This is a Great Film by a Great Director and you might not want to miss it...
Monsoon Wedding (2001)
User ReviewsReview this title
This is a Great Film by a Great Director and you might not want to miss it...
A lot of the film's success was in the acting. Talented portrayals of deep complex characters who can make you laugh and cry in just minutes. I was amazed how easy it was to keep tabs on no less than 5 separate subplots without getting the characters mixed up or losing interest.
Another key to Monsoon Wedding's success was how the camera told as much story as the actors and dialogue. Lingering shots on a character who doesn't seem part of the action revealed so much more than dialogue could.
And the most amazing thing - this film was made in 30 days!! Couldn't believe it. Fantastic production values, mind, not like many other Indian movies I've seen. And down-to-earth realistic, not like Bollywood. Yes, there is singing and dancing, but in context, not every five minutes!
I don't have anything against Bollywood, but I'm glad to see that there is a higher standard of Indian film-making out there.
Yeah, we've seen ethnic weddings/family gatherings before ("Lovers and Other Strangers," "Wedding Banquet," "The Godfather," "Avalon," "What's Cooking," "Tortilla Soup," among others), but this is still an original.
Not just because it takes place in India, not just because the characters come in from the Indian diaspora of IT jobs in the U.S., Australia, and the Middle East to the old homestead, and switch between Hindi and English mid-sentence, and switch comfortably between tradition and modernity.
But because these are completely wholly-formed, original characters and a sophisticated story. Yeah I was confused sometimes about who's related to whom, but from the rebellious teen-age boy dreaming of being a chef, to the bride with a secret lover, to the Houston engineer come home for an arranged marriage, to the complicated intra-family obligations and past positive and negative interactions, to cousins, aunts and uncles who genuinely love each other -- all are fully realized and completely believable, being both very individual and very universal.
Only a smidgen of a coincidence in the last moments of a too neat happy ending for a very sympathetic character mars the story, but understandably the audience cheers at the end.
A bonus is the wonderful use of Indian music -- I have zero idea if it's folk or Bollywood music they're singing but the soundtrack is exotic and exuberant as the characters use it to liberate thoughts and feelings within the structure of wedding rituals, with dancing as well. Stay through the credits as the ritual continues.
I'm ready to go see it again any time I'm feeling down.
(originally written 3/11/2002)
I cannot praise this movie enough. First of all, kudos to N. Shah for a sensitive, complex portrayal that never, for a moment, feels like acting. Without hand-held camera pretensions, Monsoon Wedding nonetheless feels more like meeting a family at a big affair than watching a movie. It is real and intimate, yet magical. All the performances are good; Rajat Kapoor as an uncle with a secret is particularly powerful, and bears a striking resemblance to a younger Donald Sutherland.
We see Indian society as India sees it. My coworker, Sreeman, tells me that everyone attends neighborhood weddings; that an average wedding has 800900 guests, and his had 1200. Traditionalism matters, but modernity matters as well. At one point, Lalit and Dubey argue over the wedding tent; should it be white, the modern (Western) way, or should it be colorful? Lalit demands color and Dubey orders "the old kind." The struggle between modern and traditional ways is one of the primary undercurrents of the film, embodied by Additi's choice, in fact, we meet her married lover as the host of a TV talk show discussing traditional versus modern ways.
Another undercurrent is finding love, impediments to love, and choices about love. Additi, Dubey, Ria, and another cousin, Rahul, all have barriers to overcome before they have a chance at happiness.
But the main theme is family, and this huge, chaotic family is a wonder to behold. You can't always tell who's related to whom, but you get the sense that they can't either, and coming from a large, extended family myself, I know that's how it is. Family is everything to Lalit, yet he communicates harshly with a son he doesn't understand, and calls nephew Rahul "idiot." Yet his love and devotion are clear, and he is the real hero of this film, coming through for everyone and stretching himself to the limit.
I had no idea what to expect, but between this and 'Bend It like Beckham', I think my new addiction might just be Indian cinema. 'Monsoon' is the story of a family celebrating the arranged marriage of their only daughter to a well-off (and hot) young man who has been working for the past few years in the States and came home so his parents could pick him a bride. The bride is trying to get over a recent indiscretion with a married-and famous-man by throwing herself into the marriage, though it seems pretty clear she would rather be anywhere else. The film gives a fascinating overall view of the amazing intricacies of a traditional Punjabi wedding-four days of festivities!!-while deftly presenting several dramatic and touching stories, from the obnoxious wedding planner falling for the maid, to the cousin who is trying to deal with having been abused as a child, only to end up facing her abuser at the wedding. The cinematography is gorgeous; a lot of handheld shots give a strong sense of realism, and what a color palette! Over the weekend I rented this I watched it three times, and I'm going to have to buy my own. Definitely an A picture.
