Monsoon Wedding (2001) – Intimate Story of Love Inside a Realistic Wedding

It was about time I watched this classic film.  It took me a while but I finally watched it and wasn’t disappointed. This film, along with Lagaan, brought Indian culture for Westerners in the forefront in the early 2000s. Lagaan was made by Indians for Indians as well as Westerners, this movie though, was meant for merely Westerners or like Nair herself, NRI’s who do like the fantasy Indian films show, but is far way from the reality for them. Gowarikar went big with old fashioned filmmaking, wile Nair goes all the way to the intimate parts of human emotions, letting them lead, in a plot that is much more character interactions than a story from start to end.


It is soon the start of the monsoon season and two families, the Punjabi Verma’s and the Bengali Rai’s in an arranged marriage between their children, the news worker Aditi and the NRI Hemant. The wedding is a rich, costly and exuberant effect which comes with all kinds of troubles. But as the rains get nearer and family loyalties, secrets and ties come forth to the forefront.


The film is beautifully made, with western-style intimate camerawork with natural shadows, while the story itself is Indian in a way that it also is not. Mira Nair is an NRI who looks back at her country with respect, but doesn’t want to hide the realities of life like an Indian film would, or show it in a way an Indian film would show it. Her world is down to earth, without gloss or glamour. In an Indian film everything would be done glamorously, the humour would be put to the forefront, there would be sellable songs and any of the gritty reality would be washed away by 90%. I don’t mean to say that that kind of a movie is bad, it would just be different, but a generic kind of different with the edges smoothened. The grittiness is what makes this movie so good, the characters so realistic and the situations so revelatory. There is no big fight with fists, instead there is a moment between families, that makes it more severe by the its minimalism.

It is intimate, filled with small scenes of hands touching, a realistically bombastic wedding and filled with such love throughout it will makes you smile. It is by no means pretentious even if its in the The Criterion Collection, a deserved place. The colours are generic (because I’ve seen so many Indian films and this is in the basic-level) but it adds to the charm, with the hues of yellow, red and orange all around. But in this colours is the intimacy that makes this movie. They are warm when everting is all right and turn cold pastels when life is ordinary or the atmosphere is warning. That is not so say of the iconic shots of rain falling down as the bride arrives, a heart made of marigolds and a dance number with no choreographed back up dancers.


The action is wonderfully intimate as well. Having many heavy hitters from the art house and theatre tradition who give stellar performances. Naseeruddin Shah as Lalit Varma acts the bowing father of the bride and due to circumstances grows as a person for the better. Shefali Shah is the unmarried Ria, pulling a fine performance that goes in to your heart, her eyes widen as we see her fear increasing, making this movie her story as well. Vasundhara Das as the bride to be Aditi is fair with beautiful green eyes, but who is by no means perfect. Vijay Raaz as the Parabatlal Kanhaiyalal ‘P.K.’ Dubey the organiser for the wedding has his own story that is beyond sweet, it is nice to see him in such a role, not a bad guy or a shady character for once. He has his quirks, eating marigolds, but they fit the character and make him real. There are a lot more, but these were the ones that hit it for me.

So yeah, watch this if you want a film that makes you satisfied and happy at the end, not to mention the realistic looking wedding and the stories that come with it. The story is a universal one, of love, family that is showcased in a specificities context, but the feelings and situations are all we can relate to. Haven’t we all been at a wedding where it seems everything will come to a boiling point?


Thank you for reading! 

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