When I finished watching Monsoon Wedding, directed by Mira Nair of Amelia and New York, I Love You fame, I said out loud, “I loved that movie, how come I’ve never seen it before?!” Let’s admit it, sometimes we think that we’ve tried all the delicious food in the world and have seen all the good movies ever made, so as the movie ended I felt thankful that movies like this one are still being made.
Monsoon Wedding is essentially about an impending arranged marriage with the bride-to-be as the central character, though the cast is really an ensemble which encompasses her mother, father, little brother, female cousin and branching out further into her extended family. This movie addresses a plethora of issues that include familial relationships between female cousins, father and daughter, uncle and niece; discovering love; sexual abuse (and somehow Nair presents the issue with such delicacy, conviction and honesty that you are left feeling empowered by its confrontation); falling in love; blooming hetero/homosexuality in a young boy; the fluidity of tradition, including Hindi women and tattoos; arranged marriage as a positive; and sex in midlife, to highlight only a few.
Visually, the movie is stunning; it brims with vibrant reds, oranges and greens. The wedding is decorated with thousands of bright orange flowers that also seem to punctuate the film. The wedding tent (set up to shield the wedding party from monsoon rains) is bright red, eschewing the traditional white. The tent is actually originally white and the father of the bride asks the wedding planner if the occasion is a wedding or a funeral. The women are dressed in primary colors, gold, silver and with glittering beads and accents. Suffice it to say, these women are not afraid of color.
After thinking back over the film, I was reminded Kasi Lemmons’s movie Eve’s Bayou in that both of these movies lack racial stereotype–both families are just families, and that is where the story lies. By doing this, the story transcends being about black people, or a movie about Indian people, to a movie about the relationships between family members and the intricacies of romantic relationships. And let’s admit it, this is human condition stuff; things that we all have in common.
Another great facet to Nair’s directing is how she presents India amidst popular notions of it being overpopulated, hot and a land of outsourcing and while all of these may be true, they don’t make the country synonymous with an ill place to live. The film included shots of the country itself: a shabby looking outdoor cafe; people soaked during the monsoon, being taxied around in rickshaws; some houses without indoor plumbing, along with lush green golf courses; amazing chai tea; and expansive views of ancient architecture. Like all countries in the world, you take the good with the bad and by presenting several views of Indian life, Nair offers us as viewers a more fair approximation of the country.
Admittedly, previous to this film I have only seen Deepa Mehta’s films and don’t have much familiarity with Indian directors in general, so I hesitate to say that Nair’s style is indicative of all female Indian directors. Looking at this film as its own entity, even days later I am left with a swelling in my heart when I think of a father affirming his love for his children; the power of kindness changing even the most miserly into a lover; the tradition of arranged marriage being a choice and if chosen, evolving into a solid, respectful, loving and romantic union. If this film suggests even the smallest aspect of Indian families and marriage, then throw me in a sari and serve me some samosas–I’m there.