"As frenetic, expansive, and joyously accessible as good jazz."
Monsoon Wedding takes a small idea about a pending wedding ceremony and turns it into an exhuberant statement about life, love and family loyalty.It's four days before his daughter is to get married in a lavish garden ceremony at his house in New Delhi and Lalit Verma (Naseeruddin Shah) has a few major problems. The extended family are arriving from across the globe, the wedding planner is starting to look a bit dodgy and is spending his time eating marigolds and to top it all off Lalit can't really afford the whole shebang in the first place.
But this is a middle class, upwardly mobile Indian family and with that comes significant social responsibility and the need to protect and enhance one's reputation.
Lalit's daughter isn't overly fussed about getting married. In order to do so she must end her affair with a married TV presenter. Lalit's maid seems to be hitting it off with the clumsy wedding planner Dubey (Vijay Raaz), who must surely have one of the most interesting faces in film, and hidden behind the frivolties, the gaiety, the noise of all this, is an unresolved conflict between Lalit's mature-age niece and the man who once molested her. A man held in high esteem by the Lalit.
There's a lot going on in this film. For a start it's representative of a new globalised Indian family. the groom is from Houston, Lalit's son lives in Sydney and between them all dialogue shifts effortlessly and melodically between English, Punjabi and Hindi. The film is bathed in good natured humour and gentle relationships and doesn't mind even having a laugh at it's own expense, milking the wedding planner's idiosyncracies for all they are worth.
But in the end it's just a slice of life. A story about finding love by arrangement and finding love in an instant and it's a film which celebrates womanhood. Some of the pivotal and memorable scenes belong entirely to the female characters.
Naturally the monsoon in the title refers to the weather pattern as well as being a metaphor for the events of the film and perhaps a signifier for the future of its characters. the monsoon brings the rain that ultimately allows things to grow anew.
It's a very well balanced film with the exception of the mild paedophilia history between two of the characters which somehow cheapens the experience by rolling out a tired cliche. Why do filmmakers rely on making a character a paedophile to make him dislikable? It's unimaginative. They could just make him a real estate agent!
Aside from this very minor issue the film works magically and is very engaging. The cinematogrpahy is gorgeous, the colours vibrant and even the sometimes shaky camera work really brings the story to life.All in all Monsoon Wedding is a gem. It's not going to change the world. It doesn't have an agenda and it lacks any sense of self-importance. It is what it is, and what it is is delicious easy-watching entertainment.