Monsoon Wedding

Have you ever had a movie that you purchased that just sat and sat and you never watched because you didn't know anyone it or anything about it and when you finally got around to watching it you wonder why it took you so long to watch it in the first place? That's kind of how I feel about Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding.

There are so many themes touched on in this film it's almost difficult to distinguish which is the main one. On one hand we have a film dealing with Indian values and traditions vs. Western affluence and globalization. Then we have a deep and direct look at family relations and love. Lastly we see each character's internal struggle to find who they are and where they want to be. What I really loved about this movie was how Mira has woven an elaborate ensemble piece that integrates all of these themes, culminating them into a filmi pot full of vibrant color and chaos!

That the film is sometimes hard to follow (especially at the beginning) is an understatement. There are so many characters that you don't really know who is related to who, but as the story progresses and we are introduced to a myriad of subplots, you eventually get a handle on things and get swept in the ride. The main story revolves around the arranged marriage of Aditi to NRI Hemant. Aditi is having an extramarital affair with a rather cheesy unflattering married television host and has agreed to a marriage that will not only get her out of the back seat of said tv host's car, but into America. Though the story centralizes on an upper-middle class family, we see the head patriarch struggle with how to pay for this extravagant wedding (I know of some Canadian weddings that have cost upward of $25,000 for one night - I can't imagine how much money would go into the week long celebrations of an Indian one). There is the comical and touching subplot of the wedding planner, P.K. Dubey, who ends up smitten with the family's maid, and one very disturbing subplot revolved around sexual abuse.

It is a large cast for sure, but there were really only two stand out performances for me. Naseeruddin Shah, as Lilit Varma, was wonderful as the very stressed out father of the bride. In a sensitive, complex portrayal that never feels like acting, even for a moment, he breaths life into Lilit with his facials, dialogue delivery and body language, etching each scene whether emotional or comical into your mind. Though I've seen very little of his work, I would have to say that, so far, for me this is my favorite role (though I've heard very good things about A Wednesday, so we'll see if it holds up).

My very favorite person in this film was Vijay Raaz. At first you're not sure of this character P.K Dubey. He is surly and belligerent, spouting profanities as he bickers with Varma. Then, just as it should be, he falls for Alice (Tilotoma Shome), the Verma’s live-in maid, and you see an immediate change in his demeanor. Raaz gives a very raw and natural performance, even when consuming hordes of marigolds! The scene where he declares his love and intentions to her is one of the most heartwarming I've seen so far. I'm pretty sure I clapped.

The music in the film serves more as a background score, I think, and there isn't one song that stands more than another in my mind. That being said, Mychael Danna' does do a good job on integrating several different styles into the soundtrack, combining bhangra pop features with traditional/classic music of the past. My favorite off the album is probably Sukhwinder Singh's Aaj Mera Jee Karda, which we see during the actual wedding with the streets of Delhi making an appearance, this picturization wraps up all the pandemonium with a pretty little bow.

So, there you have it. Though not a Bollywood movie, still a very decent movie with a good story and lots of heart. Also, I want to go to an Indian wedding! Someone invite me quick!

16 Response to "Monsoon Wedding"

  1. ajnabi says:
    October 21, 2009 at 9:20 AM

    This movie really gave me a push to explore more Bollywood music when the only Bollywood star I knew of was Aishwarya Rai (from B&P of course). I LOVED "Chunari Chunari" even though I couldn't pronounce it to save my life at the time. (I don't, however, recommend looking it up. Seeing Style Bhai gyrating with Sush doing Irish jigs next to him is enough to scare away any curious investigators.)

  2. E says:
    October 21, 2009 at 9:51 AM

    A great movie! Everything just feels so realistic and simple and the acting is so subtle. The scene with Alice and the jewelry is one of my favorites - isn't that just a natural impulse of every girl? and yet we almost never get to see these little moments on film.

    And if you get an invite to an Indian wedding I'll carry your luggage for you!

  3. rhilex says:
    October 21, 2009 at 9:55 AM

    Have you ever had a movie that you purchased that just sat and sat and you never watched because you didn't know anyone it or anything about it and when you finally got around to watching it you wonder why it took you so long to watch it in the first place?

    Uhm, yes. Rang de Basanti. *hides in complete shame* And it is now one of my all-time favourite movies!!

