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on June 14, 2006
Mira Nair produced a film which is very entertaining, magical, and realistic in how it portrays the stresses and experiences associated with planning a modern wedding in India. The bride is a college educated beauty who has some liberated ideas and behaviors ... but she is also the the only daughter of her parents, a child of her culture. She agrees to an arranged marriage to the handsome son of a friend of the family... after a failed love affair (first secret in the film) from which she is not yet fully recovered. Aditi feels ready for marriage, so she tells her unmarried female cousin Ria who has some doubts about the matter. The unique traditions of the past are combined with modern touches - the past and present intertwine in unexpected ways to produce a beautiful and creative collage of whacky entertainment. The street scenes filmed in New Delhi symbolically represent the chaotic atmosphere, tensions and pressures of the preparations for a wedding. The plans are to create a joyous celebration ... to be remembered by both families ...and cherished for a lifetime. Family arrived from America, Dubai, and Australia ... to celebrate the blessed union of two young people in marriage.

Lalit Verma, father of the bride takes his role seriously, his personality, character, and approach provide many of the comic and serious touches in the film. He displays extraordinairy sensitivity to a family tragedy that is unexpectedly revealed (the second secret) and takes courageous action to deal with the problem directly. He proves to be a caring, loving father whose integrity ensures the wedding preparations continue as planned, allowing nothing to mar the perfection of the moment. He even asks for a temporary loan from business associates to meet mmediate "cash flow" problems as the costs keep mounting upwards. The casting for all the roles are superb. The music was incorporated into the story of the film, enhancing and emphasizing the emotions in many scenes. There was spontaneous singing during the "mehndi" ceremony when the women paint henna designs on the hands of the bride. There was a haunting solo sung about the bride leaving the loving palace of her father ... to become a stranger to his house forever after marriage. Several enjoyable modern Indian techno sounds exploded throughout the film making the scenes more lively and enjoyable.

Along with the wedding, there are several stories interwoven within the fabric of the film ... The first and most important one is how the wedding plans for Aditi and Hermant could have unravelled after Aditit confessed her secret affair to him. While the two large tents are built in the backyard, garlands of marigolds {"the flower of love") are woven, and the cost of water-proofing the tents is being negotiated - P.K. Dubey, the cell-phone carrying, dot.com business entrepeneur wedding event manager, and *bachelor* falls in love with Alice, the young maid and housekeeper for the Verma family. Meanwhile, Varun, Aditi's brother practices a dance he will perform at the 'sangeet' (engagement party?) with Ayesha, a very attractive cousin from Dubai. However, just before the party he clashes with his parents over his future educational plans. They decided he will be sent to a boarding school. Ayesha has been flirting with Rahul, a handsome young relative of the Verma's from Australia. They have even exchanged kisses in the dark. He had witnessed her dance sessions with Varun who now refuses to do the performance. When Rahul will not take Varun's place, one of the older ladies overhears and quotes poetry to him about his failure to rescue a lady in distress. She tells him straight up to get off his @ss ... Some of the most sensitive scenes include Ria, when she clues in on certain behaviors between Uncle Tej and Aleja, a young girl of about 6 or 7. Ria exposes Uncle Tej and at the same time reveals her own shame at having suffered a similar fate as a child. Lalit wrestles with how to handle this delicate situation. He couragously banishes Uncle Tej and his wife from his house. The wedding ceremony is a blessed and dignified event. It turns out to be perfect, a celebration of pure joy ... exactly as planned. Erika Borsos [pepper flower]
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on January 24, 2003
"Monsoon Wedding" is a gorgeous, engaging film on a number of different levels. It follows the Verma family as they prepare for their daughter Aditi's wedding to an Indian who had been living in Houston and working as a computer engineer (a common theme throughout the film is the Indian diaspora to Western countries in order to have a better chance at success, such as cousin Rahul, the family "idiot" just back from years in Australia (note: the Australian accent of actor Randeep Hooda is real: he obtained both his bachelor's and master's degrees in business management in Melbourne).
