Monsoon Wedding

2001, Movie, R, 114 mins


Director Mira Nair's love letter to family, weddings and India revolves around the elaborate nuptials of two young professionals, each with one foot planted in tradition and the other in the modern, globalized world. In love with married television personality Vikram Mehta (Sameer Arya), Aditi Verma (Vasundhara Das) decides marriage is her best chance for moving forward and so allows her parents, Lalit (Naseeruddin Shah) and Pimmi (Lillete Dubey), to arrange a match with Hemant Rai (Parvin Dabas), an engineer who lives in Houston, Tex. Soon the Verma and Rai families — but especially the Vermas — are up to their bindis in wedding preparations, which include a whirlwind of receptions, parties and other events leading up to the big day. Lalit hires planner P.K. Dube (Vijay Raaz) to handle the endless details — tents, marigold gates, musicians, catering — while Pimmi entertains the dozens of relatives converging on New Delhi from points as far flung as Australia and the U.S. Meanwhile, Aditi gets cold feet and, ignoring the level-headed advice of her older, unmarried cousin Ria (Shefali Shetty), sneaks off for a disastrous assignation with Vikram. As the wedding approaches, emotions run high: Lalit and Pimmi argue about whether their chubby, dance-loving son (Ishaan Nair) should attend military school. Cousin Rahul (Randeep Hooda) flirts with sultry dance student Ayesha (Neha Dubey). Lalit worries about money, unaware that Aditi is about to confess her indiscretions to Hemant, possibly scuttling the wedding, and Ria must decide whether to explain her dismay that jovial Uncle Tej (Rajat Kapoor), who now resides in America but lived with the Vermas when Ria was a child, has singled out little cousin Aliya (Kemaya Kidwai) for his special attentions. Like Nair herself, the Vermas are of Punjabi extraction; originally from India's northwest, many Punjabis were displaced after the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan but rebounded to become part of India's thriving middle class. Punjabi weddings are notorious for their lavishness, and Nair's intoxicating soap opera revels in the sights and sounds of this clamorous family ritual. Her style is a canny combination of contemporary realism — cinematographer Declan Quinn's hand-held camera glides among the participants like a nameless partygoer, while characters speak a fluid mix of Punjabi, English and Hindi — and glossy Bollywood clichés. The subplot involving Dube's romance with the Vermas' shy young maid (Tilotama Shome) is the stuff of pulp romance, and Nair even manages to get in a dance number and a wet sari scene before the festivities are over. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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