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MONSOON WEDDING
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Naseeruddin Shah, Lillete Dubey, Shefali Shetty, Vasundhara Das, Vijay Raaz, Tilotama Shome
Director:  Mia Nair
Audio:  DTS HD 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  Criterion
Features:  See Review
Length:  115 Minutes
Release Date:  October 20, 2009

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 planer 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.

Video ***1/2

At last, with Criterion's release, we get to see Nair's vision in both anamorphic widescreen and 1080p high definition.  This is a lovely Blu-ray release, and if it shows a little grain or other film stock limitations here and there, it can be more than forgiven for bringing us all the vivid details and beautiful colors of India, her people, and her celebrations.  A treat!

Audio ***1/2

This Blu-ray delivers an uncompressed DTS HD soundtrack that is quite lively.  The best part 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.

Features **

In addition to Mira Nair's original full length commentary track, this Criterion edition boasts some all-new extras for fans, including Nair's own interview with her actor Naseeruddin Shah, plus an interview with director of photography Declan Quinn and production designer Stephanie Carroll.  The original trailer is also included.

But this disc also brings 7 of Mira Nair's short films together.  Most all are political in nature (and one was actually commissioned by the United Nations), but all show sides of the director different than what she brought to Monsoon Weddings.  This Blu-ray has her documentaries So Far From India, India Cabaret, and my personal favorite, The Laughing Club of India, which really is what it sounds like.  Completing the package is four fictional shorts, Migration, How Can It Be?, The Day the Mercedes Became a Hat, and even a look at what happened in India on the day of our terrible terrorist attack in her segment of 11'9"01: September 11.

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.  Bringing Mira Nair's international breakthrough together with a collection of her short fictional and documentary works makes this Criterion Blu-ray a very worthy addition to your home theatre library.

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