The film is full of the hectic moments that can only come before stressful family gatherings such as weddings: shopping for wedding saris, building outdoor canopies, guest lists, preparations....compounded by the pouring rain of the monsoon season. "Monsoon Wedding" beautifully captures a vibrant modern India, at home in Hindi, Punjabi and English, turbans and T-shirts, and the showstopping spectacles of Bollywood. Music plays a large role in the film as a background element and also as dance numbers at the wedding, and Torontonian Mychael Danna (who also scored "Monsoon Wedding" director Mira Nair's "Kama Sutra") strikes a comfortable blend of Indian instruments and modalities with piano, bhangra rock, and several very catchy Bollywood tunes.
The film is aided not only by the beautiful, exotic scenery, but also by the diverse cast of supporting characters: the scheming wedding planner Dubey, "idiot" cousin Rahul, just back from Australia and apparently an all-Australian boy, having shed most of his Indian customs and past, a sensitive younger brother more interested in cooking and dance than in sports or studies ("Let's find him a nice boy," the cranky father snaps), a cousin abused by a family member who must confront her past, and a myriad of shopkeepers, workers, and ordinary people that bring Delhi to life, much like Bombay in Manil Suri's excellent first novel "The Death of Vishnu."
There are a number of humorous moments, tender exchanges between the bride and groom-to-be, who, as participants in an arranged marriage had never met until days before the wedding, lively dance numbers, and moments in daily life that could take place in any corner of the world, which make the story universal in spite of some cultural differences. The varying English accents can make the film at times difficult to understand (Randeep Hooda's Australian accent was surprisingly one of the easiest for me), and older family members especially only converse in Hindi and Punjabi (there are English subtitles). A most unusual love story on a number of levels: the renewal of love between an aging husband and wife, new love between the newlyweds, a heartfelt declaration of love from a wedding planner to a maid, budding love between those who have just met yet are instantly attracted. Add to that the exotic scenery, catchy Indian pop music and dance, beautiful saris and everyday touches of India, and a quirky cast of characters, and you have the exuberant whirlwind of sensations and emotions that is "Monsoon Wedding." Enjoy!
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"Monsoon Wedding" is unlike any other wedding movie you have ever seen -- funny, sad, romantic, sexy, and full of whirling music and color. With superb acting and a lovingly fragmented storyline, this is an amazing movie. You'll feel all warm and fuzzy after seeing it. Love is in the air in Delhi!
An extended Verma family is overjoyed when Aditi, the daughter of the house, agrees to an arranged marriage with a young man now living in Texas. Unfortunately, she is only doing this because she doesn't believe her married lover will get divorced and marry her. As the wedding preparations swirl around her, she wobbles on the line of rebellion -- especially when she begins to really like her future husband.
Like the charming "Waking Ned Devine," this is one of those great movies that doesn't use a single stereotype; you could imagine these people in any part of the world. And like "Waking," the main plot isn't the only one: There is a charmingly hesitant romance between the harried, marigold-munching wedding planner and a shy young maid, a frustrated young boy's hopes to become a chef, a young woman trying to keep her niece safe, and a budding attraction between a pair of very photogenic teenagers. Of course, there are the staples of a wedding movie -- first everyone is giddy and love-obsessed, then they're freaking out because the tents aren't waterproofed. One of the funniest scenes has Aditi's frazzled mom going out shopping with curlers in her hair.
The direction in this movie is exquisite. Nair manages to capture actions as small as a girl tucking a flower in her hair, and makes it a vital element in the plot; at the same time, there is the camera swooping and ducking as a girl does a sexy, rollicking dance for the wedding crowd, cutting between a sweet, intimate wedding ceremony and the bouncing, joyous bigger ceremony. The colors of the movie are dazzling without ever being garish. The biggest problem is that often handheld cameras are used, and the result was making me dizzy. And English, Hindi and Punjabi are all spoken, sometimes shifting in mid-sentence, so keep your eye on the subtitles.
The actors are one of the best elements of "Monsoon Wedding." You don't get acting like this in most movies. The actors often will go through a scene with only one or two words, but their faces and eyes eloquently show what the characters are feeling. Vasundhara Das is pretty good as the conflicted Aditi, although she is probably the weakest performance of the film; Parvin Dabbas is charming and sensitive as her very tolerant fiancee; Naseerudin Shah is wonderful as Aditi's father, who is put in a horribly difficult position while under wedding stress; and Shefali Shetty crackles with repressed emotion as Ria. Tilotamma Shome is adorable as the maid Alice, and Vijay Raaz is delightful as her suitor.
