The Beautiful Intimacy of ‘Monsoon Wedding’

Mira Nair’s 2001 film went beyond a picture-perfect celebration of the big Indian wedding to give audiences an honest portrait of an imperfect family.

Ishani Nath

August 30, 2022

The Beautiful Intimacy of ‘Monsoon Wedding’
Aditi (Vasundhara Das) on her wedding day (Monsoon Wedding)

The wedding is four days away, and nothing is done. That’s how it feels anyway to Lalit Verma (Naseeruddin Shah), who can’t seem to get his wedding planner Parbatlal Kanhaiyalal Dubey, who goes simply by Dubey (Vijay Raaz), let alone his “idiot” nephew Rahul (newcomer Randeep Hooda), who is in town from Australia, to do anything right. Meanwhile, Lalit’s young son would rather watch cooking shows than get dressed for the engagement ceremony. This is the wedding of Lalit’s only daughter, Aditi, and he is spending big money to ensure it’s perfect. The fast-talking, marigold-eating Dubey assures Lalit that his crew are on their way and will be there in “exactly and approximately” 10 minutes. 

This is how filmmaker Mira Nair deftly welcomes audiences to the chaos of pre-wedding family gatherings in her 2001 film Monsoon Wedding. Set in Delhi in the bustling household of the upper-class Verma family, the film follows the days leading up to the wedding of Aditi Verma (Vasundhara Das) and Hemant Rai (Parvin Dabas), an IIT graduate who now lives in Houston, Texas. Shot in only 30 days on a minimal budget with a cast of 68 characters, Monsoon Wedding immerses viewers in the masti and drama of big Punjabi weddings. “It’s really like spending two hours at my family’s dining table,” Nair said shortly after the film earned the Golden Lion award, Venice Film Festival’s top honor.

Westerners compared the concept to Father of the Bride, and Nair was partially inspired by Hum Aapke Hain Koun…!. Still, she clarified that the Bollywood film “had nothing to do with the reality of what our Punjabi weddings in Delhi were like.” Despite the typical trappings of a multi-generational family, a large decorated home, and plenty of dancing, Monsoon Wedding isn’t the standard wedding movie. Whereas earlier films made the audience feel like guests, Monsoon Wedding makes us feel like we’re part of the family — and brings us in on the secrets behind the gathering’s picture-perfect facade.