aditi's family mixes languages -- everyone speaks a crisscrossing jumble of Hindi, Punjabi and English. The film's only real misstep is a subplot about a dark family secret. While realistic and emotionally honest, it's so conspicuously shoehorned into the story one can't help but wonder if screenwriter Sabrina Dhawan was trying to exorcise some demons of her own or if she just felt the need to cut the comedy with some tragedy to give the film heft.
Otherwise, the humor and humanity of "Monsoon Wedding" are in perfect balance -- even if it's almost impossible to keep track of who's who in the extended family. Aditi eventually spends some time getting to know her handsome, charming, Americanized fiancé -- who is worried about her adjusting to life in Houston, Texas. Her father finds a little tranquility by turning to his own wife (Lillete Dubey), who is quite funny in her own right. Love humbles even the wedding planner when he falls helplessly and whimsically for the family's pretty maid.
Run time: 114 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 12th December 2001
Box Office USA: $13.7M
Box Office Worldwide: $30.8M
Distributed by: USA Films
Production compaines: Mirabai Films, Inc., Keyfilms Roma, Pandora Filmproduktion, Paradis Films, IFC Films, Mirabai Films
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Fresh: 113 Rotten: 6
IMDB: 7.4 / 10
Director: Mira Nair
Starring: Naseeruddin Shah as Lalit Verma, Lillete Dubey as Pimmi Verma, Vijay Raaz as Parabatlal Kanhaiyalal 'P.K.' Dubey, Tillotama Shome as Alice, Vasundhara Das as Aditi Verma, Parvin Dabas as Hemant Rai, Sameer Arya as Vikram Mehta, Neha Dubey as Ayesha Verma, Kemaya Kidwai as Aliya Verma, Ishaan Nair as Varun Verma, Randeep Hooda as Rahul Chadha, Soni Razdan as Saroj Rai, Roshan Seth as Mohan Rai, Shefali Shah as Ria Verma
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