out of five
: 114 mins
Superbly acted, gorgeously photographed, enjoyable and engaging drama by Mira Nair, with a terrific soundtrack to boot – the perfect
Hollywood/Bollywood crossover film.
Monsoon Wedding is the latest film from director Mira Nair (Salaam Bombay, Mississippi Masala) and it recently took the Golden Lion award for best film at the Venice film festival. With its blend of family drama, dance sequences and lush photography, it should provide the perfect crossover film for anyone who has yet to experience a Bollywood movie.
The film is set in New Delhi, over the course of a wedding weekend, in which the Verma family gather for the arranged marriage of their daughter Aditi (Vasundhara Das) to Hemant (Parvin Dabas), an engineer from Houston. However, unbeknownst to her family, Aditi is still emotionally involved with her ex, a married man.
Four other stories also play out against the background of the wedding.
These include: Aditi’s parents (Naseeruddin Shah and Lillette Dubey),
struggling to maintain tradition and rekindling their own relationship; the wedding contractor Dubey (newcomer Vijay Raaz) falling for the house maid (Tilotama Shome).
Then there's the two lusty teenagers falling for each other, with the boy surprised at how forward the girl is; and Ria (Shefali Shetty), Aditi’s unmarried writer cousin, who finally decides to speak out against a disturbing secret she’s carried for many years.
The acting is superb, across the board, with a talented cast comprising
Indian movie stars, theatre actors, television actors, complete newcomers and even the odd popstar (Das).
The standout performances probably belong to Shah (the father) and Shetty (Ria), though Raaz and Shome’s scenes together are definite highlights, particularly the image of them eating the cores of the marigolds, the traditional Indian wedding flower.
The film is also gorgeous to look at, courtesy of some remarkable hand-held camerawork by Declan Quinn (who also shot Leaving Las Vegas, among other American films).
This allows for lots of close-ups so that a great deal of the story is told through looks and reactions, giving it a documentary-like quality which adds greatly to the naturalistic feel of the film. This is also reflected in the language, which flits easily between English and Punjabi, often in the same sentences.
In addition to the documentary-style camerawork, there are also a couple of dance sequences that recall more traditional Bollywood films (though no-one spontaneously bursts into song). The soundtrack is also fantastic, and includes ghazals (traditional love songs), modern Indian pop, bhangra (Punjabi folk/pop) and jazz.
To sum up, then, Monsoon Wedding is a delightful film that will send you out of the cinema with a smile on your face and a warm glow inside you. It’s currently getting some very good pre-Oscar buzz, so don’t be surprised to see it slugging it out with Amelie for the Best Foreign Film Oscar come March, either. Highly recommended.