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Cultures and families clash in Mira Nair’s exuberant Monsoon Wedding, a mix of comedy and chaotic melodrama concerning the preparations for the arranged marriage of a modern upper- middle-class Indian family’s only daughter, Aditi. Of course there are hitches—Aditi has been having an affair with a married TV host; she’s never met her husband to be, who lives in Houston; the wedding has worsened her father’s hidden financial troubles; even the wedding planner has become a nervous wreck—as well as buried family secrets. But Nair’s celebration is ultimately joyful and cathartic: a love song to her home city of Delhi and her own Punjabi family.
For more about Monsoon Wedding and the Monsoon Wedding Blu-ray release, see the Monsoon Wedding Blu-ray Review
Starring: Naseeruddin Shah
Director: Mira Nair
» See full cast & crew
Monsoon Wedding Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, October 7, 2009
Winner of the Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival in 2001, Indian director Mira Nair's "Monsoon Wedding" arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. Amongst the special features on the disc are an audio commentary with director Nair as well as seven short films she directed between 1982-2008 - "So Far From India" (1982), "India Cabaret" (1985), and "The Laughing Club of India" (2000), "The Day the Mercedes Became a Hat" (1993), "11'09'01 - September 11 (segment: India)" (2002), "Migration" (2007), and "How Can It Be?" (2008). Subtitled in English. Region-A "locked".
Monsoon Wedding is a fascinating film that will surely resonate differently with different viewers. On the surface, it looks and feels like a comedy - a large Indian family sets up a wedding and everyone begins celebrating. A lot of things go wrong - the bride and groom get angry at each other but then fall in love - you know, this is an arranged wedding, so the first time the two meet is literally a few days before the festivities begin - but at the end everyone goes home happy.
However, if one looks closer at the type of dilemmas the main protagonists struggle with, one would quickly conclude that Monsoon Wedding is actually a very well scripted drama - identity uncertainty, misunderstood cultural loyalties and complex perceptions about family and tradition are addressed in spectacular fashion, one that tells us a lot about a country undergoing a very serious cultural transformation.
During the 50s and 60s, Italian directors followed a similar route in order to address many of the socio-political and cultural dilemmas their country faced after the end of WW2. Pietro Germi (Gelosia), Luciano Salce (Il federale) and Alberto Lattuada (Il cappotto), amongst others, satirized the importance of tradition, the secretive world of the mafia, even the Catholic Church, and their films made ordinary Italians aware of the shift in mentality their country was experiencing.
Monsoon Wedding uses comedy to achieve a similar goal - it raises awareness about the complex cultural transformation India is undergoing. The clash of ideas that occurs during the second half of the film is a prime example of it. Foreign audiences would likely see it as "funny", but I assure you, Indians won't.
Indian films typically feature a number of elaborate music scenes with elaborate sets and costumes, and Monsoon Wedding is not an exception. Once the wedding begins, music and dancing become the focus of attention. Somewhat surprisingly, however, the lovely soundtrack to the film was actually composed by a Canadian - Mychael Danna (Little Miss Sunshine).
Monsoon Wedding is directed by Mira Nair. In 2001, the film won the coveted Golden Lion award (Best Film) and Laterna Magica Prize at the Venice International Film Festival. A year later, the film won the Best Foreign Film - Foreign Language award at the British Independent Film Awards.
If the above accolades still do not have you convinced that Monsoon Wedding is worth seeing, here's another interesting bit of information: the film was made for only $ 1.5 million yet it went on to become one of the top ten highest-grossing foreign films in U.S. history (as noted in Pico Iyer's essay "A Marigold Tapestry" offered in the lavish booklet Criterion have supplied).
Aside from Monsoon Wedding, Criterion's Blu-ray disc also contains seven short films by director Nair - the documentaries So Far From India (1982), India Cabaret (1985), and The Laughing Club of India (2000), as well as the fiction films The Day the Mercedes Became a Hat (1993), 11'09'01 - September 11 (segment: India) (2002), Migration (2007), and How Can It Be? (2008), all with short introductions by director Nair.
Monsoon Wedding Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
This new high-definition transfer digital transfer has been created on a Spirit 4K Datacine from the original 35mm interpositive, which was blown up from the original Super 16mm A/B negative. The transfer has also been supervised by director Mira Nair and director of photography Decian Quinn.
I attended a screening of Monsoon Wedding not too long after it won the Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival and am pleased to confirm that Criterion's transfer accurately replicates the theatrical look of the film. For example, there are portions of the film that look notably warm, even pale (the nighttime scenes from the second half of the film). Detail also varies substantially - in accordance with the camera moves. The color-scheme is also rather subdued. Reds, yellows, blues and greens look a bit stronger, but once the monsoon arrives, the entire color-scheme completely changes.
