Monsoon Wedding Review

Mar 04, 2002 | 1:03pm EST

It's summertime in New Delhi and the monsoon rain is about the only thing that alleviates the season's sweltering heat--heat that comes not only from the sun but also from the lives and loves of the high-spirited Verma family. Stressed-out Lalit (Naseeruddin Shah) and his wife Pimmi (Lillete Dubey) are struggling to maintain their moderate standard of living while spending a fortune on a wedding for their daughter Aditi (Vasundhara Das) who would rather continue her affair with her married lover than wed the young man chosen for her Hemant (Parvin Dabas). Still unmarried liberated cousin Ria (Shefali Shetty) is the most outspoken one of the family but has nevertheless kept a terrible family secret involving Uncle Tej (Rajat Kapoor) to herself for many years. Sexy extroverted teenage cousin Ayesha (Neha Dubey) begins a steamy undercover flirtation with distant Westernized relative Rahul (Randeep Hooda) who has been living in Australia. Meanwhile never a bridegroom always a coordinator wedding planner P.K. Dubey (Vijay Raaz) finds that love sneaks up on him when he falls for the family's sweet young servant Alice (Tilotama Shome). These actors are so believable it's like you're a fly on the wall watching them interact in their Delhi home. Shah the embattled father Lalit is one of India's foremost actors with four best actor FilmFare Awards (the Indian equivalent of the Oscar) to his credit and he carries this movie just like a father shoulders his family's trials and tribulations. The girls are all terrific particularly Shetty who steals the show as the freethinking young woman who stands up to her relatives. The doll-like Das captivates as the shy troubled bride whose enormous blue eyes show great emotion. Shome as servant girl Alice has perhaps the fewest lines in the movie but her expressions convey the allure of a girl becoming a woman. Raaz who has a great talent for physical comedy and who travels the film's greatest character arc is also outstanding; he's sneaky and distasteful at first as the excitable shifty wedding planner Dubey but he ends up as the most loveable character in the movie when it becomes clear he only wants to find someone of his own to love and love him. Director Mira Nair returns to contemporary India for the first time since her Academy Award-winning 1988 directorial debut Salaam Bombay!. With Monsoon Wedding she makes you feel like you've actually spent two hours in India--from the pouring rain in the lush countryside to the teeming Delhi streets packed with people and every kind of transportation you can imagine to the Verma's modest home that's different yet all too similar to an American home. Wedding is a fascinating look at a slice of life in a family trying to balance Western attitudes with deep-rooted cultural mores--and finding they're often at odds. The film is vibrant and rich offering a real sensory experience through the women's colorful saris the alternation between the sometimes-discordant traditional music and modern techno the back-and-forth of the actors' speech between Hindi Punjabi and English. The handheld camera used to capture it all on film gives even more of an intimate feeling to the production. Only thing is at almost exactly two hours the movie is a little long--the story took place over four days and you feel like you spent that much time in the theater.

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