The Verma family gather in New Delhi for the arranged marriage of Delhi native Aditia and Texan engineer Hemant. As the wedding (and the monsoon season) approaches, five love stories are played out across the generations, cultures clash and family secrets
When this film scooped the Golden Lion Award at Venice, it was greeted with surprise and consternation. Surely this low budget love song to India wasnÆt batting its weight with the more prestigious work of the worldÆs great and good? But Monsoon Wedding is that rare film with enough æartyÆ pretensions to satisfy the high-brow critics and enough old-fashioned storytelling to appeal to the widest audience.
Nair's track record - including an Oscar nomination for her debut feature, Salaam Bombay! - promised great things. Monsoon Wedding delivers in the best possible sense.
Many directors struggle with balancing stories of multiple casts, but Nair manages to switch between them with exactly the right pacing. No couple is off-screen long enough to be missed and no character outstays their welcome. In fact, all are so real, to admit their acting talents would be to break the spell.
Even in scenes where everyone is present, the technique of filming with hand-held camera allows you to switch effortlessly between faces, and every important facial expression and revealing reaction is there. Sometimes these are played out as repeated frames, capturing another's viewpoint in momentary flashes - the second that they fall in love, the instant they notice something new in the family.
Bollywood influences are apparent. Bright colours, soaring music and exuberant dancing represent the traditions of the Punjabi culture. But scratch the surface and there's much more. Key characters, such as the in-coming Australian and Americans, are our guides as they discover their traditional expectations are confounded by knowledge of affairs, failing businesses and very modern views.
An optimistic and luscious film. Dhawan has created a story showing modern India in its best light and Nair brings the tale to the screen in a fresh and original way.
Reviewed by Emma Cochrane