Monsoon Wedding: A Mirror of Indian Culture

A True Mirror of Contemporary Indian Culture

Monsoon Wedding
'Monsoon Wedding' (2001) is a true mirror of contemporary Indian culture centered on a typical Hindu wedding. Mira Nair

Oscar nominated Indian filmmaker Mira Nair's latest movie is a poignant portrait of contemporary Indian culture. Set in Delhi, Monsoon Wedding mirrors the Indian society while telling five different love stories centered on the five days and nights leading up to a typical Punjabi Hindu wedding overflowing with the peculiar Indian joie de vivre. The film won the Golden Lion at the 58th Venice International Film Festival in September 200. Monsoon Wedding is slated to open as stage musical adaptation on Broadway in 2016.

Monsoon Wedding (USA Films) is a piquant tale of the Hindu family set in present day India. Mira Nair (Salaam Bombay, Mississippi Masala, Kamasutra) handles issues of modernity, class, morality, society and its paradoxes using a Hindu wedding as the backdrop.

The movement of the film leaves one with the feeling of as much fun and chaos as the traditional Indian wedding, which is the central event around which the plot is woven. The leitmotif of wedding imparts a certain lightness to the story in spite of the dark family secrets, which reveal themselves in the course of the narrative.

Running alongside an upper middle class Punjabi wedding, for which the extended family gathers from all over the world, there is a parallel romance between the domestic help and the wedding tent and catering contractor, and several other smaller episodes. Through these subplots the film makes clear the "upstairs and downstairs of Indian life," as the director herself puts it.

The film starts with an engaging bit of titling animation done simply and delightfully with interchanging space and form, and lively music. The colors of the film are just as vibrant throughout, broken only with some lovely cinematography by Declan Quinn (Leaving Las Vegas), capturing with the intimacy of a handheld camera, brooding twilight cityscapes accompanied with appropriately soulful music.

The color palette sometimes changes from the bright wedding oranges and reds to thoughtful deep blues as the focus shifts to the gawky, exasperating, marigold-chewing contractor played brilliantly by Vijay Raaz. He is portrayed as hopelessly in love with the mild-mannered maid of the family played by Tilottama Shome. Seasoned actor Naseeruddin Shah and Lillete Dubey play the parents of the would-be bride (Vasundhara Das) to perfection, while Shefali Shetty plays the adopted daughter's role with great conviction.

Writer Sabrina Dhawan juxtaposes the old-fashioned and the modern, the conservative and the cheeky, the ingenuous and the sexual. The film has found its place amongst international audience since it addresses issues of sexuality and human relationships, the nature of which are not peculiar to any one particular culture. At the same time there is all of India's traditional wedding rituals strewn within — the element of reality that sets the film apart from the usual Bollywood family sagas.

While being thoroughly enjoyable, Monsoon Wedding succeeds in provoking thoughts on contemporary and cosmopolitan Indian culture without taking any moral stands.

Cast & Credits

• Naseeruddin Shah as Lalit Verma • Lillete Dubey as Pimmi • Shefali Shetty as Ria • Vasundhara Das as Aditi • Parveen Dabas as Hemant • Vijay Raaz as P.K.Dubey • Tilotama Shome as Alice

About the Author

Rukminee Guha Thakurta is a movie buff and film critic currently based in New Delhi. An alumnus of the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad, India, she runs her own independent design agency Letter Press Design Studio.