Indian culture is clearly demonstrative of a postcolonial culture. The post- colonial nature of the country, as well as its intrinsic diversity drastically effect the expressions of culture and the arts. One foundational example is the movie industry within the country. Nicknamed "Bollywood" by the west it is both an essential part of the new India and a challenge to the traditional and neo-traditional standards of the diverse culture. One of the ways in which this industry has attempted to create a standard entirely Indian is through the content of its works.
Though Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding is clearly a departure from mainstream Bollywood the production of the work boasts some very similar characteristics to traditional works in Indian theater, the traditional musical and entertainment value of the dance and musical scenes and of coarse the rich and colorful nature of the ceremonial scenes. The character development and colorful ascetic clearly lean in the direction of Bollywood masterpieces. The departure of the film is clearly the relative frivolity of the work, as compared to the extreme social commentary often present in many classical works from old school Indian cinema.
Despite being far removed from the central engine of capitalism and its accompanying realist narrative, Indian cinema mimics, copies and rewrites these forms while simultaneously maintaining a local quotient of attractions...We might be hard pressed to see any immediate link between an overtly avant-garde practice and popular Indian cinema but...viewers of Indian films do see its digressions and interruptions as intrinsic to enjoying and understanding these films as well as comprising the location of intense ideological struggles. (Gopalan, 2003:386)
Though the form of the films, within Bollywood courtier has some of the same replayed human struggles, such as unrequited love and the challenges of family, modernity, tradition and the generation gap between parents and children the main focus of most Hindi films, or the greatest underlying theme is as Gopalan states one or many "intense ideological struggles."
These themes are often very political, dealing with the struggles of post-colonial acceptance of the changes brought about by colonialism and the extreme nature of discrimination and subjugation of the poor throughout India during these transitions. The films often address religious conflicts and often attempt to marry modern thinking with traditional problems and conflicts between the majority and minority faiths in India.
As a film that has defiantly made a mark in Western culture Monsoon Wedding, is remarkable in its ability to draw in the western viewer. Though other films have made it into the alternative film culture in the United States and Europe this film has made an incredible mark in the memories of Western viewers. Many commentators would attest that the influx of Indian culture into Western Culture is a direct result of the current diasporas that have lead many Indians to relocate to Western countries, for increased educational and career opportunities.
While Bollywood remains an acquired taste with a cult following, the increasing number of Indian immigrants in the United States has encouraged theater owners to open cinemas catering to their interests. Nearly every Indian specialty store has a video section to rent Bollywood films, and numerous rental sites are available on the Internet. (Morton, 2002)
In Monsoon Wedding it become clear rather early that the director intends to discuss issues that are at the forefront of Indian immigrants to other nations. Though a traditional theme in Indian cinema, the turning of an arranged marriage into a love match the intentions of the filmmaker to modernize the inherent conflicts is recurrent in the celebration, that is Monsoon Wedding. The extended family repeatedly deals with the theme of diaspora, as the groom Hemant an NRI (Non Resident Indian), from Huston, Texas is willing to accept and arranged marriage, because it is the wish of his family, that he marry within his own culture.
The traditionalism that is present with the film is often reflected in color. Within one glorious scene the marks of westernism are challenged as the wedding planner P.K., a member of a love match subplot creates the wedding tent in white, the traditional Indian color for a funeral, whole the father of the bride, Lalit, is stricken by the traditional sadness of the drab white and wishes the wedding tent to be done in bright colors.
Lalit gets his way as the wedding planner attempts to explain that the white theme is one of the modern culture, of which he professes to be a part of, the Y2K millennium theme, but the demand is for a traditional color scheme as Lalit only has one daughter and he wishes she be married with all the pomp and circumstance as a traditional Indian bride. (Nair, 2001)
The harem scene in the film, as the women are collected to perform the henna decoration of the wedding party's hands and feet is also a declaration of the traditional expression of the colors of Indian culture.
But the color-saturated world the film presents + in vivid but slightly grainy images that have a pleasing aorganic roughness, like swatches of hand-dyed fabric + is one that comes pre-steeped in Bollywood music and narrative conventions. When Nair depicts her characters lip-synching to Hindi film tunes, this isnat a post-modern indulgence. It is a fact of Punjabi extended-family life, faithfully recorded. (Chute, 2002)
All the women are together weaving a story, in song, of the beauty of the bride and the power of the tradition of marriage. The bride is torn between the love of her new life and his family's home to the love of her father and the home she has always known. (Nair, 2001) Yet, the subplot of the story, a much more western creation, she is really pining the loss of her love for her former boyfriend, a married man whom she works with.
The viewer is drawn into the minds of the women as they sing, the traditional song of the henna ceremony and also alternatively drawn into the misgivings of the bride who is afraid of the effect her past life will have on her future and the loss of her unrealized western style love. The theme of the wedding and the color and tradition that it beholds is so often the charge of the Hindi films of tradition yet, the challenges of the modern world have crept fully into this union, of rebirth.
Bollywood is enveloping our senses, through the resplendent shop windows of Selfridges in Oxford Street, the large-sized posters of Nargis in Mother India, and the advertisements for Bombay Dreams on buses, creating the image of a glitzy, kitsch-laden, glamorous India, as defined by its cinema. This reflects growing interest in Bollywood fuelled by films such as Lagaan (Tax),which was an Academy Award nominee in March for Best Foreign-Language Film, and Monsoon Wedding, Mira Nair's Altmanesque take (but with a plot) on an Indian wedding home video.
Aditi has a great love for her family and has stepped outside of tradition by carrying on an affair with a married man, outside of wedlock yet she wishes to solve her troubles by embracing the traditional arranged marriage. In the scene with Hemant, after she informs him of her conflicted feelings he makes clear that the traditional man in him is still fully alive. He is terribly angered by her confession, and he blames the matchmaker for his assumption that because he lives in America the immorality of Aditi's actions will be accepted, yet in turn his modern sense of forgiveness and understanding triumphs as they stand on the path to her childhood home. He has a change of heart and chases her, stopping her and giving her credit for her candor, he tells her that they can move forward and marry, if she chooses to do so. (Nair, 2001)
This is a departure from the traditional as the acceptance of fornication is nearly unheard of in the traditions of the culture. Women who are chosen for marriage are not single mothers or unwed sexually active women, as they often are in western culture. A man, no matter the culture he has become a part of would not traditionally accept such a reality in his chosen bride from India and a woman of this stature would not have been chosen by a knowing family to wed their distant son. In the scene the cinematographic splendor of the Indian country is evident but the content is challenging to the tradition.
A the tensions between East and West remain the movie's focus. We see it in the way people switch from English to Hindi and back again in the same sentence. Or in the contrast between Aditi's career-woman garb and her stunning traditional wedding gown with its veils and jewels. Or in seeing a Houston engineer arrive for his nuptials on a prancing white horse. (Gillespie, 2002)
The subplots of the film also grapple with tradition.
P.K, the wedding planner falls in love with the maid of the household,…