..

MONSOON WEDDING

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Naseeruddin Shah, Lillete Dubey, Shefali Shetty, Vasundhara Das, Vijay Raaz, Tilotama Shome
Director:  Mia Nair
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1
Video:  Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  Universal
Features:  Trailer, Making-Of Featurette, Commentary Track
Length:  115 Minutes
Release Date:  September 24, 2002

ďI know itís a risk.  But what marriage isnít a risk?Ē

Film ***1/2

Love can take you by stormÖif you donít believe that, then maybe itís time you went to a Monsoon Wedding.

Directed by Mia Nair, this is a buoyant romantic comedy set against the lush backdrop of India as a family frantically tries to prepare for their daughterís arranged marriage.  The only problem is that the girl, Aditi (Das), has secretly been having an affair with a married television star for some timeÖnot exactly the right foot to start a marriage off on!

But the film carries such an effervescent sense of magic, you tend to believe anything is possibleÖeven love in a relationship that exists because of parents bargaining.  The spirit comes mostly from the numerous wonderful characters, from Aditi to her loving, anxious parents Lalit (Shah) and Pimmi (Dubey), who demonstrate throughout what long lasting love is all about, to the hapless wedding planner Dube (Raaz), a man who had thought romance had passed him by until he fell hard for the family housekeeper Alice (Shome).  Aditiís cousin Ria (Shetty) holds a secret that things may not all be right in the family.  And so on.

Thatís the brideís family.  The groomís family come later, and though we donít get to know them as well, their flamboyant sense of style leave a lasting impression.  There are many stories at play here, and romance is definitely in the air as the bad weather sets in. 

Some have compared the film to the works of Robert Altman, in that there are many characters to get to know and overlapping dialogue, but he never made a film with quite this tone, especially considering the way the people constantly go back and forth between English and native languages (sometimes in the same sentence!).  But the love for India and her people is a touch that comes from Nair.  The country itself comes across as beautiful, and the women even more soÖI donít think Iíve ever seen so many lovely women in one film before!  If thatís what India is really like, I may have to consider movingÖ

Monsoon Wedding will lift your spirits, make you smile and touch your heart all at the same timeÖand thatís before the life giving rains even begin to flow.  After watching the movie you may consider heading out and grabbing mens wedding bands and an engagement ring and getting married yourself.

Video ***1/2

A very pretty disc, though I donít know why Universal decided to forgo anamorphic enhancement on this one.  All the colors of India shine through with this transfer; itís a veritable cornucopia.  The wedding sequence itself is an absolute feast for the eyes, with its wide range of tones, well-contained colors, sharp images and crisp lines.  Only one or two darker segments show a touch of softness and less definition.  For the most part, this is a superior offering, though.

Audio ***1/2

The best part about the 5.1 audio (Dolby Digital and DTS) is the music.  The percussive Indian sounds come booming through the subwoofer, and both front and rear stages open up to accommodate the enveloping orchestration.  Crowd scenes sound particularly good too, and there are more than a few of them here.  Dialogue seems clean and clear throughout, and dynamic range is definitely formidable.  Good marks.

Features **

The disc contains an informative and engaging commentary track by Ms. Nair, who discusses not only the film but the culture from which it came in good (and sometimes amusing) detail.  There is also a trailer and a short featurette, containing some interview clips with Nair and her cast members.

Summary:

Monsoon Wedding may have sneaked in under many radars, but itís a hidden treasure worth seeking out.  Romantic, funny, and filled with wonderfully colorful characters set against a beautiful and exotic backdrop, this is the kind of comedy that doesnít paint by the numbers, but cheerfully goes outside the lines to make love, humor, and magic all seem possible.