Have you ever seen a film that seems like it was taken at your own sister or brother (or any other family member’s) wedding? For those looking forward to a raw piece of cinema that doesn’t deal with the world’s hardships in connotations of the wrongs this world has done to us, but the reality in each of our lives, Mira Nair gives us Monsoon Wedding, all that and more. Watching Monsoon Wedding will identify an Indian person’s NRI lives with at least, at least, one memory of their life. Perhaps one they cherish or one they loath to think of, but certainly Monsoon Wedding affirms the fact that a “raw” real film can be made without having to stoop to run of the mill Bollywood standards, and without leaving the norms of a normal film.
Mira Nair was probably recognized solely for the trashy (can’t call it anything else, really) Kamasutra, and with only few credible titles on her list; I really had little faith in this product. Well after watching it, one can easily say Mira Nair confirms her status of an intelligent filmmaker.
The film, sort of like a modern day Hum Aapke Hain Koun without the masala overdose and faux emotions, revolves around an upper class Delhi businessman Lalit (Nasserudin Shah). His only daughter is about to get married. As the families and guests start arriving and celebrations get under way the problems also start to arise.
While the skeleton of the film revolves around the wedding we are taken deeply into the lives of each of the family members. Realistically. The teenage cousin who attempts her sexuality. The bride to be whose temptations outweigh her anxiety. The young boy who isn’t given enough attention. All of it. We are smoothly transitioned into number of interesting and captivating subplots.
Lalit´s daughter Aditi (Vasundhra Das) is about to get married in an arrange marriage to Hemant (Parvin Dabas), but the catch is that she is still in love with a married man Vikram (Sameer Arya). Before the night of the marriage she complicates things further by committing adultery with him, only to later realize what she has done is wrong. The second subplot revolves around P.K Dubey (Vijay Raaz). He is Lalit’s eccentric wedding planner a.k.a "mandap" decorator who falls for Lalit’s maid. Things seem to be going well for Dubey until a slight complication muddles things up.
Last but not least is the sub-plot of Aditi´s cousin played by Shefali Shetty (of Satya fame). She has a very deep and dark past, a past, which will wreck family ties and years of bonds on the marriage day.
Performances in a movie like this are the key factor and Nair has managed to extract superlative performances from the entire cast. With a cast of established and ever reputable veterans to up-and-coming talented newcomers each and every performer leaves their mark. Nasserudin Shah as Lalit gives a performance, which is in fact, a textbook in acting itself. One can learn so much about acting by just watching Shah. His facials, dialogue delivery, body language, emotional scenes or comedy scenes all get etched into the viewers minds and Mr. Shah proves he is still a talent to reckon with, all he needs is a good role and script. It is clearly another landmark in his career.
Lilette Dubey gives a fine tuned performance as Lalit’s wife. Earlier seen in Deepa Mehta’s 1947 Earth, she supports Nasserudin Shah very well. Their scenes shared together are the best of the lot. Shefali Shetty arguably gives the best performance in the entire movie. As the cousin with the troubled past she has an author backed role and one that is sure to win her a lot of accolades. She proved she was an actress with undeniable talent in Satya, and here she again reaffirms that fact.
Vijay Raaz as the wedding planner is one character that will be loved by the frontbenchers. He is straight of the streets and his entire get-up and persona makes up for one very "real" performance. Raaz gives a very raw and natural performance and one can compare his acting style to actors like Manoj Bajpai and Sanjay Navrekar though Manoj is arguably notches ahead.
His love story is the perfect sub-plot and is infused very well into the film’s story. Vasundra Das is quite pleasing in her role. After a simple role in Hey Ram she attempts a very modern and bold character and gives a good account of herself. She is however, easily overshadowed by Shefali Shetty in the scenes featuring the two together. The man who played Tejpal Uncle is simply astounding also. His character is one the audiences will not like at all. The actor is barely recognizable here. Parvin Dabas, Sameer Arya, Khulbhushan Kharbandha and the entire cast lend great support and suit their role perfectly.
Sabrina Dhawan’s screenplay in one word is flawless! All the subplots, scenarios and characters are simply perfect. The movie starts out a bit slow, but that is intentional as the movie and characters slowly start growing on you and it is a great way to build momentum. The last thirty minutes of the movie are absolutely throbbing due to the tight screenplay.
The dialogues in the movie are also very witty. The characters in the movie speak in a mix of English and Hindi, which is keeping in mind with the upper class Delhi setting of the movie. The movie can be classified as a "Hinglish" film just like American Desi.
Technically the film is great. The cinematography in the movie is aptly glistened with excellent use of the hand held camera. Michael Daaney´s musical contribution was relatively song but the songs were appealing. The background music fits the move wonderfully. Famous tunes from Bollywood films have been perfectly placed throughout the movie keeping in mind with the film’s theme.
As a director Mira Nair gives her finest piece of work to date and one of the best pieces of cinema I have seen from Bollywood in recent times. This is not your regular "masala" film and Mira has been very bold by tackling themes like sex and incest. She takes utmost care in directing every scene in the movie and handles it with the right amount of sensitivity needed in a movie of this sort. Though the sexual aspect of the film is surely made for an International audience, outside of the Indian family filmi lovers. Never the less, if I had to list the scenes to note in this movie I would be listing a lot of portions since as the movie is filled with classic scenes.
Monsoon Wedding is indeed a masterpiece from Bollywood and can be classified as one of the most intelligent and entertaining pieces of cinema we’ve seen in recent times.