On her commentary track for the DVD of “Monsoon Wedding”, director Mira Nair talks about how her movie is about making something very close to her home to Delhi in India, telling a simple but true story about her family and the Punjabi people in general: “The Punjabis are known for working hard but partying even harder, and nothing exemplifies this spirit of living and partying more than a Punjabi wedding. We believe in masti, a Hindi word for ‘being intoxicated with life’, and this is what Monsoon Wedding’ is about.”
Of course! But it took me most of the film to realise that, too bothered that I was by the apparent absence of story or themes. I was still enjoying the easy-flowing vibe that inhabits the picture, the charm and warmth of almost every cast member, the abundance of color and the goofiness of Hindi music (the film is filled with song and dance numbers, but in a more casual context than in Bollywood flicks), but I couldn’t help finding the whole enterprise harmless and inconsequential, just another family-centred romantic comedy. Sure, the exotic setting is refreshing, but make change all the actors for white-bread Americans attending a wedding in Vermont or something and you’d have yourself another “Father of the Bride” remake!
I was also thinking that it was like the wedding party which opens The Godfather transposed to India, except that instead of being an introduction that’s the whole movie! Now, having watched the whole thing not once but twice, I finally get that while all that is true, it’s also the point, silly! The film is like spending two hours at Nair’s dinner table, yet like at all family gatherings, beyond all the eating and talking and dancing, all kinds of little joys and dramas unfold. There’s the father of the bride overwhelmed by the costs of the wedding, the women getting excited about all the shopping involved, the young boy more interested in cooking and dancing than in playing cricket, the flower-eating (!) wedding planner who falls desperately in love with a cute young housemaid, the cousin concerned with a sleazy uncle, and the bride herself who’s torn between her desire to settle down into this arranged wedding and her passionate affair with a married talk show host…
Through all this, there’s also the issue of India’s future: “Just because India has gone global, should we embrace everything? How about our ancient culture, our tradition, our values?” Hence we get a juxtaposition of traditional clothing and Gucci suits, Hindi ornamentation and cell phones, henna and tattoos. Mira Nair directed the film as “organised chaos”, which she says is representative of life in India, and while it’s confusing initially to find your way through the sixty-something characters, by the third act we feel we know them, at least well enough to care about what happens to them. For instance, I was unexpectedly moved by the difficult action the father makes for the sake of his children, and by the last shots of the family members dancing and laughing, I was as happy as them! This is what “Monsoon Wedding” is about, the characters and the audience being intoxicated with life. Masti!
The film is presented Widescreen with DTS or Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound, with optional English, French or Spanish subtitles. Special features include Mira Nair’s compelling running commentary, a brief but interesting making-of featurette and the film’s theatrical trailer.