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Monsoon Wedding (2001)

Reviewed 2001-12-07
: This film is sort of a My Big Fat Greek Wedding for those of the Indian middle class, with fewer outright laughs but just as much Second Look Reviewheart. That said, the similarities are scarce, mostly because the cultures are so different — actually, the culture of MBFGW is American and that of Monsoon Wedding is Indian — and partly because the characters are not well known American types.

Vasundhara Das as Aditi
and Parvin Dabas as Hemant Rai
Where Monsoon Wedding succeeds, and I think brilliantly, is in making these unfamiliar character types seem like comfortable, old friends. In spite of the trilingual communication (English, Hindi, Punjabi), and perhaps because of the universal appeal of a story that mixes, if it doesn't exactly conflict, the old-world values work with the modern-day mores and technology. The plot is simple: Aditi Verma (Vasundhara Das) accepts a marriage arranged by her parents (Naseeruddin Shah and Lillete Dubey) to a computer programmer from Houston she has never met (Parvin Dabas), after a failed affair with a married TV producer. The wedding planner (Vijay Raaz) is smitten with the Verma's maid (Tilotama Shome); a family benefactor is found to be a serial child molester; and a new romance between Aditi's attractive cousin Ayesha (Neha Dubey) and Rahul (Randeep Hooda).

That all this works so well is a credit to excellent ensemble acting and, of course, to director Mira Nair's sure hand (she directed Mississippi Masala, 1991). It is missing the point to say that things eventually work out in the end. It's the getting there, even in the monsoon rain, that's most of the fun.

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Ronald Bruce Meyer is a freelance reviewer.