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Laramie Movie Scope:
Monsoon Wedding

A lavish, lush, colorful event from India

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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April 2, 2002 -- "Monsoon Wedding" is a colorful, joyous celebration of life, a tapestry woven of romance, dancing, singing, and unforgettable characters. It is also one of the most acclaimed and least formulaic films to come out of India since "Bandit Queen."

The story is set around an arranged marriage in Delhi of Aditi Verma (played by Vasundhara Das) to Parvin Dabas (played by Hemant Rai), a Houston engineer. Aditi is not at all sure she wants to go through with the wedding. She even tries running away with her married lover shortly before the wedding. When Parvin finds out about her feelings, he is not sure he wants to go through with the wedding, either. Aditi's father, Lalit Verma (Naseeruddin Shah of "Bhopal Express") is going into debt paying for the lavish wedding. Luckily, the family patriarch, Tej Puri (Rajat Kapoor) has agreed to ease his financial burden by paying for one of his daughters to attend college in the U.S. All of the stress is causing tension between Lalit and his wife, Pimmi Verma (acclaimed stage actress and director Lillete Dubey). Lalit is also having trouble with his son, Varun, who wants to go into show business. He is threatening to send his son, who seems a little gay, to boarding school. His young daughter, Ayesha, (played by Neha Dubey, daughter of Lillete Dubey) is busy flirting with a wedding guest, Rahul Chadha (Randeep Hooda). The man in charge of setting up the wedding, P.K. Dubey (Vijay Raaz of "Bhopal Express"), is falling in love with the Verma family's lovely young maid, Alice (Tilotama Shome). Meanwhile cousin Ria Verma (Shefali Shetty) is hiding family secrets.

If all that isn't complicated enough, there is a crisis when it is discovered that a member of the family is a child molester. The final confrontation on that little matter takes place just before the wedding. The plot is busy enough for a westerner like me to follow, but it is complicated further by the fact that three languages are spoken in the film, English, Hindi and Punjabi (with English subtitles). Sometimes more than one language is spoken in a single sentence. It takes some getting used to. Usually, you read the subtitles in a foreign film. But in this film, sometimes you read the subtitles and sometimes you listen for the dialogue, so you have to be ready for both at any time. Also, some of the English is spoken with a heavy accent, so it is hard to understand. Being unfamiliar with the actors is also a handicap, since you can't always tell who is who, particularly with such a large cast.

The film is definitely worth all the effort, though. It is filled with interesting characters. One of the best is P.K. Dubey, the wedding planner. He's a nervous, skinny little guy with a cell phone glued to his ear. He's always working some angle to make a little more money. In one scene he argues that waterproofing the wedding tent was not in the contract. It will cost extra. His attraction to Alice is palpable. He reveals a touching vulnerability, the flip side of his swaggering business persona. Lalit Verma's expressive face, with permanent worry lines, is a landscape of contrasts, anger, love, tenderness, stubbornness, and lots of worry. His wise wife, Pimmi, is sympathetic and understanding. Her forbearance of her husband's moods and her generosity of spirit seems to be universal traits. Pimmi and Lalit's emotional fencing is an intimate, intricate dance repeated in billions of marriages.

The lush colors of India, the vibrant music, songs and dancing, all combine to create a kind of magical spell. The tradition of India is combined with modern Western influences, cell phones, golf, television, wedding guests from America and Australia. This extended Punjabi family seems to take the clash of cultures in stride. It all seems so wonderfully inclusive, unlike some cultures, which tend to be exclusive. This family puts everything into a blender and seems to have no trouble dealing with whatever flavor emerges.

In addition to the mixture of languages and cultures in the film, it also has some kissing scenes, which are not usually allowed in Indian films (kissing is not allowed, but violence is O.K.). The singing and dancing scenes are a little less formulaic than in some Indian films in that they actually fit into the plot (in this case, the Sangeet, a sort of pre-wedding ceremony, provides the opportunity for music, song and dance). While characters singing on-screen sound realistic enough, the recorded singing that accompanies some of the dances has that strange tinny, compressed sound that seems endemic to Indian cinema. The film, which was shot in just 30 days on a shoestring budget (the director's mother catered for the whole cast and crew, and many scenes were filmed at the director's family home in Delhi), looks much bigger and more expensive than its origins would indicate. Director Mira Nair ("Mississippi Masala," "Salaam Bombay!") does a fine job weaving the complex strands of this story together. This is a keeper. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2002 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)