Many a novice viewer of Bollywood movies has offered the comment that “they are all the same.” Such comments, of course, may be the result of an othering Gaze that, by paying attention to stylized ritual and ceremony, does not perceive subtle but important differences. On the other hand, filmmakers in the Bollywood tradition often have to work with a limited number of “stock” plots, characters, and music—but this comment can be made of Hollywood as well.
Compared to the homogeneity of both Hollywood and Bollywood, Mira Nair's work in Monsoon Wedding is distinct and novel. Her hybrid Hindi-Punjabi-English dialogue and transnational characters are suitable material for her global audiences. Perhaps Nair's awareness of a very broad audience inspired her to deal with “traditional” themes like love, marriage, and family, but by drawing attention to the constitutive forces behind these constructs, and within the context of a more inclusive and increasingly global India.
[...] Inasmuch as it marks an important moment in the life of the bride and groom as well as their family members, the wedding fulfills the criteria of Mauss' notion of a period of effervescence. It is a moment when social life becomes intense in the extreme,” evidenced by the continual arrival of friends, relatives, servants, and wedding planners. Such effervescence is rendered all the more acute in the film because of the long geographical distances and extended absences between members of the extended diasporic family. [...]
[...] Uncovering the ways in which the act of filming Monsoon Wedding depended upon the changed social relations among the actors and the subject matter is necessary if any meaningful statements must be made about India based on Nair's representation of a fictitious Indian family. Conclusion Watching Monsoon Wedding as a class final was particularly interesting for me. Though I had seen the movie about two years earlier, I had forgotten all but the major plotlines. Revisiting the film put me in dialogue not only with my previous memory of the film but also of my childhood within my own diasporic South Asian family. [...]
[...] Power of the Director If it is the case that Monsoon Wedding is a director's attempt at capturing the reality of an India in transition, it is also true that this film, like every film, is one person's representation of characters and situations as they may or may not be. To deal in a little under two hours with such complicated subject matter requires compression and carefully chosen emphasis. The question we can ask, then, is what Nair has chosen to emphasize, and what techniques she uses to compress reality. [...]
[...] The emotional nature of this transaction is made public by the songs of the bridal ceremonies: I leave for my husband-in- law's house, I will leave my dreams / the gift of bracelets binds me in marriage / my father, I leave the palace of your love to become a stranger forever.” Marking the While the wedding in the title most clearly refers to the marriage of the people, in many ways Monsoon Wedding presents the coming together of various material and symbolic cultures that, for at least some members of Nair's broad audience, may not seem coherent. [...]
[...] In a sense, the planned structure of the mehndi ritual itself is not as important as its making publicly known the emotions of the individuals involved. In showing the way that the family is constituted, the ritual is not as important for the individuals as it is for the collective. This is why Hemant calls Aditi to meet with her alone, away from the public, so that they can negotiate their own relationship without ritualized public announcement. When he remarks that her family “seems so close,” he is reacting to the wedding ceremonies the same way that early structural- functionalists reacted—as evidence of social solidarity. [...]
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