    I really should check this movie out, as I've been very impressed with Mira Nair so far. I wanna go to an Indian wedding, too! :(

  4. shell says:
    October 21, 2009 at 1:24 PM

    ajnabi - I'm surprised I didn't see this much sooner. I remember scouring the movie store for anything remotely Indian after I got my first taste just because I couldn't find anything anywhere else (hence seeing B&P and Marigold). I can totally see how this one would have struck up a curiousity to explore more.

    I don't, however, recommend looking it up. Seeing Style Bhai gyrating with Sush doing Irish jigs next to him is enough to scare away any curious investigators.)
    Of course I needed to go to youtube and watch this! Not only is the dancing unfortunte, but Sallu got the short end of the style stick too.

    E - It is a very beautiful yet realistic look at Delhi I think (though I don't know for sure), and I totally agree about the jewellry scene. Little moments are what makes a film realistic. And, if I make it to a wedding, I'll for sure need help with my luggage!

    rhilex - Don't fear, it took me a while to watch RDB as well. Sometimes you never know what hidden gems you have waiting to be seen. This is my first Mira Nair film, but I might check out some of her other ones.
    We'll have to find a wedding and all just crash it together! What fun!

  5. Anonymous Says:
    October 21, 2009 at 2:54 PM

    Naseeruddin Shah is undoubtedly one of the best actors in the country. He gave fantastic performances in Paar, Mandi,Sparsh, Aakrosh, etc., and won many awards, including the National Award for Paar. You should check out Masoom, though. That is an amazing film co-starring Shabana Azmi. One of their best movies.

  6. shell says:
    October 21, 2009 at 4:05 PM

    Thanks Anon for those titles. I'm eager to see more of his work for sure.

  7. Anonymous Says:
    October 21, 2009 at 6:34 PM

    Watch Naseeruddin Shah in the recent movie "Wednesday"

  8. shell says:
    October 21, 2009 at 7:20 PM

    I have heard very good things about that one. Thanks.

  9. bollywooddeewana says:
    October 22, 2009 at 8:43 AM

    This is a wonderful movie indeed, it was big on the festival film circuit around its time of release, i saw it years ago and barely remember much, but i felt exactly the way you did. And of course i've long wanted to go to an Indian wedding ever since i saw 'Hum Aapke Hain Koun' if you're intrigued by Indian weddings watch that by all means. It's also said to have started a trend of extra large, extra lavish weddings

  10. shell says:
    October 22, 2009 at 8:57 AM

    Thanks for the link. I have heard of that one, but you know me and my adversion to Salman Khan. May have to oversee that though. I mean, Madhuri is in it after all.

  11. Anonymous Says:
    October 22, 2009 at 6:09 PM

    I saw Meera Nair's "Namesake" - based on Jhumpa Lahiri's Pulitzer prize winning book. The movie is really good - an absolute must see for Tabu, Irfan Khan and Karl Penn's acting.

  12. shell says:
    October 23, 2009 at 8:22 AM

    I have The Namesake, but haven't watched it yet. I've yet to see a Tabu movie (unless you count her small role in Fanaa), but I really enjoy Irfan. Also, it will be a departure for me to see Kal Penn in anything aside from low brow American comedies.

  13. Jules says:
    October 23, 2009 at 9:24 PM

    You did clap.. and then we both wiped a tear from our eyes as I couldn't stop going "awwwwwwwwww!!" Great film, unexpectedly... once I could understand what they were all saying!

  14. shell says:
    October 23, 2009 at 10:26 PM

    lol Jules. I remember when we first tried watching it and we had no clue what was going on. However, there were lots of kids and I think it was only on for 5 minutes. So glad we finally watched it!

  15. Darshit says:
    October 24, 2009 at 6:05 PM

    LoL to 'cost of indian marriages' :-) they varies frm 2 days to a week long celebrations. Costing is abt half a million Rupees :-) (thts cheaper -11,000 USD) (starting price) Including Gold ornaments (you know, we indians just love Gold :-) but the way the movie shows marriage, that must cost around as u said. 25,000.

    this movie has my love :-P Vasundhara Das. How can I not love it? Also the soundtrack is awesome. Just *love* 'ajj mera jee karda'

  16. shell says:
    October 24, 2009 at 7:24 PM

    Well my own wedding was about $7000CDN (or 300000 INR) and that's considered cheap, and it's only for 1 day. I think we should change our customs here! :)

    Very nice music for sure! I also love that song.