Monsoon Wedding

2001, R, 113 min. Directed by Mira Nair. Starring Naseeruddin Shah, Lillete Dubey, Shefali Shetty, Vasundhara Das, Vijay Raaz, Tiltama Shome, Parvin Dabas, Kamini Khanna, Rajat Kapoor.

REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., March 15, 2002

Monsoon Wedding

The family storm clouds that gather in Monsoon Wedding don't bode well for the imminent nuptials of the film's title: Among other things, the harried father of the bride is broke; the bride is having an illicit affair with a married man; the caretaker uncle is just a little too familiar with the bride's pre-adolescent sister; and the bride and the groom have never met each other. Despite what these foreboding elements might portend, however, Monsoon Wedding is one of the most joyous celebrations of family seen on the screen in a while. Taking her cue from Robert Altman, Nair introduces the film's numerous characters at a brisk pace, leaving you to piece together their past and present relationships as the movie progresses toward the wedding day of an upper-middle-class New Delhi woman and an Americanized Indian man living in the United States. (Indeed, Altman used the matrimonial setting for his 1978 farce, A Wedding, a somewhat better film that is, however, completely different in tone.) It's a directorial style that piques your interest in what's happening onscreen, and Nair assuredly navigates the narrative and its characters with minimal confusion, although this steady hand seems a bit languorous at times. She also has an uncanny eye for faces -- the ensemble cast of Monsoon Wedding is a veritable array of beautiful, handsome, and intriguing visages, each distinctive from the others. Without a doubt, the most interesting of these belongs to Raaz in the role of P.K. Dubey, the self-important event coordinator (he lives for his cell phone) whose pomposity deflates as he falls for the lovely housekeeper, Alice. The know-it-all jut of his chin that marks his appearance at the film's beginning is in direct contrast to the hangdog droop of that same chin in the film's latter scenes. In Monsoon Wedding, the truth, despite the pain and agony that its revelation may cause, unshackles its characters and bestows them with the potential for a better life in the future. Indeed, by the rainy wedding day, nothing can dampen the collective ebullience of these people as they rejoice not only in the new union between the bride and the groom, but also in the unions of family and friendship that have brought them to this place. It's an infectiously sweet ending that may tickle your heart just a little.

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Monsoon Wedding, Mira Nair, Naseeruddin Shah, Lillete Dubey, Shefali Shetty, Vasundhara Das, Vijay Raaz, Tiltama Shome, Parvin Dabas, Kamini Khanna, Rajat Kapoor

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