(2001) dir. Mira Nair
viewed: 08/29/02 at Balboa Theater, SF, CA
I’d been sort of intending to see this film for some time, but circumstance led me to think it would eventually be showing up in the DVD section of the film diary rather than here in “theatrical”. But circumstance took another little turn, a most-conveniently-timed showing of a movie on a Friday night with a baby-sitter in place, and Presto! We were there.
Mira Nair’s film is a comedic melodrama. Centered on a fairly wealthy middle class family, the film attempts a broader glimpse of Indian life, following out the narratives of some of the less well-to-do characters and occasionally capturing the hubbub of New Delhi, the city outside of which most of the action takes place.
Unlike Alfonso Cuarón’s Y tu mamá también, however, Monsoon Wedding is not nearly as interested in the landscape that describes the “place,” but focuses instead on the trials and tribulations of one extended family in true ensemble cast fashion. It’s a reasonably well-drawn group portrait, though not overly dynamic. The cliches of the melodrama tend to make a lot of plot points come along in ways that one can easily envision. The fleeting images of the crowded, bustling city center are a stark contrast to the posh family home that is the center of the film both as a set location and as a theme.
I guess that one of the reasons that this film has found its reasonable success in the U.S. is the recognizability of the melodramatic scenarios at the heart of the narrative. It’s quite well within the tradition of the genre.
There is a lot going on in this film, and a lot that one could glom onto. One of the most prominent storylines involves child-molestation and a wealthy family friend who happens to be the only non-Indian character in the film. He is an English man, whose family has helped the Verma clan to their place in society. I sense that there are many ways to read this whole situation, some of which I could hazard guesses about, others of which I feel that I lack enough knowledge of India to fully elucidate, but the colonialist history seems significant here.
There is more there, but that is all I got for the moment.