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January’s library film pick is ‘Monsoon Wedding’
Tired of dreary winter weather? Getting the post-holiday blahs? Longing for warmer temps, longer days?
Take a break. Come to the enveloping warmth of Delhi, India for “Monsoon Wedding,” the opening salvo of our 2013 season of Movies at the Library. It will be shown at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, January 8, on the lower level of the library.
“Exuberant.” “Joyous.” “Lush.” “Ebullient.” “Vibrant.” These are a few of the words of praise critics have used to describe the film. One critic declared, “I was grinning from ear to ear for hours after watching this movie.”
We think you will be too.
“Monsoon Wedding,” directed by Mira Nair and written by Sabrina Dahwan, follows Aditi Verma (Vasundhara Das) as she prepares to marry Hemant (Parvin Dabas), a computer programmer from Houston. Their marriage has been arranged by their parents. Arranged marriages are an ancient tradition in India, but these two young people are decidedly upper class and thoroughly modern. Aditi has asked her parents to arrange a marriage, not only out of respect for her parents and tradition, but also as a way out of her affair with a married television host.
The movie swirls us into the days leading up to the wedding, introducing us with warmth and gusto to a wide cast of characters, a web of family relationships, a handful of sub-plots and at least three languages — English, Hindi and Punjabi — all of them sometimes used in the same sentence. Altogether it’s a celebratory look at how modern Indian culture copes with its own past and renders it contemporary as well as appealingly relevant.
Like all fathers of the bride, Aditi’s father (Naseeruddin Shah) worries — about the weather, his duties as host, whether he is being overcharged by the wedding planner and whether his bank account will survive the festivities. Aditi’s mother is overjoyed that her daughter has agreed to the marriage and wants to go all out to see that the knot is tightly tied. The wedding planner (Vijay Raaz) falls hopelessly in love with the Verma family’s maid. Cousins arrive from all over the globe, bringing their own stories with them. And all along, we wonder whether the bride and groom, meeting for the first time only a few days before the wedding, will even like each other.
Throughout, director Nair’s love for her characters is readily apparent. The Vermas are a family in transition — a phenomenon that creates tension and feelings of loss as well as possibility. Nair clearly appreciates the push and pull of emotions for all of her cast. She handles even the darker elements of the story with grace and sensitivity. She moves deftly between story lines, using the brilliant colors of Declan Quinn’s cinematography and an utterly contemporary soundtrack to amplify the quick comedic lines and heart-tugging moments of truth in her story.
Nair, who also directed “Salaam Bombay!” and “Mississippi Masala” said she wanted to make a Bollywood movie in her own way. With “Monsoon Wedding” she has succeeded brilliantly, taking us to a place halfway around the world and introducing us to characters we feel we know the moment we meet them.
“Monsoon Wedding” runs one hour, 53 minutes; was released in 2002 by Universal Studios. It won the Golden Lion award as the best film at the Venice Film Festival in 2001. It’s a film well worth seeing and guaranteed to make you forget the winter blahs for at least a couple of hours.
See you January 8 at the movies!