• Release date: 30/11/2001
  • Directed by: Mira Nair
  • Written by: Sabrina Dhawan
  • Cast: Naseeruddin Shah, Lillete Dubey, Shefali Shah,Vijay Raaz, Tillotama Shome, Vasundhara Das, Parvin Dabas, Rajat Kapoor

When we think of Bollywood Wedding films, we think Hum Aapke Hain Kaun …! Hum Saath Saath Hain or Vivah for that matter. Films buoyed by music, comedy and a host of colorful and gold-hearted characters who cannot put a single wrong step. Everything is perfect from the settings to the costume to the Wedding ceremony in itself. The story may take a downward spiral for a minute or two but in the end, everything falls perfectly in place. What these films further ascertained was the concept of a virgin bride. Monsoon Wedding takes all these factors and turns everything on its head.

The film relates the story of Lalit Verma (Naseeruddin Shah) a stressed-out father who is running short of cash and patience and he embarks on a herculean journey to marry off his daughter. The bride Aditi (Vasundhara Das) is still in love with her married ex and often gives in to her carnal desires for him. She doesn’t believe that he will divorce his wife and marry her and so decides to “ok” the arranged marriage with Hemant (Parvin Dabas). Things take an ugly turn when during one of her getaways with her ex, the couple is harassed by the police for indecent exposure. There is also Ria (Shefali Shah), Aditi’s cousin sister who is still unmarried and apparently has been sexually abused by a foxy Uncle Tej Puri (Rajat Kapoor) as a child. Things start spiraling out of control when Tej Puri arrives and Ria gets reasons to believe that he might be targeting a new prey in the form of the little Alia.

If that was not enough, we also have a smitten event manager, PK Dubey (Vijay Raaz) who finds his love in Alice (Tillotama Shome), the Verma’s house-maid during the wedding. Add to that brimming romances between distant relatives, a kid who is about to be packed off to boarding school to be toughened up and hates his parents for it, mothers who are looking for brides and grooms for their children and the incessant monsoon rain that plays out as the motif and you have a Wedding film that is unlike anything that you have a chance of seeing in mainstream Bollywood.

I loved the imperfections of Monsoon Wedding. I loved the fact that the bride in itself was sexually active with a guy days before her own marriage and had the guts to spell it out to the groom before she gave in to him wholeheartedly. I loved the fact that the groom reacts in a brutal manner to start with but then gains his composure realizing what a novel and brave thing the girl had just done. In the end they make a lovely couple.

I loved the fact that the father here was a real man. Lalit was broke, constantly asked for money from his friends, haggled with the event manager for pesky little matters and didn’t have the courage to stand up to a man who had done him favors to start with. He is also shown frustrated at minor discrepancies in the marriage, is hyper-reactive at many junctures, bullies people sometimes but in the end, he conjures up enough courage to do one right thing that makes him truly the alpha male of the household. That sequence where he throws Tej Puri out of his house was a clincher for me.

I loved the way Ria’s character shapes up through the film. Unfortunately, I knew about the plot of the film before I watched it and I can only imagine what kind of impact the scene that reveals the history of abuse of Ria would have had on me had I not been prepared for it in advance. I was enthralled by the manner in which she reacts when she is in the company of her tormentor played by Rajat Kapoor. The facial twitches, the looking away and sometimes looking at him, the fake smiles and so much more add up to convey the state of mind of the girl who has to mingle with the man that she hates. Shefali Shah was a revelation in this role.

Vijay Raaz and Tillotama Shome play out a beautiful track among them that feels almost detached from the main narrative but brings into the picture a real story of “the others” in the film who are almost always either made caricatures of in mainstream Bollywood Wedding films or just don’t exist within the frame. This was another departure from the conventional stuff. Their chemistry was not only loveable but also showed different shades that added to the charm of it. Even the smaller bit romances like the one between Randeep Hooda and Neha Dubey is aesthetically done and wonderfully realized.

The wedding happens in a manner that I don’t think we have ever seen even in real life. The groom arrives for the ceremony amidst torrential rain and the same continues almost throughout the wedding. The dances and the dresses of the attendees are all in tatters. But there is a natural feel of happiness to it all. None of the people seem too bothered by their ruined clothes and moves. Instead, the rain seems to have added to the color and fervor of the whole occasion. Lalit Verma seems to be totally in the groove after doing that one legit thing and Ria for once give into the child in her. The marrying couple is restrained but the glances and smiles that they share make it evident that they have found peace and love in each other’s company.

Monsoon Wedding is my favorite Bollywood Wedding film. It is so for its realistic portrayal of real scenarios, for its terrific story and treatment and for its flawless performances and direction. It is also one of those films that is photographed with a kind of vitality that is rare in Bollywood. Handheld cams, shaky framing, characters shot overhead. It almost gives a home video like feel which further elevates its charm and reach. Mira Nair makes a Wedding film turning on its head every concept and formula set forth by Bollywood and the outcome is as stupendous as it is heartwarming.

Rating : 4/5 (4 out of 5 Stars)   



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