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|September 10, 2001||
Mira Nair, director of Salaam Bombay, Missisippi Masala and Kamasutra, won the prestigious Golden Lion for her latest film Monsoon Wedding at the recently concluded Venice Film Festival.
Monsoon Wedding, a small-budget film shot entirely in New Delhi over 30 days, is set in a Punjabi family which belongs to the "dotcom culture" and represents "modern India that's all about the computers and the internet, sex and materialism".
Said a jubilant Nair at the Festival's press conference, "The idea was to go back to the basics, shoot on a small budget and say something about the India I know. And I think that's worked."
The story is about a wedding and the five days preceeding the event in a big and hip North Indian family. While the daughter of the family is getting married, relatives from both India and abroad have descended on the household to attend the wedding.
Everything seems nice and happy till a family secret is revealed by one of the family kin: The patriarch of the family is a child molester.
Apart from the very 'real' storyline' (scripted by one of Nair's assistants and student, Sabrina Dhawan), the film's cast consists of very competent actors. Heading the list are Naseeruddin Shah, Kulbhushan Kharbhanda, Lillette Dubey, Rajat Kapoor, Shefali Shetty and Vasundhara Das.
Shah is away in London touring with Peter Brooks' Hamlet and attending the Toronto Film Festival.
Lillette Dubey, Rajat Kapoor and Shefali Shetty share their reactions on Mira Nair winning the Golden Lion:
Lillette Dubey: I believe there was a 20-minute standing ovation at the Festival. I am so happy... wish I was there.
I play Pimmi Aunty, Naseer's wife and the mother of the bride who is Vasundhara Das. Shefali plays my niece. My own daughter, Neha, also plays one of my nieces.
Unlike my other roles, which have been dramatic, strong and intense, this one laced with humour.
Mira and I go a long way back to our days in Delhi as we both come from there and were together in theatre. I'm always excited by people who are very passionate about their work.
Monsoon Wedding is a film close to her heart after Salaam Bombay. I say this because it was a film she had visualised very clearly. The people, the family she has portrayed in the film are real, her own people. The ambience of Delhi is her own. She knows the culture there.
Though she was keen I play Pimmi Aunty, she had her own doubts. She thought I was too skinny, too sexy for the part. She imagined Pimmi Aunty as a rounded, voluptuous woman who is all worked up because of the wedding.
I told her I'd pad myself for the role. After all, being an actress means having to transform oneself for a role. Making a film work is a marriage of many factors.
But, above all, the director has to have clarity of vision -- which Mira has. Her passion and conviction permeate her work and the people she is working with.
Whether the film will make money or not, has won awards or not is secondary. First and foremost, it should work as a piece of work -- and it does.
The script is superb. It's very true to life and very unpretentious. The characters are real -- they are multi-dimensional. That's the beauty of the film.
Rajat Kapoor: I play the patriarch of the family, a 60-year-old who has come for the wedding from the US with his family. He has a dark past and a present, too.
I didn't like anything about my character. It just scared me.
Mira wanted me to play it and I decided to do it. Simple.
Besides, the ensemble of actors, a very talented bunch she had gathered for the film was too good. I would not have passed the opportunity to work with people like them.
Mira is a superb director a very warm person. That film is very close to her heart as the background and the ambience is very familiar to her.
She has worked hard at it -- and it's worked for us.
Shefali Shetty: The film winning the award is like a dream. Absolutely amazing. I play Ria, a 27-28-old woman who is single and sticks out like a sore thumb in a family, which is typically Punju (Punjabi).
She belongs to the dotcom culture, is into kitty parties and so on. Ria wants to be a writer and the only person she is close to in her family is her uncle (Naseeruddin Shah).
It's she who reveals a family secret. And it's up to the family to either support her or go about the wedding as though nothing has happened.
There was a lot of fun and love on the sets. Naseerbhai conducted acting workshops. All of us went through rehearsals, improvisations on scenes and so on.
It worked beautifully -- everything was so planned. The script was in place, the scenes and schedules were known in advance.
It must have been tough for Mira to shoot the film -- it has 65 characters and, at any given point of time, the scenes were shot with 25 to 30 people.
What I like about her is amidst all the tension of shooting, she had one little moment to spare for each one of us and make us feel special.
Once, on a hot, chaotic day, I was about to shoot for a scene. Mira explained the scene to me, and before going over to her screen monitor, she stopped and told me, "I'm sorry your scenes had to be shot in the end.' That touched me.
She connected with all of us on a very personal level.
The beauty of the film is it's like a home video, so real. The emotions are complex but those one has gone through or seen others going through them. Everything was like 'that could have happened'.
The rehearsals helped as the film is about this big family and everyone had to look bonded and connected, so we all do look like one big happy family.
India News Feature Service
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