Directed By: Mira Nair
Starring: Naseeruddin Shah, Vasundhara Das, Parvin Dabas
After you’ve seen an Indian wedding, you’ll know what pikers those Italians can be. Lalit Verma (Naseeruddin Shah) is one of those well-to-do modern Indian Brahmins out to impress the relatives, neighbors, and anyone else in Delhi Standard Time. With one foot firmly in the Americanized 21st century and the other in the ancient Mogul world, he’s in over his financial head to marry of his only daughter Aditi (Vasundhara Das) to a nice engineer from Houston, Hemant (Parvin Dabas). It’s arranged, of course, but Hemant really is a nice guy — caring, sensitive, with a big Pepsodent smile. She’s still seeing her ex-lover, but hey, Hemant’s a liberal guy and might not notice — if someone poked his eyes out. Still, an Indian wedding is a monster party, and with expert caterer P.K. Dube (Raaz), on hand, how could it fail? Well, problems lurk here as in any family — the big one being the family’s best friend likes to French kiss pre-pubescent girls. Well, at least it’s not little boys, but when Ria (Shefali Raazz) points out the obvious, it’s a painful break. As the monsoon arrives, everyone dances in the rain, and it’s happily ever after for this Hindi family feud.
Well, all fine and good if you don’t mind home movies of someone else’s kith and kin. Shot in a Dogme style with little artificial lighting and not much other cinematic nicety, it really does seem as if you’ve dropped in on the Verma clan at there finest. They eat, drink, fight, shop, and arrange future legally sanctioned sexual liaisons just like us Westerners. After all, who of us hasn’t gone to a wedding in hopes of picking up a little action on our own? Emotions are real — Lalit over reacts to every thing while picking up the tab along with some potlatch status. Aditi is torn between a guy she really likes and a guy she knows is better for her, plus she wants to get out of the heat and humidity of Delhi and into some place cool and crisp like Houston. The best subplot is the quickie love affair between Dube and the Verma’s housemaid Alice (Tiltama Shome). It’s touching with out being sappy, and when you’re working class, there’s not that much time or money for long courtship. He meets her, falls in love, brings her around, and weds in four days. He’s Speedy Gonzales with a pager.
A cut above so many Bollywood romances, Monsoon still encapsulates all the clichés — loud Hindi pop tunes trapped somewhere between early rock and roll and klezmer, long dance sequence set in the rain, and views of a world so foreign to us yet home to the Indian frequent flyer set. It’s a cross-cultural exploration of life at a turning point — a couple weds and leaves home, and life shifts a bit for everyone in attendance. Human and revealing, these people aren’t all that alien to any of us Americans — they just speak Hindi better when they need to.