The movie is anchored by exceptionally strong performances from Naseer Shah, Lillette Dubey, Vijay Raaz, Tilotama and Shefali Shetty. Other more minor players also do a very good job. The movie is full of moments that one can identify with, laugh at, weep at and generally get maudlin over. My favorite scenes are Naseer constantly calling the Aussie cousin idiot, the dance number at the post engagement party when the whole crowd joins in (I wanted to dance in the aisles too), the dynamics between Mr. Dubey and Alice, the song Aaaja Saanwariya Tohe Garwa Laga loon as Mr. Dubey goes to his Old Delhi home...
This is a fine film that celebrates family and is a great one for repeat watching. Mira's directing is deft and the movie is extremely accessible to audiences the world over.
For me it was more like watching a home video than a movie. Indian Punjabi weddings are like that, loud and colorful, people coming in from practically everywhere, weird uncles and aunties who just don't know how to mind their own business, cousins coming in from abroad who have no clue whatsoever, IITian settled abroad. This movie never fails to entertain me, i must have seen it 20 times but every time i find something new in it. The most disturbing part was the issue of incest brought up. A lot of people feel it's uncommon in India but the sad reality is, it's not. It's very common, the thing is people hardly come out, it's under the covers and we have to accept this reality. The wonderful part was, a lot of people got to know about the issue and took notice. My father cries every time he watches the movie, esp. the scenes related to Shefali. I loved Naseer's character, he was like just another father cribbing over money spent on he marriage at the same time, being the happiest man on earth and going to every extent to ensure a great wedding. Every character in the movie was well sketched in terms of having their own unique characters, Dubeyji being this harassed wedding planner in love with the house maid, that aunty from Australia who has her own story to tell, the brother being a little anti social and a bit feminine according to the father (which was really cute, the relationship), the mother who smokes in the loo, the young cousin trying to impress the boy, loud uncle. Shefali's character was beautiful, her past and her present just gets twisted when the uncle enters the household and how she tries to protect her cousin. I have always liked movies which show strong human tendencies & human relationships and this was one of them. This movie was a huge hit abroad as well just because, people could relate to the movie. It is everyone's story, me, ur's, anyone's !
But then what can I do? "We are like that only."
This movie has some of the best Indian actors, such as Naseeruddin Shah, Khulbhushan Kharbanda and Rajat Kapoor in it. But the guy who beats all of them and steals the show is our Dubeyji, Vijay Raaz. I had noticed him first in the movie "Jungle", where his portrayal of an almost silent (had he taken Omerta, by any chance?) bandit-gang member was excellent; but in Monsoon Wedding, his portrayal of Dubeyji beat all these first-rate actors. I've been a great fan of Naseeruddin Shah for quarter of a century now; but in this movie, my vote goes to Raaz.
The most striking feature of this movie is Mira Nair's ultimate attention to detail. (I think this is also a major factor that adds such authenticity to the character of Dubey!). From the Hindu ritualistic red-thread worn by Shah on his wrist (it must be put for the movie, Shah being a Muslim in real life, or was it that his real-life Hindu wife made him wear that!), to the pair of shorts worn by Raaz, Nair & Co. has painstakingly paid enough amount of attention to details. A Dubey would surely dress, talk and carry himself the way depicted in this movie. His choice of profanities are the most authentic that one would hear on the streets of Delhi. Alice and Ria also put very powerful performances!
This movie took me back to Delhi, and to the corridors of the Univ. I (and Nair, much before I, for that matter!) once walked on. Anyone who loves, or plans to fall in love with, Delhi should watch this movie, because as Mauz once said, "Who would go away, Mauz, leaving the labyrinths of Delhi behind?" (Kaun jaye, Mauz, Dilli ki galiyan chhod kar?).
Notes: The following is in response to some of the comments by Western reviewers.
1) Just because he addresses his nephew as "idiot", the bride's father is not mean and abusive; this is just a term of endearment. I guess, this is just a matter of cultural difference; things that are accepted in the Orient may be completely offensive in the Occident, and vice versa. This reminds me of the autobiographical note by the Egyptian born Nobel laureate, Prof. Ahmed Zewail, whose (toally accepted and used in the Arab world) figure of speech "I will kill you" terrified a classmate at Caltech (or was it Berkeley?).
2) Some people thought that the two guys sharing a bed (when the young girl offers a kind of striptease show to the Australian guy) was a hint at homosexuality; it was not! I don't mean that homosexuality does not exist in India; but it's quite common in India for people to share a bed when there's a shortage of beds (especially when a number of relatives and guests come down for, say, a wedding, to stay overnight, and then mostly younger members of the family are pushed to share beds.).
Note: Robert de Niro and Hervey Keital slept on the same bed in "Mean Streets", but they were not gay either!
