The joy of small things
Monsoon Wedding is an artful and accessible look at an Indian family
Indian import Monsoon Wedding highlights what American films used to do well and now hardly ever attempt: tell real stories about little people and reveal the world through them. Its ambitions are subtle, simple and achieved with such thorough delight and unforced tenderness it’s like watching the start of romance between close friends at a summer barbecue.
Directed by Mina Nair, Wedding sets its sights on examining no less than every kind of romantic and familial love over the course of watching one Delhi clan prepare and present the wedding of a daughter.
The plot has Aditi (Vasundhara Das) preparing for an arranged wedding to an Indian who lives in America, Hemant (Parvin Dabas), while still tangled in her relationship with her boss at the local TV station. Left in ignorance of Aditi’s drama but with little bliss in the storm of wedding preparations are Aditi’s harried father Lalit (Naseeruddin Shah) and mother Pimmi (Lillete Dubey), who let us imagine what Aditi and Hemant’s future may be in 20 years.
From this, Nair, who gave us Mississippi Masala and Salaam Bombay!, adds layers of friends, relationships, and complications until the narrative is thick with every vein of love humans can share. Through her deft editing and exacting eye for just the moments that tell the story of romance, she lets us watch the wedding coordinator’s bumbling affection for a shy servant, the lustful attraction between one of Aditi’s cousins and a family friend, as well as the affections of family elders and even Lalit and his adopted daughter when her pain at a past wrong threatens to wreck everything.
Wedding might sound encrusted with the worst kind of melodrama and contrived suspense, but Nair’s careful movement of our attention and effortless visual shorthand are enough to keep the tone real and revealing.
There isn’t a moment when the temptations of modern filmmaking (i.e., close-up on welling eyes as music swells on the soundtrack) or the fumbling moments of artificial drama (will Aditi’s cousins’ secret destroy the family? Will her parents’ traditional ways stifle Aditi’s independent ambitions? Will someone give “The Speech” and win the hearts of everyone?) ruin the spell.
Wedding is artful and accessible at the same time, and that’s no mean feat.