"Monsoon Wedding"An Issues Film Untainted by Art
Review by Poonam Srivastava
I saw Monsoon Wedding, due to all the excited chatter surrounding this "hit". Who needs two hours of Thanksgiving holiday-type-family ennui at plot speed minus two? For those that do, I highly recommend Mira Nair's latest box office "success": Monsoon Wedding.
Catchy title, catchy cast, and hot issues meet no plot, no dialogue, and absolutely no character development. Set in Delhi, in an upper middle class home, a cast of established actors portray post -Y2k Diaspora Indians; NRIs, ABCDs, Delhi-ites, etc., gathered for a wedding. The bride is a Delhi hotty who is having an affair with a married broadcaster. The groom is an H1-B Visa- guy from "Amrika", working in computers -- ofcourse. During the course of the film, class issues become apparent, an incestuous uncle is brought out, and a grieving daughter, whose father died, gets funded to go school abroad for writing. The film sets up its tone early one with a cheesy segment of Mr. Broadcaster presenting a fatter, less than fashionable middle aged woman doing sexy sound effects. After a quick kiss and grab in the dressing room the scene shifts to Bride's home and irate Dad cursing the crew that is to set up the tent. This, the setting up of the tent will take up much of the viewers pleasure.
I had the feeling through this film of being a fly on the wall at a family gathering. No, if I had been that fly I would have flown away. There simply was no one that I felt excited enough about in the goings on to watch. It is definitely a voyeuristic perspective that the audience is presented with. I was, as it were, merely a hapless film go-er trying to get my money's worth. So I stayed a bit longer than I should have. As an ABCD, american born culturally conscious desi, I was outraged. After scores of conquests around the planet in literature, science and the arts -- what was the need for a "look how the others live" film to be made about "my people"? True to Mira Nair's established style, every single cliched, caricatural, image of "those Indian people" I knew was dragged before my eyes. The humor was slap- stick and cheap laughs were had for those that could grab them. The characters were oh so boring, one sided, flat … what is left to say?
Why this film is a "success" totally flabbergasts that person inside me that insists on linking success to taste, art, and culture. Why this film is not a success totally flabbergasts that person within me that believes in formulas: hot issues, incest (for god's sake!), an impure bride, adultery (and all still not sexy!); hot sub-culture; and a great location. If only there was an artist here that would weave a tale and breath life into the ingredients above, we could have a hell of a movie. Maybe we need a filmmaker, like G. Chadha, who directed Bhaji on the Beach?