- The Best in a long time 9/4/2002 12:00:00 AM by jnvalente
I went to to see this film almost by chance and I was rewarded by a gem. A truly sublime mix of musical, social comment and romantic movie-making at its best. Unlike many others I was not familiar with Mira Nair's work at all, but after having seen how she delicately handles child-abuse, pre-arranged-marital-infidelity, growing old and trying to be different as an upper middle class Indian boy, being a flirtatious, bored but basically settled non-resident Indian housewife, or being a too well-doing for your own class "wedding-parties producer" desperately seeking for love - I have surrendered!
This is a Great Film by a Great Director and you might not want to miss it...
- Irresistible Combination of Realism and Good Spirits 12/6/2005 12:00:00 AM by noralee
It's only March, but I already nominate "Monsoon Wedding" as one of the best movies of the year.
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)
- Exactly and approximately superb! 1/24/2005 12:00:00 AM by Dehlia_
In Delhi, the wealthy father of the bride (Lalit, played by N. Shah) prepares an elaborate wedding. We meet his extended family, arriving from as far as America for the wedding, beginning with a formal engagement party 4 days before. Several subplots are followed: Additi, the bride, has chosen an arranged marriage instead of waiting for her married lover to leave his wife. Ria, her cousin, has never married and is being pestered by all concerned. We learn that Ria's father, Lalit's big brother, has passed away and so Lalit is her father-figure as well. Dubey, the wedding organizer, becomes smitten with Alice, Lalit's maid. As the days pass, family joys and family secrets are revealed.
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 800?900 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.
- Not Bollywood nor Hollywood ... but better 1/17/2004 12:00:00 AM by Rachel770
I just finished watching this beautiful film for the third time. The first time I saw it, I really liked it. The second time I got more out of it and I liked it even more. I just finished watching it with the director's commentary and I can honestly say I had no idea how good this film actually was! It was shot entirely on location, in just 30 days on a very low budget with a cast of 68 and only a handful of them were real actors! (A great deal of actors who were originally cast in this movie pulled out at the last minute or didn't even bother to show up) I guess that is the beauty of this movie though. Nair wanted to capture the essence of the Punjabi people in a true setting. She didn't want to go for the big elaborate sets where people spontaneously break out into a big song and dance number like you see in a lot of Bollywood movies. Nair wanted her characters to start singing because that is what they do. One of her comments compared Indians to the Irish as two cultures who love to use song. Throughout the whole movie, you get such a feeling of reality as if you are a voyeur who is really looking into these people's lives. They are lying naked and vulnerable before us. The character of Alice really stood out for me. Tilotama Shome's talent radiated from her and I found myself wondering what other films she had done. In Nair's commentary, the answer was revealed: ZERO. Shome was an English Literature student in Delhi University. The scene wear Alice is pretending to be a bride (like a child playing dress up) is so simple yet so powerful and beautiful. I have a few reviews stating that Tilotama was miscast as the maid. That she was to "elegant" and self aware to play such a character, however, that is exactly what Nair wanted in the character of Alice. Nair wanted to make a statement about people. Our beauty and presence comes from within our soul, not from our lot in life. Tilotama Shome can have a brilliant career ahead of her if she wants it. It is also worthwile to mention two more exceptionally powerful performances by Vijay Raaz (who was a struggling actor before this movie) as Dubey (Alice's love interest) and Shefali Shetty, as Ria (who has a dark secret that can ruin the binds of family) These three performances were outstanding, but the entire cast was incredible. This movie is definitely worth seeing, but I really have to recommend you watch it like I did - more than once. It really is worth it.
- Delightful visual and emotional experience 5/24/2002 12:00:00 AM by joycepw
I really liked this film. As the movie progressed I quickly formed a bond with the characters and felt they were all my close friends and I was somehow involved in the story. I truly got caught up in the emotion and the evolution of the story and frequently laughed and cried. Although the wedding was the climax of the film, it was not what the film is about. The colors were exquisite, the music and dancing delightful and the people gorgeous. The acting was superb. If there was anything negative to say, I did have some trouble understanding some of the dialogue because of the accents and fast talking. But I intend to see it several times more. Thanks for a great film.