Mira Nair describes ‘Monsoon Wedding’ as “a Bollywood movie, made on my own terms”
Mira Nair was originally Indian, but moved to America to go to university, which explains the influence of both cultures that is shown in the film. There are themes in the film that are traditional, but there are also more modern themes that show the western influence on Nair. For example, themes of love and arranged marriages are traditional and are often included in Bollywood films. In ‘Monsoon Wedding’ there are also themes of adultery, money worries, abuse and mixed marriages. These are more modern themes that are not included in typical Bollywood themes. This shows the western influence on Nair.
When she made ‘Monsoon Wedding’, Nair used many different techniques to show the film as Bollywood, but she also used different techniques to use her own, more modernised ideas. Traditionally, Bollywood films are fantastical, whereas westernised, Hollywood filmmakers try to make the film realistic. A Bollywood filmmaker does not try to make the viewer believe that the situation is real. Bollywood films are set in India and the characters mainly speak Hindi. Another typical feature of a Bollywood film is that there is a lot of singing and dancing that is not part of the plot.
Although the characters often sing together, the characters themselves have not sung the songs, and the songs are only there to illustrate how the characters are feeling rather than as part of the plot. In Hollywood films this does not happen, because it is not realistic. The techniques Nair uses to make the film Bollywood on her own terms are music, camera angles and editing, lighting and colour, costume and characterisation and location and set design. The music in ‘Monsoon Wedding’ is mainly traditional, Indian music. The singing and dancing at the wedding ceremonies are typically Indian.
The music played during the credits is a piece of typical, Indian dance music. Indian music is also used when Ayesha and her brother are practicing the dance routine for the wedding, highlighting the Indian culture. There is also evidence of western music in the film. For example, when Rahul first arrives at the house, he is playing loud, western music from the stereo in his car. Dubey has a mobile phone, which has a western ring tone. One important feature of Bollywood films that is missing in ‘Monsoon Wedding’ is the singing and dancing to show the characters feelings.
None of the characters ever break into song to show the viewer their feelings about the situation that they are in. In Bollywood films these songs are normally about love, but, although love is a very important theme in the film, none of the characters ever sing about love. The only time any of the characters sing is during the wedding celebrations when, in real life, Indian people would normally sing. The absence of these songs sets ‘Monsoon Wedding’ apart from other Bollywood films and shows a major western influence. The camera is also used to help Nair to achieve her aim.
When Alice and Dubey first meet, the scene goes into slow motion, which is a contrast to the bustle that came before and shows the importance of them meeting each other. This is a typical feature of Bollywood films. When the workers are setting up the wedding, the shots are very quick and flash from one place to another very quickly to show how busy the workers are. This shows the Bollywood aspect of the film. At the beginning, when Lalit’s face is shown, a high angle zoom is used, which is a traditional Bollywood feature.
A camcorder is used to film many of the shots. This makes the viewer feel involved in the scene and makes the scene seem more realistic. She also uses over the shoulder shots to achieve the same effect, which is more typical of western films. Nair uses lighting and colour to show the film as Bollywood with a western influence. The background colours during the opening credits are bright and highlight the fact that the film is unrealistic and fantastical. It makes the atmosphere happy and makes the viewer realise that the film will have a happy ending.
This first impression is typical of Bollywood. Nair uses a lot of bright colours around the house. The walls, the marigolds, the wedding decorations and the character’s clothes are all bright. Bollywood films use a lot of bright colours to highlight the fact that the situations are not real. Nair also uses lighting to contrast the good things against the bad things. For example, when Vikram and Aditi are together the set is badly lit, symbolising sin. The light in the garden contrasts this, showing the western influence on the film.
The costume and characterisation shows the difference between the casts. For example, Alice’s saris are simple and dull, whereas the females in the Verma family wear more elaborate, brightly coloured saris. This shows the Bollywood side of the film, as castes are important to Indian culture. Most of the characters wear traditional, Indian clothes. Dubey wears a bindi, showing that religion is important in the film, which is typical of Bollywood films. The engagement rings are elaborate and are given both to the groom and the bride, showing the traditional Indian culture.
Aditi has short, dyed hair, which shows the modern and western influence on the film. When Rahul first arrives at the house he is wearing western clothes and his arm is in plaster. Ayesha also sometimes wears western clothes. This shows the western influence. Alice wears rosary beads, showing that she is Christian. Typical Bollywood films include only Hindu people and never have marriages between Hindus and any other religion, but in ‘Monsoon Wedding’, Alice is Christian and Dubey is Hindu, and they get married at the end of the film.
The characters speak English as well as Hindi and Punjabi and swear, showing a western influence. Ayesha has a tattoo, again showing the western influence on the film. ‘Monsoon Wedding’ is set in India, which is where most Bollywood films are set. The wedding preparations are made outside the house, showing the traditional Indian culture. The house is very lavishly decorated and is more extravagant than houses in western countries. Dubey and the workers eat straight out of pots rather than plates and sit on the ground, whereas the Verma family eat at a table and from plates.
This shows the importance of castes to the Indian culture. Alice washing up by hand at a dirty sink also shows the importance of castes. This is a contrast to the scene before, which is of Lalit and Pimmi’s clean bathroom. Lalit and Pimmi’s bedroom is traditional and simple with only flowers, two beds and a cupboard. When Aditi buys her sari, the shop is a typical Indian shop with all the saris spread out to look at. This shows the Bollywood aspect of the film. The house contains a mixture of traditional, Indian style and a western style.
The garden and outside of the house are traditional, but there are also modern paintings and light fittings. In the scene inside the car, there are billboards and commercials outside the window. This shows the western influence. The studio is a western idea and is never included in Bollywood films. Varon watches a lot of TV, which is not present in Bollywood films. At the shop where Aditi was looking for a sari, there were restaurants and a telephone box, showing a more westernised view of the town.
Mira Nair is effective in her aim and does manage to make ‘Monsoon Wedding’ a Bollywood film with her own ideas incorporated into it. She effectively and subtly uses the various techniques to show the film as both Bollywood and western. ‘Monsoon Wedding’ is more similar to Bollywood films than to Hollywood films. This is part of Nair’s aim and she manages not to add too many westernised features and to keep the typical Bollywood features in the film. She has used the mixture of Bollywood and Hollywood features to attract both Indian and western audiences.