Then there are the times when I discover a gem, and my faith is absolutely restored. India native Mira Nair's award-winning Monsoon Wedding is such a treasure. It's funny, touching, dramatically forceful, and beautifully shot. It has some great songs. It offers a lingering and informative look at the Indian culture and its traditions. In fact, the more I describe its merits the further I drift into hyperbole.
Set in present day New Delhi, the plot deals with an array of family and friends as they prepare for a big wedding. The bride, Aditi (Vasundhara Das), goes through the motions of the pre-arranged marriage, but she can't keep herself away from her ex-boyfriend. However, most of the burdens lie with Aditi's parents, Lalit and Pimmi (Naseeruddin Shah and Lillete Dubey) who have more to worry about than just paying for the festivities. There's an adolescent son they can't agree on how to raise, a disturbing drop off in passion, and the unavoidable burden of getting older.
Then there are the guests. Among those prominently featured are a potential child molester who's also the bride's family's savior, a young man and woman who seem destined for romance but can't quite get their timing right, and the harried, single event planner who finds time to become infatuated with the family maid.
Nair, who helmed The Perez Family and Mississippi Masala, expertly handles what amounts to a two-hour plate spinning show. Despite some minor problems (the whole angle with the probable child molester is out of place and just plain creepy), Nair and screenwriter Sabrina Dhawan obviously care about the characters. We're allowed to see everyone's vulnerable side. When Lalit sobs in frustration on his wife's shoulders it matters because Nair and Dhawan take the time into making the characters more than just by-products of a sitcom predicament.
Aside from its dramatic prowess, Monsoon Wedding contains an unbridled intimacy and joy. Nair revels in the wedding traditions--the joyous songs, the colorful clothing, and the scenery. As corny as it sounds, there's so much warmth and honesty in Nair's direction that you almost feel as if you're really dancing and mingling with the other wedding guests.
With a riveting dramatic base, sympathetic characters and a love of her country's traditions, Nair eventually makes you part of the tight-knit clan she portrays. The best families, I feel, are able to have their love for each other outride all their other problems. Nair captures that theory on celluloid in a convincing and memorable fashion, and it's applied to a people that have been underrepresented in most movie houses. I'm hoping that Nair's great work helps to end that practice.
The DVD release of the film includes a making-of short and a commentary track from Nair.
Don't cry for me, India.
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: 4.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Fresh: 113 Rotten: 6
IMDB: 7.4 / 10
Director: Mira Nair
Producer: Caroline Baron
Screenwriter: Sabrina Dhawan
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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