There is some profanity, not really any violence. There is a bit of smut, but nothing too substantial -- the most disturbing element is a serial child molester going after Aditi's young cousin, and former victim Ria speaking out against him. These scenes are the only ones without a trace of humor or sweetness, and it makes them all the more intensely sad and powerful. And the soundtrack is outstanding, a mix of traditional Indian music and rollicking pop that had me bouncing in my seat.
"Monsoon Wedding" is a charming, delightful romantic comedy that makes the whole tired "wedding fiasco" plot seem fresh and charming again. So bring out the marigolds!
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on October 14, 2002
Just in case you don't know, having a wedding in monsoon season, when torrential tropical rains drench the land every late afternoon is not the Done Thing. But in this story, the bride-to-be is doing a lot of Not-Done-Things, like sneaking off with her married boyfriend for a hot goodbye the evening before her arranged wedding. And that is just one of the five storylines in Mira Nair's low-budget, prize-winning film.
The film starts a bit slowly, so slowly that my better half was sighing with exasperated male boredom in the beginning 20 minutes. But the pace naturally heats up as the wedding activities reach their peak. This is an interesting slice of Indian life, with some commentary on the changes in India over the last few years, with dot-com wealth spreading to the lower middle class, entertainingly told as the story of the wedding coordinator Dube and his village-girl-turned-servant bride. This was the cutest and most touching part of the story.
By the end of "Monsoon Wedding" even the male sighs of boredom had been converted to grunts of admiration. Well-filmed on a shoestring budget with a top-class cast, this is an exotic and rich story, Indian in every way, but universally understandable.
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on October 14, 2002
This movie was just delightful. The clash of the old and the new in the guise of an Indian wedding was so well done -- an Indian version of "Father of the Bride" where everything that can go wrong does.
This family comedy takes place almost entirely within the walls of the bride's family home as they make the preparations for this arranged marriage. Relatives arrive from all over, as does the family of the groom. The house grows increasingly loud and the tension rises accordingly. The characters are never really introduced and I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out who was who.
There is a lot of conventional typecasting in this movie, but that seems to work in a comedy (although the subplot of the lascivious uncle is not funny). The comedy is in the clash of old customs with the new ways of doing things and the logistics of accommodating both.
Great cinematography combined with a lush setting and great music made this an enjoyable movie.
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on January 3, 2003
Mira Nair's latest romp into Indian culture takes us to the rain soaked outskirts of Delhi as the colorful tale Monsoon Wedding unfolds. Filmed on a tight schedule with minimal resources over a course of merely 30 days, the film chronicles the days leading up to the wedding of the daughter of Punjabi businessman Lalit Verma (Naseerudin Shah) and his high society wife Pimmi (Lillette Dubey). In Monsoon Wedding, Nair makes a 180 degree turn from her days of slum hopping in Salaam Bombay, by weaving aspects of India's rapid globalization into the thick fabric of Indian traditionalism. As patriarch Lalit golfs with his friends, he discusses his troubles financing the wedding despite his shipments to Macy's. All the while, his golf cart coasts past village women walking along the greens, donning fruit baskets on their heads as they have done for centuries. Meanwhile the comical marigold munching wedding planner Dubey (Rajiv Vaaz) talks on his cell phone with his stock-market obsessed mother who later laments in a single breath, the downturn of one of her investments before switching to complaints that her son has "not taken an interest in any girl and will never allow me to see the face of a grandson".
Naseerudin Shah and Lilette Dubey give strong performances as the preoccupied parents of Aditi (Vasundhara Das) the daughter who tries to do the right thing by entering into an arranged marriage despite her passion for her former boss and married lover Vikram (Sameer Arya). Nair doesn't shy away from taboo topics as the arrival of a family friend leads the orphaned older niece Ria (brilliantly acted by Shefali Shetty) to expose a terrible secret from her past that threatens to break up a long friendship. Meanwhile Rahul (Randeep Hooda) an NRI from Australia and Ayesha (Neha Dubey), Aditi's promiscuous cousin act on each other's attractions towards one another under the very noses of the elders. Never one to lose sight of the labor class, Nair tenderly portrays the blossoming romance between wedding planner Dubey and the pretty young servant girl Alice (Tilotamma Shome).
