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'Monsoon Wedding'

Indian film explores old customs and modern ways

Friday, March 29, 2002

By Ron Weiskind, Post-Gazette Movie Editor

Just about every frame of "Monsoon Wedding" is filled to the brim -- with people or rainstorms or marigolds or tumult or music or color. In other words, this movie from India overflows with life, with joy and heartache intermingling in the proper balance.

'Monsoon Wedding'

RATING: R for language, including some sex-related dialogue.

STARRING: Naseeruddin Shah, Vasundhara Das, Vijay Raaz, Parvin Dabas.

DIRECTOR: Mira Nair.

WEB SITE: monsoonwedding.com



Now at the Manor Theater, "Monsoon Wedding" centers on Aditi Verma (Vasundhara Das), daughter of an upper middle-class Punjabi businessman. She wants to break off an affair with her boss and agrees to a marriage arranged by her parents to a man she doesn't know, Hemant (Parvin Dabas), an engineer who lives in America.

Aditi's high-strung father, Lalit (Naseeruddin Shah), starts to overheat as the big day approaches and relatives converge from all over the world. He takes most of it out on the loose-limbed, fast-talking tent contractor and caterer, P.K. Dube (Vijay Raaz), but reserves some of it for his family.

However, Aditi is not quite over her ex-lover. P.K. becomes smitten with the Vermas' pretty young maid, Alice (Tilotama Shome). Cousin Ayesha (Neha Dubey) sets her sights on Rahul (Randeep Hooda), who has been going to college in Australia.

Lalit's niece Ria (Shefali Shetty), whom he has reared as a daughter, comes out of her shell, especially when an unwelcome figure from her past shows up for the wedding.

The movie combines many of the divergent forces bearing down upon modern India -- old customs and modern ways, ethnic and geographical separations, rich and poor, native culture and global influence, paternalism and independence.

Director Mira Nair and screenwriter Sabrina Dhawan weave it into a universal thread with which we can all identify. And the influence of Bollywood -- the Indian film industry, with its love of music -- isn't ignored, either. The characters often break into spirited song, sometimes while carrying out a wedding ritual or tradition.

It all culminates in an ending of such joyous celebration that you would have to be made of stone not to be at least lifted in spirit. "Monsoon Wedding" fulfills Nair's goal of capturing what she calls "the intoxicating zest for life of my people."

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