Film: Monsoon Wedding
Director: Mira Nair
Book Review by Claire (from the UK) and Shemil (from India), both Degree students at Redcliffe College.
What are the things you enjoyed?
C: I enjoyed the colourfulness of this film and I found the parts about the Westernisation of India really interesting.
S: I found the mockery of Indian upper class society, especially the ladies very amusing. Being brought up in a rather small city it was amusing to see how different living is in a big city.
What are the issues discussed in the film?
C: The main issues I saw in the film were the tension between two different cultures, attitudes of and towards young Indian people my sort of age, and the idea of love or arranged marriage. It was also interesting to see how they handled inappropriate sexual behaviour.
S: We are experiencing a big generation gap. My parents didn’t have a TV until 1994 but now they have 150 channels. A normal Indian household consists of three generations. But as we see in the movie these three generations operates in three different levels of understanding of being an Indian.
This movie starts with the father of the bride welcoming the extended family; however in the end we see the same person distinguishing his immediate family and their interests from the rest of the family
What is your opinion of scattered families?
C: I don’t think much about it; it is almost normal. I myself have family in New Zealand, Australia, and Egypt and friends all around the world. It is exciting to have family members in different places and I do not perceive it as a negative thing at all.
S: “Computer engineers are the biggest exports of India”. India is facing a lot of brain drain. As we do not have enough jobs for all the educated people in India we have to go out of the country to work. But at the same time we try to meet each other at least every year if possible. We often need to plan the date of the wedding so early that every one in the family can arrive from around the world.
What do you think about the theme of hybridity of cultures?
C: In this film we see the clash of two cultures. Things like smoking, consummation of alcohol, Cosmopolitan magazine, Western clothing, and mobile phones were mixed in with traditional Indian aspects of culture. There was a really interesting scene where two ladies of the same age were pictured, one wearing traditional Indian clothing and one wearing revealing Western clothing. I found myself feeling sorry for the young people; they seemed to have a lot of pressure on them to conform to Indian ways, yet living out of the country they had been exposed to Western ideas. It seemed a real confusion between Indian and Western cultures.
The man who ran the wedding business was a perfect example of the tension; he ran the business almost with a hierarchy (like Western businesses), was constantly attached to his mobile phone, yet also lived under the pressure of his mother wanting him to give him a grandson!
S: This movie shows a very realistic picture of India. We are caught between a hi-tech culture and a bullock cart culture. We still have the bullock carts side by side with the most advanced cars. In the same way we have not got rid of any of our traditions or values, but we have adopted and absorbed western values and culture.
This often forces people to lead a double life, one with western value judgements and one with eastern traditions.
If parents introduced us or we met in a night-club, what difference does it make?
C: A lot of difference! It interested me in the film to see that they portrayed the couple in the arranged marriage as ‘falling in love’. I don’t know whether this really happens today, but it seemed to be exactly like so many modern, Western, romantic movies.
That aside, to me there seems a huge difference between meeting someone, starting a relationship, developing love for one another and getting married; and you’re parents deciding the person you will marry (maybe even from the time you are children). A big difference is that you may not even meet the person until you get married! But also the involvement of the whole family, fulfilling their expectations, and the whole ‘unknown’ aspect seems to make it very different to me. It is almost out of your control.
S: I still like the idea of arranged marriage, especially because it offers support from both families to the new couple. However this movie made me think about some of the issues that we are facing today. In a collective society like India, joint family character and the emotional makeup of a boy or a girl could have been judged by the collective character and emotional makeup of the family. But this movie depicts clearly the difference of character between the young people within a family. This brings in a new conflict in our society. Young people in our society would like to obey our parents; however now it seems that our parents cannot make guarantees regarding the character or mental makeup of the person they find.
What attitudes to family are evident in the film?
C: There seems to be constant tension in the film between what individual people want (especially the children) and what the parents want. At one point the main character says ‘I just want to get away from this damned place’ – she obviously longed for a greater freedom. I think that in the West we expect, once we hit a certain age, to be treated as responsible adults with our own minds and opinions, and that our elders will appreciate that. Maybe we are more individualistic. It seemed in the film they were not allowed to make there own decisions, but on the other hand really wanted to be obedient to the family. The concept of such a huge extended family is alien to me as well; we often do not live anywhere near, let alone with, our extended family any more.
S: As Indians we cannot live without our families. However we see in the movie that the definition of the term family is changing in India. It used to mean, uncles, aunties, cousins, even servants. However we see in the movie this concept falling apart with the betrayal of one of the family members. The culprit is punished by being asked to leave the wedding and at the same time it was also a realisation to the whole family that they cannot really trust each other.
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