Despite brilliant performances by Naseerudin Shah as the dutiful father and uncle, Lilette Dubey, Rajiv Vaaz and Shefali Shetty, Monsoon Wedding is not without its weaknesses. The hand-held camera, a by-product of the low budget makes the film look at times more like a home video taken by the unsteady hand of a thirteen year old. Wavering shots, extreme close-ups and noticeable breaks in the film are distracting. Also disappointing was the pallid performance given by Vasundhara Das. As the confused bride, Das pouts and blinks, but for all her lip -biting and knit eyebrows, she appears to be acting in her own film. One begins to wish that she would return to her old lover and allow a romance to blossom between her understanding fiancé (Parvin Dabbas) and her more mature and worldly-wise cousin Ria.
But Nair once again surprises at the end and manages to serve up a Bollywood style-ending that allows for an enjoyable distraction on any rainy, if not monsoonish afternoon.
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on November 13, 2002
Let me begin by saying that Monsoon Wedding is an utterly fantastic film. Everything everybody else said to praise the film in their reviews is absolutely correct.
Why am I giving such a terse review and such a low rating, then?
Well, as some of you know, DVDs have a mode where they can disable most of the user controls -- you can't fast forward or search backward, you can't skip to a different chapter, you can't even enter the DVD menu.
Most movies use this strictly for the copyright notice. This doesn't bother me at all.
The Monsoon Wedding DVD, which I just purchased and brought home and sat down with a friend who had never seen the film to watch, uses this mode to force you, each and every time you want to watch your copy of Monsoon Wedding, to watch a trailer for another movie and a commercial for the Monsoon Wedding soundtrack.
Even if you've seen these commercials a thousand times, still, you have to pay your dues and sit through the advertisements before you'll be allowed to watch your movie. Not only can you not skip them, you can't even fast forward through them.
You'll know every word of these commercials as well as you know the movie. In fact, one could say that they've been more or less integrated into the movie by tying the two inextricably, except that at least with the movie you can skip to chapters you like or watch only parts, whereas theres no way around these if you wish to watch the film.
...
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on December 3, 2002
Without a doubt, this is one of the funniest movies I've ever seen. This was the first time in my life that I had to pause a movie while I was watching it because I was laughing so hard that I almost urinated in my pants. I happen to be Indian, so I found added humor in all the hilariously foul words spoken in Hindi throughout the movie.
The movie itself consists of two very compelling plots, one a major while the other a minor plot. The major plot concerns the wedding of Aditi, an Indian girl, to a "NRI" (Non-resident Indian) boy from the United States. Amidst the logistical chaos of marrying this boy, Aditi faces the added task of breaking off her relationship with a married man whom she had hoped would leave his wife for her. On top of that, she must break the news of her affair with this man to her husband-to-be. It's a moving story about loyalty, betrayal, and putting someone's past into perspective.
Equally compelling is the sub-plot dealing with P.K. Dubey, the high-strung wedding planner who secretly laments the fact that he has successfully organized dozens of weddings but still hasn't found a bride to call his own. This character provides most of the funny parts of the movie, and some of the most touching ones as well. You'll fall in love with Dubey, and you'll cheer for him as he attempts to win the heart of a peasant girl.
The only reason why I didn't give this movie a 5 star rating is because of the controversy that it stirred up in the Indian community; some of it which I consider to be legitimate. Indians are proud people who think themselves to be morally elevated, and many were upset to see a movie featuring Indians who freely blurt vulgarities, consume alcohol to the point of intense intoxication, and partake in pre-marital sex and extra-marital affairs. Mira Nair might make movies about Indian people, but she doesn't necessarily represent their values and beliefs, and she deserves a little discredit for selling-out. Regardless, you'll certainly get your money's worth after watching this movie. Monsoon Wedding is worthy of strong recommendation.
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on November 20, 2002
If you don't count the hour I spent watching Lagaan (I tried to rent that one first, but it was out), Monsoon Wedding serves as my first introduction to the illimitable products of Bollywood, Bombay's equivalent for the American film scene. Put plainly, the movie is a gorgeous, light-hearted piece of visual fluff, proving a wonderful introduction into Indian life but possibly a bit over-the-top for the more critically minded viewer.
