Stars: *** 1/2
Rating: R for adult situations. In English, Hindi and Punjabi with English subtitles
Run Time: 1 hour, 59 minutes
The vibrant energy of a Punjab family wedding is at the heart of this enchanting, culture-clash of a New Delhi valentine.
Within the confines of a shoestring budget, director Mira Nair (“Mississippi Masala”, “Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love”) has constructed an infectious cultural fable with a tasty balance of family drama and frenetic comedy without ethnic boundaries.
The film centers on the lovely Aditi (Vasundhara Das), a disenchanted beauty who has agreed to an arranged marriage in order to escape a dead-end affair with her married boyfriend. Aditi’s father Lalit (Naseeruddin Shah) is at his wits end with the wedding preparations – high-strung with financial worries, his extended family’s impending arrival, and the crazy antics of the slick, schmoozy, upwardly-mobile wedding planner P.K. Dubey (Vijay Raaz).
Effortless bacchanalian revelry is the objective, but the reality is anything but. Hennaed hands, the traditional money dance, and a profusion of celebratory marigolds sugarcoat a foundation of disturbing secrets that fly in the face of convention. Assignations and bold flirtations threaten to undermine the spiritual mojo and surface harmony of family and ceremony. The bride has cold feet, uncertain of her feelings for her Houston-based engineer of a fiancé (Parvin Dabas as Hermant Rai), who knows little to nothing about her or her backdoor shenanigans.
Nair has a real flair for focusing a keen eye on progress’ effect on traditional culture. Dyed-in-the-wool ritual clashes with contemporary modification at every turn of this very human drama. Sixty eight actors preparing for the party of the season, each with his/her own snippet of story to tell. Amidst a riot of color and sound are five distinct and intriguing subplots involving perplexed wedding guests and/or dysfunctional family members. At the core of this Indian sparkler is a touching love story – two virtual strangers tentatively agreeing to spend a lifetime together, with a closetful of skeletons and the loving support of their families behind them.
Outlandish, energetic, and utterly irresistible, this is the world of “Monsoon Wedding”.