Wedding is not just the joining of two people in Indian society. It becomes a union of two souls. The marriage of two young people binds the families of the groom and the bride by indissoluble bonds, which make them share all moments of happiness and chagrin, sorrow and joy, respect and honor. Every important event affects each member of a large family. The Indians revere faith and ancient traditions, strictly keeping and honoring them for hundreds of years. Even Greeks’ invasion, Buddhism, and millennial domination of Muslims and Mongols didn’t influence the Indian culture greatly. English colonization period could not force the Indians to refuse from the Vedas, which have been arising from the faith of their ancestors and their Aryan roots.
The beautiful movie Monsoon Wedding (2001), directed by Mira Nair, which won the top prize at the Venice Film Festival in 2001 and was intended to represent Asian culture in a new way, talks about the changes in India in the 21st century. This film shows an authentic ancient country in the light of Western influences, through the preparation for the wedding. Being an Indian emigrant, Mira Nair, observes the evolution of Indian outlook and brings that knowledge to the hearts of the Western audience. Belonging to one of the upper classes, she describes the lifestyle of a family from the modern upper-middle class of India.
First of all, the movie attracts interest employing the mass of actors and several plot lines, which converge in the final scene depicting the wedding of the young heroes. Secondly, it primary observes the practice of marriage traditions – Punjabi Hindu wedding in Delhi. The idea of the movie is based on the engagement and wedding ceremonies of Aditi (the only daughter in Delhi-based Verma family) and Hemant Rai (Indian immigrant to the USA), who know about each other only a couple of weeks and have never met before. According to the traditions of Indian wedding, marriage entirely depends on the decision of the groom’s father and mother. They choose a befitting wife for their offspring and settle everything with her parents, considering the future of the marital union. Nothing depends on the girl. One way or another, her father and mother could force her to marry an unloved guy, and she must obey. Precisely, because of such approach, the Indian matrimonial system is called “marriage by advance arrangement.”
At the beginning of the movie we observe the engagement ceremony (Tilak), when Aditi and Hemant are blessed by elders of both large families, exchanging gifts (Hemant presented his bride with jewelry) and rings. Thus, the wedding preparations begin. According to the tradition, the bride’s parents should organize a wedding, so the Aditi’s father is determined to follow all the rules. For example, he quarrels with Dubey (a wedding contractor) about the color of the tent, preferring to make it colorful because white is the color of mourning.
However, the women of the family choose the red wedding dress (sari) for the bride. They also perform the rite of Mehndi, which is characterized by drawing patterns (mehndi or mehendi) on bride’s hands and feet with henna. The bride’s family organizes evening parties with songs and dancing. India is a country of beauty and elegance. This fact is reflected in the ceremony of Mehndi. It is the compulsory part of the wedding preparations and has been held at the bride’s home since ancient times in the presence of the family members, relatives and friends (first of all, women). Sometimes Mehndi is celebrated with magnificence. According to a popular belief, the darker mehndi patterns are the stronger love of the future husband is. The whole ceremony is accompanied by singing and music. After it, the bride should not leave the house until the wedding ceremony passes.
Everything should be excellent, but Aditi has a secret, which can destroy her future, if she decides to bind it with the traditional Indian family: the affair with a married TV producer. Hindus deeply believe that the wedding sacrament binds two people for the next seven lives and chastity is crucial here. A marriage to a girl devoid of virginity has no sense, as any useless action, and is forbidden by moral law. Those, who neglect this dogma, fall into the category of rogue along with their children. Nevertheless, Aditi is brave enough to tell Hemant about her former relations, and her groom is equally wise to understand and accept her. It is one of the brightest moments of uniting Indian traditions with Western outlook.
After all, we observe Hindu rite of ancestor’s Souls (including Ria’s father) remembrance (Sraddha) and the beginning of the wedding ceremony itself. Hemant, dressed in his wedding attire and with his face covered with flowers (Punjabi tradition), arrives, riding a decorated horse (ghodi), and Aditi comes to him wearing her gorgeous red dress and jewelry. Two great families become one.
In conclusion, Monsoon Wedding is a serious movie, created in a realistic semi-documentary style, and at the same time, a strange mixture of Bollywood and Hollywood, Indian dance and western bits. Watching it, we can see that nothing ever changes for the poor (a line of sensual love between a humble maid Alice and a simple worker Dubey). In contrast to this, the rich and middle-class people (Verma family), freed from British rule, tend to adopt Western style of life, not yielding to any millimeter in the sphere of influence of their own culture. Due to an attempt of mixing the genre of wedding comedy and festival of contemporary cinema, we have colorful film, which covers deep important topics. Among them are matrimonial marriage, pedophilia (Lalit’s brother-in-law sexually abused Ria, and attempted to do the same with Aliyah), and parenting (Lalit’s disapprove of his son’s hobby – dancing). But in any case, such eternal family values as settling of all problems among the family members and protecting all family members prevail. Finally, there is almost everything, including the effect of immersion in the atmosphere of Indian rituals, to impress the spectators.