3) Would the maid and the wedding planner be allowed to dance with the upper-class family? My Answer is: I think, yes! Most of the Punjabi weddings include Whiskey/alcohol in the menu (at least, for the important guests), and once you have alcohol in your veins, Universal Brotherhood (Bhai-chara in Hindi) prevails. I, in spite of not being a Punjabi or a Native Delhiite, took part in such wedding dances myself at times, and had seen with my own eyes such situations.
The hypocrisy of Bollywood is legendary by not attacking issues in their films, yet they are real and need to be addressed. The mere fact that this bride is not what she's supposed to be on the surface, is an eye-opener. Then there's a relative who is a pedophile and who has hidden behind a benevolent facade only to pry on the little ones of his own people. This is the first time I have seen such frank treatment of a troubled family, who is very happy, on the surface.
The acting is first rate with outstanding performances by Mr. Shah, as the father of the bride and his daughter, Ms. Das. Not only that, but Ms. Das has one of the most beautiful faces in the Indian cinema and certainly deserves to be seen anywhere with those gorgeous eyes of hers.
The weakest part, I thought, was that of the romance of the party planner and the maid. I mean, HELLO, Ms. Nair, do you think for one nanosecond this uppity family would have allowed the maid and her newly found love participate in the wedding party? I don't think so!
The color of Delhi's streets, the magnificent wedding costumes and the glorious background music are used with knowledge and a sure hand by Ms. Nair.
Having seen all her films, we await eagerly for more of her view of her home land. We can even go singing in the rain after seeing the film!
commitments that bind the two forever. Forget that you don't really
know anything about Indian culture or language. It speaks the
language of the human heart -- and that is always universal. I can't
wait to watch this one again, and strongly encourage everyone to
As a non-resident Indian living in the US for three decades, the film reflects the reactions of my family and friends back in India every time I return for a visit.
The story revolves authentically around the way rich, cosmopolitan Indians live. (I was not one of them, but I have been to the houses of richer classmates during my college days.)
Mira Nair has shown how to have the cake and eat it too. The movie has many elements of "typical" Hindi movies (music, dance, and convolutions)without the inanities.
As a traier, I had a group of participants in a cultural diversity workshop watch the movie. We then debriefed the audience to locate universal cross-cultural simiarlities.
The story revolves around the preparations of an Indian arranged marriage. The main characters are the bride,her father and a marriage arrangement contractor. All dealing with their own constraints and still trying to give their hopes wings. What is remarkable is that this movie has characters who show courage when they have a lot to lose and win higher rewards like love,trust and self-respect in the process.
Kudos to the Monsoon wedding team!
I'd say it's a great Hollywood(40%)-Bollywood(60%) mix.The one with exceptional direction , cinematography and on screen performances.
This first impression compels me to award it with a rating as high as 8,5 out of 10.
Of course at times this is all it seems to scream and that's a bit of a problem because it is hard to really be consistently engaged by this rather freewheeling affair. The various strands vary from the amusing to the interesting to the inane. The problem is that the film goes for a collection of characters and story lines all around the one wedding and not all of them work as well as one another. It was still pretty interesting and become more cohesive towards the end but I was not as drawn in and impressed as I had expected to be to be honest Die Hard was on the other channel and it was a real effort to ignore the luring calls of that great movie and stick with this.
However what the film does manage to do pretty well is deliver a very vibrant film which, for the majority of its running time, gives a lively and busy impression of this part of India and is enjoyable mainly because its energy and pace. It is a little bit inconsequential for large parts and it made it difficult to stay with but the final third gets better and becomes more meaningful and involving. The film was billed as a Bollywood film but it is not really what I expected from a film placed in that band however I was actually happy that the film ran under 3 hours and wasn't heavy with the usual songs that all sound the same to me. The cast also do better than the usual Bollywood lot and deliver the best they can with the material. Standouts for me were those playing the bride, the bride's father and Raaz's PK Dubey funny and sensitive!
Overall this is a Bollywood movie for those that dislike Bollywood movies. The ensemble approach produces a sense of fun and a good but prevents it getting involving until the final third when, I suppose, it does come good. Despite these problems it is still colourful and fun and worth watching once for what it is.
However, the scene where the 'good' uncle makes the 'bad' uncle (and his wife) leave... so very human, and such a very human handling of the 'bad uncle's' behavior. If this film had been made by Hollywood rather than Bollywood, the 'bad uncle' would have been arrested, but first he would have been beaten to a pulp by the young girl's 'kinfolk'. Probably better that it is a bollywood film -- not quite so predictable.
The Dubay guy... you start out disliking him and then he sees Alice... badaBING go the STRINGS of his heart, and then suddenly he has a different face.... he's someone you can imagine loving. Amazing transformation.
This movie is a woman's movie, for sure. I must run now, and tell all my women friends about it.