Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Monsoon Wedding [2001]

Monsoon Wedding [Mirabai Films 2001] is Mira Nair's wonderful film following the wedding of a middle class Punjabi family in New Delhi, India. While delightful, it offers a rarely seen look into postmodern Indian life. Rather than the stereotyped scenes of holy men and villages racked with the poor, it takes us into the lives of a richer, hidden India. We see the contest between postmodern values and tradition. What else but a wedding could put these two next to each other. Just like in America!
The list of what one can see is extensive. It starts with wealthy housing, but goes on. They use cell phones and are plagued with bad signals. One expects the Verizon fellow to ask "Can you here me?" A television program debates old versus new values and pornography. The kids act like US teenagers. One is accused by his parent of sitting in front of the television too much. A mother, living in a poorer section of town bemoans to her son how her stock picks have prospered. The men are in western clothes until the wedding. They drink scotch. They swear like crazy. The wedding kicks off with a traditional picture taken by paid photographers. We find out that the bride is "not a morning person." Like young adults in North Dakota, she wants to get out of this place, to America, of course. The bride shares a popsicle with a friend. The older men use a golf cart on the spacious course. They drive nice cars and one can spot Coca-Cola signs in the background.
Tradition is represented by the older characters. The structure of the wedding is traditional. There are lots of nose piercings. The women generally wear traditional or near-traditional clothes. A grandmother is looking for grandchildren before she dies. The father of the bride and the wedding planner argue over the color of the wedding tent. The planner wants to save money using white, but this is a funeral color in Asia. It must change. Color is also important for the bride as part of a Punjabi ceremony is for her hands to be painted with henna [it lasts about a month or so]. There is a lot of eating of marigolds.
Allyson Johnson [music editor] did a beautiful job of mixing traditional sounds with their postmodernized versions. The beat and sound are of a postmodern India. Of course, everybody dances. It is a wedding.
Physically the character hate the hot weather [hence monsoon], but the rain only seems to have a limited impact on them. The western fear of being wet-only disregarded in Singing in the Rain and once in the works of Tom Robbins-is not present. The rain is OK. This is a natural element of life. With all of this, what can be seen?
Culture inertia and cultural change are contrasted. The normal stereotype of Indian life is that of the village deeply buried in poverty. Monsoon Wedding illustrates that way of life only in the background. Rather it shows the life of India's growing middle class. This will update the viewer's mental images to the reality of a country that is known for poverty, yet has nuclear power, the bomb, and a large computer sector.
People are people. That people are in love and with the wrong person, a common theme on the soaps, transfers to India. People around the world swear; they seek improvement; they have internal fights within the family.
Monsoon Wedding is a great film for taking a look at postmodern India. India is a place different from what most people think. See it here.
It also is an excellent film to introduce young Americans to the films of Bollywood. While structured more like an American film in that it lacks the plot/music alteration of typical Bollywood films and is shorter in length, it brings postmodern life in India clearly to the screen. Once introduced to these films, the wide variety of Bollywood materials is an open door to seeing life in India.
Updated from: Meartz, Paul D. 2002. Geography in Media: Monsoon Wedding. Dakota Alliance XII (4): September-October 2002: 7.

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