-By David Noh

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The New Delhi wedding of Aditi (Vasundhara Das) to American resident Hemant Rai (Parvin Dabas) has her family in an uproar. Her father Lalit (Naseeruddin Shah) and mother Pimmi (Lillete Dubey) want everything to go perfectly for the perfect couple, but are mystified by some of the actions of Aditi (who is still carrying a torch for a married lover). Her unmarried cousin Ria (Shefali Shetty) adds to the confusion by revealing a very unseemly family secret. Trying to keep things on track is the manic wedding planner P.K. Dube (Vijay Raaz), who becomes besotted by the family maid, Alice (Tilotama Shome).

Director Mira Nair brings her familiar deep humanity to this colorful family comedy. She floods your eyes with vividly hued flowers, saris and food, and your ears with piquant Hindi-English dialogue and bhangras, that catchy, highly danceable Punjabi folk-pop music. To put it baldly, Monsoon Wedding is a collision of Robert Altman and Bollywood. Some of the humor, especially involving the wildly mugging P.K., is excessively broad, but then Nair can make you catch your breath with a gorgeous shot of Alice, secretly preening before her mistress' mirror. (Declan Quinn's cinematography, often handheld, is a real asset.) Nair keeps the disparate threads of the many interfamily relationships under control and shows just how universal dysfunction can be. (Lalit, in the interests of parental concern, tries to dominate not only his wife and daughter, but his young, effeminate son, as well, with disastrous results.)

Shah has just the right amount of authority, tinged with humor. Shetty is all too convincing as that ubiquitous element of every cinematic wedding: the wet blanket who brings inappropriate drama right in the middle of the proceedings. Das, a popular recording star, has a doll-like prettiness but not much in the way of acting technique. (One often wonders about the implications in Asian films of casting performers like her, and quite a few others, whose features definitely tend towards a white standard of beauty.)

--David Noh

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