movies: Family Planning 

Indian filmmaker Mira Nair puts the fun in dysfunctional with her delightful "Monsoon Wedding."

As Nair's camera meanders through the hectic four days before a Punjabi family wedding in Delhi, various and sundry dramas unfold. In the midst of the rising chaos of such an emotional event, we meet the reluctant bride Aditi (Vasundhara Das), the troubled cousin Ria (Shefali Shetty), the worried father (Naseeruddin Shah), and, of course, the frenzied wedding planner (Vijay Raaz).

Nair plays all of this family turmoil and unbridled passion against the gorgeous backdrop of India's vibrant color scheme. Hot pinks, reds flecked with gold and the breathtaking brightness of saffron yellows seem to dance before our eyes. Declan Quinn's cinematography captures this heady mix and tosses in a few extra blue hues for good measure. As the story line begins to cast its spell, this swirl of colors adds intensity.

Nair depicts her Indian homeland fondly, showing the somewhat fractious blending of old with new. Traditional sitar music may float on by on a breeze, only to turn a corner and be drowned out by the sound of ringing cell phones. And a repatriated businessman home from America requests Sweet & Low for his chai. Adding to the chaos of this family in full wedding mode is the mix of languages. Hindi, Punjabi and English are spoken by everyone, sometimes at the same time.

Despite Nair's signature appreciation for her heritage, "Monsoon Wedding" is more a look at love than a look at India. Unlike in her past films, here Nair uses visual aspects of India's culture as metaphors for what's happening to her characters. From "Salaam Bombay!" to "Mississippi Masala" to "Kama Sutra," Nair's preference has been to allow her characters and their situations to act as metaphors for her country and culture. Early on in "Monsoon Wedding," the traditional wedding arch of marigolds begins to crumble, mirroring bride-to-be Aditi's ponderings of what life will be like with fiancee Hemant (Parvin Dabas) rather than the older, married man with whom she's been secretly involved.

But, as they say, there's still more turmoil ahead. As tensions mount and tempers flare, long-held secrets come rushing out. One involving Aditi's cousin Ria forces her father (Shah) to examine carefully his own familial bonds. When Shetty's Ria tearfully shares that secret, Shah is visibly shaken, slumping under the emotional weight of her words. Though Shetty and Shah stand out, Nair's ensemble cast is near-perfect, perfectly suited to advancing Nair's celebration of romance.

Gorgeous to watch, "Monsoon Wedding" is a delicate and irrepressible celebration of the power of love. S


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