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Sat March 30, 2002
"Delhi is a strange 'globalized' world where tradition butts heads with modernity at every turn"...
By John DeSando, WCBE's
Thanks to Declan Quinn's cinematography, the colors of the Indian culture in "Monsoon Wedding" are as richly hued as anything I've seen since the visually-sumptuous "Moulin Rouge." Director Mira Nair (who visited problematic love also in "Mississippi Masala") has layered the Indian and British worlds like vivid saris by creating a whirl of passions and disappointments as romantic as the Indians and as verbally expressive as the Brits.
I'm not even going to complain as I did with Altman?s "Gosford Park" that I missed dialogue because of accents and stylishly colliding conversation. Here I missed some because Nair courageously mixes Hindi, Punjabi, and English -? no doubt a common occurrence in the busy markets of India. Nair intercuts shots of the crowded streets with her story about a similarly busy upper-middle class wedding where people come and go in each other's lives like the chaotic streets and robust dialogue. About this exotic world Nair has said, "Today, Delhi is a strange 'globalized' world where tradition butts heads with modernity at every turn."
To Nair's credit, she doesn't make it all romantically colorful ?- the abuse of one child by an uncle makes credible that such a complex arrangement of two families could not be without its sorrow and shame. A young servant girl rescued and subsequently courted by the wedding coordinator is as sweet as it is not sumptuous when juxtaposed with the bright colors and sensual dancing of the higher class. The bride-to-be?s affair with a married TV talk show host almost derails the arranged marriage framing the movie. However, too many of these characters tend to types (the young buck, the effeminate son, the lusty niece), and the plot is often too conventional (we know how it will all end up).
The combination of pop, folk, and jazz in the soundtrack is another reflection of Nair's wish to blend cultures. Her "Bollywood" style (Indian musicals in which characters can break out in song and dance at anytime) has as much of Woody Allen's "Everybody says I Love You" as it does the traditional Bombay spectaculars.
In the end, the relentless rain washes away impurities to leave a colorful India where lovers and other strangers are finally at peace. Such a melting pot of culture and life filled with promise is rarely so lovingly depicted. "Monsoon Wedding" deservedly won the Golden Lion as the best film at Venice.
John DeSando co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time" and vice-chairs the board of The Film Council of Greater Columbus.