Monsoon Wedding
(Click here for Internet Movie Database entry)

       Monsoon Wedding is definitely a romantic comedy, Indian-style.  It is all about east meeting west and past meeting future.  The story follows a young couple (Vasundhara Das and Parvin Dabas) who have barely met but whose marriage has been arranged by their parents.  They are not at all traditional themselves. The groom lives in Houston and the bride is having an affair with India's version of Jerry Springer.  But still the couple are unwilling to go against their families' wishes.  Set in Delhi (I was just there in December) Monsoon Wedding begins a few days before the wedding with the father of the bride (Naseeruddin Shah) frantically trying to organize the ceremony.  The plot is a combination of Father of the Bride and The Wedding Planner.  The J.Lo role is played in Monsoon Wedding by a slightly sleazy but romantic entrepreneur (Vijay Raaz) who eats marigolds like popcorn.  One of the many subplots has Raaz falling in love with and then wooing a maid (Tilotama Shome) working for the Bride's family.  Their story is a counterpoint to Das and Dabas and makes Monsoon Wedding  into a bit of an Indian version of Gosford Park showing life above and below stairs.  And Monsoon Wedding has almost as many characters and subplots.  The action is pretty frantic with the various subplots constantly churning. This movie really moves along.
     Monsoon Wedding is definitely an Indian film but it is to Bollywood what Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is to Hong Kong cinema.  It has a slightly western style about it because the director of Monsoon Wedding like Ang Lee, lives in the United States.  She is Mira Nair who hails originally from Bhubaneshwar, India (I was there too).  Her first film, Salaam Bombay, was nominated for Best Foreign Film in 1988.  She is best known for directing Mississippi Masala.  The script for Monsoon Wedding , written by Sabrina Dhawan, is amazing. The characters switch between English, Hindi and Punjabi constantly, often in mid-sentence.  You have to have your wits about you because you are constantly  switching between reading subtitles and listening to dialogue.
     The only familiar face in the cast is Roshan Seth who plays the father of the groom.  He has appeared previously in Ghandi, Passage to India, My Beautiful Laundrette, and Mississippi Masala.  He is excellent but so are the rest of the cast.  In particular, Shah, Raaz and Shefali Shetty who plays a cousin of the bride are outstanding.   Monsoon Wedding  is mostly a light-hearted romp although there are some serious moments.  And it does a better job of weaving the light and heavy parts together than Y Tu Mama Tambien.  I was totally caught up in the energy of this movie.  It is my early favorite for Best Foreign Film of the year.