Take the plot, for instance. It hinges upon the wedding of the only daughter of the father (whose name, I don't believe, was ever mentioned in a conspicuous manner). As many weddings are even in present day India, the couple is arranged, and the first, inevitably awkward meeting is at the engagement party, set only a week or so before the wedding. Yet the couple's whirlwind courtship proves only the backdrop: the real drama plays out in the various inter-personal relationships within the family unit. Who loves whom seems to be a popular topic. The wedding organizer takes one look at the comely servant and cannot forget her, nor does any of the resulting entanglements changes his heart. The sparks flying off the exchange student and the bride's lovely cousin are measurable in the rise of temperature. Who is seducing whom? Who has previously been seduced? With such a tangled web the watcher cannot be sure. What is certain, however, is that we are entranced by the telling even as we realize its unreality.
The beautiful scene New Dehli presents to the Occidental viewer enhances this sense of otherworldliness. The director often chooses to add slices of every-day Indian city life throughout the picture: glorious colors continually overwhelm, as do the hordes of people and traffic that run through the narrow and crowded city streets. Though the pieces themselves are obviously shot from real life, the color and tableau-like quality make India seem like paradise, one which those of us in the West may wistfully enjoy, but never fully comprehend. The ritual of the wedding and its preceding ceremonies creates this same feeling: the entire party knows what words follow each other in succession, and they can all sing the tune as well. When the entire group gets up and begins to dance, their spontaneous gaiety is natural and carefree, born out of knowing that no matter what they do, they belong.
Though there is a difference in classes, as shown clearly by the wedding scene, it is beyond this movie to do any explorations of any topic other than the superficial. The story almost has too many threads as it is, and so to remain light-hearted, it is fitting that it gloss over such problematic details. Other, more problematic details (abuse, infidelity) aren't glossed over, but instead are dealt with in such a quick manner as to show the movie's true emphasis. And that? That is to resolve a couple of problems, to have fun, and most of all, to make us feel good about the world, ourselves, and India in particular. Arranged marriages really aren't all that bad, are they? Indian families are all large and boisterous and happy. And the caste system prevents no one from finding his or her true happiness. But in the end, (and despite my griping) I had a wonderful time watching it, and in that respect, Monsoon Wedding is a complete success.
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on July 30, 2002
Presuming you have read other reviews, Monsoon Wedding is a mature woman's reflection on the complexities and contradictions of modern Indian culture. There is an arranged marriage and a romantic marriage, an unmarried woman who is sexually active and an unmarried woman who abstains, Indians who want to be more traditional and Indians who want to be more modern. There is upper class love and working class love.
As a young woman, Nair directed Mississippi Masala, a story of an Indian family that is forced to leave Uganda and move to Mississippi when Amin rises to power and persecutes the Indians. Mississippi Masala explores the contradictions of Indian society as well, but in a critical way. The desire to adopt mainstream American culture and the desire to remain traditional are both lampooned. In contrast, Mississippi Masala explored contradictions and problems in African American working class culture in a very sympathetic manner, producing one of the very few portrayals of wholesome Black family life that feels real to me.

In Monsoon wedding a more mature Nair describes promblematic aspects of Indian culture in a sympathetic manner, emphasizing the ways in which livingness and integrity allow several very different types of Indians to overcome obstacles and thrive. To me this, much more than Nair's Kama Sutra, is a tale of love.
I don't have the rating in front of me, but to me this is a PG-13 movie. It has a little semi-nudity and some sexual situations. It celebrates women's sensuality in a very modest way with none of the punishment of female sexuality so common to American films. Instead (repeating myself somewhat but, hey, I am not getting paid) it presents a variety of choices, including constraint, and some of their consequences.
The contrast between Monsoon Wedding and Mississippi Masala is heightened by the fact that several actors appear in both movies, including the father and the wedding planner.
The photography is beautiful, the music wonderful, and the multiple plots interesting and compelling. I saw Monsoon Wedding twice, then spent two weeks persuading my teenage daughter, who loves her father but has little time for him, to come see it with me. She loved it too.
This is a lovely film,
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