A whirlwind tale of marriage

Mark Hornberger

This week the Cultural Film & Lecture Series will be screening Mira Nair’s “Monsoon Wedding.”  This 2001 film centers on an extended Indian family, whose members travel to New Delhi from around the globe to attend a last-minute, arranged marriage.

As this enchanting film unfolds, this upper-middle class family’s hopes, anxieties and long-guarded secrets emerge amid frantic wedding preparations. As the intensity of the summer heat mounts, with the city anticipating the cooling torrents of the monsoon, so too does the story. And when the rain finally arrives, the cathartic downpour brings romance, revelation and liberation.

Nair and first time screenwriter Sabrina Dhawan (who recently completed Columbia University’s graduate film program) are natives of New Delhi and have a deep, playful knowledge of the cultural territory.  This gives the viewer a remarkably accurate depiction of contemporary New Delhi.   The film was shot using a handheld camera, giving the viewer an intimate look into the character’s lives and Nair’s own beloved Punjabi culture.   

Nair points out in press notes for the movie that “Punjabis are to India what the Italians are to Europe. We party hard, work hard and have a huge appetite for life.”  “Monsoon Wedding” is a celebration of the sensual pleasures of love at any age and of the importance of family. It also pays affectionate tribute to a city where weighty tradition collides daily with global culture and the dot-com age, yielding an unusual and melodious harmony.

Nair is arguably India’s most famous contemporary filmmaker, best known for her Oscar-nominated debut, “Salaam Bombay!” and her American production, “Mississippi Masala,” starring Denzel Washington. “Monsoon Wedding,” which is Nair’s fifth film, won her the Golden Lion Award at the prestigious Venice Film Festival.  This is a landmark prize, as Nair is the first female Asian director to win this award.  

You have four chances to see “Monsoon Wedding” in the Connelly Center Cinema: Saturday at 7 p.m., Sunday at both 3:30 and 7 p.m., and Monday at 7 p.m. Admission is $3 for students and $4 for guests.

Monday evening’s screening only will feature an introduction and a discussion about the film, led by Satya Pattnayak, an associate professor of sociology at Villanova and director of the University’s program of Latin American studies.