Those of you who have seen only the non-anamorphic R1 SDVD Universal Pictures produced in 2001 will be very pleased with the strong improvements the Criterion Blu-ray release offers -from superior stability to image depth to clarity. Additionally, the Blu-ray transfer is free of tiny specks, scratches and debris. To sum it all up, I feel very confident stating that Monsoon Wedding looks as good as it could. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" disc. Therefore, in order to access its content, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free player.
Monsoon Wedding Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: Hindi/Punjabi/English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English and English HOH subtitles for the main feature. If you select the traditional English subtitles, they would appear only when the main protagonists in the film speak Hindi/Punjabi.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is strong. The dialog is crisp, clear and easy to follow (though I must admit that the accents are indeed very strong and at times it is rather impossible to understand everything that is said). The rear channels are rarely used. Additionally, I did not detect any disturbing pops, cracks, or hissings to report in this review. Please note that the 5.1 soundtrack has been remastered at 24-bit from the original magnetic tracks.
Monsoon Wedding Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Booklet - a 32-page booklet containing Pico Iyer's essay A Marigold Tapestry (the author has written many books on globalism, the diaspora, and even his parents' India, including Video Night in Kathmandu, The Global Soul, and The Open Road) as well as information about the seven short films included on this disc.
Documentary Shorts -
a) So Far From India - Ashok Sheth is one of many Indian immigrants working in subway newsstands in New York City. This documentary follows his first journey back home to Ahmedabad, where he is forced to confront the conflicts between his ancestral culture and his new live in America. (1982). (50 min, 1080p).
b) India Cabaret - this documentary examines the line separating "good" and " bad" women in Indian society, specifically by focusing on the dancers at a Bombay strip club, a frequent patron, and his stay-at-home wife. The film arrives with an optional Hindi soundtrack. (1985). (60 min, 1080p).
Fiction Shorts -
a) The Day the Mercedes Became a Hat - Chris Hani, South Africa's Communist Party leader, was assassinated in April 1993, causing a wave of fear to sweep through the country's white community. This is the tale of one family as they leave South Africa on the day of Hani's funeral. (1993). (12 min, 1080p).
b) 11'09'01 - September 11 (segment: India) - based on the true events surrounding the September 11, 2001 disappearance of Salman Hamdani, a young Pakistani American man from Queens, this film portrays his mother's struggle with terrorist allegations, her own fears, and her son's fate that day. In Urdu and English with English subtitles. (2002). (12 min, 1080p).
c) Migration - part of a four-film series on the AIDS epidemic in India, this film examines the virus as Indian society's great class leveler, following its transmission through interweaving stories that link urban and rural India. In Hindi with English subtitles. (2007). (19 min, 1080p).
d) How Can It Be? - one of eight shorts commissioned by the United Nations on themes concerning global society, this film explores gender equality. It's the story of Zainab and Arif, who live with their son, Munna, in Brooklyn. Zainab makes the complicated decision to leave her protected life and follow her heart. (2008). (10 min, 1080p).
Audio Commentary - recorded in 2002, this commentary features director Mira Nair. She recalls how Monsoon Wedding came to exist, what were some of the production difficulties that had to be overcome, the message of the film, etc.
Monsoon Wedding Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding is a wonderful film, full of life! As expected, Criterion's Blu-ray treatment is solid. The distributors have also included seven shorts by director Nair, including India, which was featured in the memorable project 11'09''01 - September 11. Highly Recommended.
Monsoon Wedding Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Today on Blu-ray - October 20th - October 20, 2009
Director Michael Bay makes films for only one person: Michael Bay. For critics, his films provoke philosophical discussions on whether an excess of entertainment value can outweigh a lack of artistic value. But for fans who share his love for over-the-top ...
• Slight Delay for Three Criterion BDs (Update) - September 16, 2009
Retailers have been alerted that three upcoming Blu-ray titles from Criterion will delayed one or two weeks. 'Monsoon Wedding', initially announced for October 13, will street on October 20. In turn, 'Howards End' and 'Wings of Desire', previously slated for October ...
• Criterion October Wave: Howards End, Monsoon Wedding, Wings of De... - July 17, 2009
The Criterion Collection has just announced three very notable movies for release on Blu-ray: Mira Nair's 'Monsoon Wedding' will street on October 13, followed a week later by two other titles: James Ivory's 'Howards End' and Wim Wenders' 'Wings of Desire' (Der ...
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