Winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice film festival, Mira Nair's delightful ensemble piece is a mouth-watering masala of comedy, drama and romance. Set in Delhi during monsoon season, it details the rituals, crises and conflicts surrounding an arranged marriage intended to reunite an extended Indian family. But it's also a love letter to Delhi itself, a city where ancient tradition jostles with dot.com modernity to a soundtrack of Bollywood and bhangra.
From Robert Altman to PJ Hogan, weddings have always provided directors with scope for culture clash hilarity and cathartic revelations. Nair's spin on this well-worn formula is a perceptive critique of India's globalized aspirations. From the wheeler-dealer hired to erect the wedding marquee, to the college boy returning from Australia to find the girls more brazen than those he left behind, Delhi is portrayed as a city of contrasts, where corporate wealth rubs shoulders with appalling poverty and strict morality clashes with drunken revelry.
Oscillating between English and Punjabi and mixing documentary-style footage of urban India with song 'n' dance sequences reminiscent of Bollywood, Nair's picture mirrors the Dogme film Festen with its provocative child abuse subplot and shaky handheld photography.
But these are only a few of the ingredients that make up an intoxicating movie, the disparate elements of which converge to create a heart-warming and profoundly emotional climax. The cast is uniformly excellent, though Naseeruddin Shah deserves a special mention as the frantic father of the bride. As an ordinary bloke struggling to do the right thing by everyone he is both comic and tragic, ingratiatingly humble yet hugely dignified. A great actor giving the performance of his life.
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A terrific ensemble cast make this one wedding you won't want to leave. It's not staple multiplex fare, but Monsoon Wedding has real crossover potential.