VIBRANT CHAOS: Monsoon Wedding musical


MIRA NAIR TO SHOWCASE MUSICAL’S NEW AND ‘DEFINITIVE’ VERSION

by AMIT ROY

DIRECTOR Mira Nair, who is currently filming a BBC TV adaptation of Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy on location in India, revealed another of her projects is ready for release in the UK.

This is a musical version of Monsoon Wedding, her hugely successful 2001 movie which catapulted her to international fame.

This is the story of a chaotic, but ultimately happy Indian wedding, between a Delhi girl and a non-resident Indian (NRI) bridegroom from the US, with a few complications thrown in.

The director said of the musical in an exclusive interview: “We are opening at the Round House in London in July 2020 – it’s a world premiere, sort of. And I am so happy about that. Even though we opened in California two years ago, this is the new and revised and really the definitive version of the musical – and I love that space.”

She said she would be tied up with A Suitable Boy for the time being, but would be free to give the musical her full attention in summer next year.

“I will start on that in May because it is already done – cooked it very beautifully in Delhi for two months in a workshop last year – December, January. So we are ready to go. Until then it’s A Suitable Boy.”

Mira Nair (Photo: Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images)

When the Monsoon Wedding musical was staged in the US in May 2017 at the Bay Area’s Berkeley Rep, one or two of the reviewers had reservations, but the audience reaction appeared to be enthusiastic.

One disagreed with a carping critic and said: “I didn’t have the same experience. The show was simple and straightforward – unabashedly pursuing its goal of being purely entertaining and smile-inducing. I thought the vocals beautiful, the songs catchy, the sets joyful and vibrant. The theatre was packed and all in attendance seemed to be having great fun. Polishing may be needed, but in some ways, I enjoyed the lack of slick production values. I had such a good time that, given the opportunity, I’d go again.”

Another also enjoyed the musical: “I felt a sense of delight. Seriously, my being filled with joy, and I left the theatre with a new beat inside my heart. The universal themes of love, honour and dignity held my attention.

“I loved the colours, dancing, direct talk to the audience and the fresh language! Truly a fun evening – thank you, Berkeley Rep, for taking me off my couch and into a new world.”

For Nair, there is a link between A Suitable Boy and Monsoon Wedding. She admits she wanted to make a film version as soon as Seth’s 1,349-page novel with 591,552 words was published in 1993.

“I have loved the book like a piece of my heart, really from the very moment it was written and I read it. “I didn’t get the rights. So, we wrote a microcosmic response to A Suitable Boy in making Monsoon Wedding.”

In the UK, details of the musical have been announced. It will open at Leeds Playhouse on June 17 next year and play there until July 11. It will then transfer to London’s Roundhouse to play from July 17 to August 29.

Nair is a co-director along with Stephen Whitson (West Side Story Edinburgh International Festival and BBC Prom and UK associate for Hamilton). They have worked with book writers Arpita Mukherjee and Sabrina Dhawan.

The latter wrote the screenplay for Monsoon Wedding. Bollywood filmmaker Vishal Bharadwaj is involved with the music, along with lyricists Masi Asare and Susan Birkenhead and orchestrator Jamshied Sharifi.

For those who have not seen the film, the plot is summarised as follows:
“In Delhi, preparations are under way for a lavish, non-stop, four-day celebration to mark the arranged marriage of Aditi and Hemant. Aditi is the only daughter of an upper middle-class family in India. She is about to meet her groom, an Indian American from New Jersey. It should be the perfect wedding, but the bride is having an affair, her father is in financial trouble, and as members of the family descend from around the world, dark family secrets surface.

“At its heart, Monsoon Wedding is an anthem to modern India. In the way that the film introduced the world of a globalising India, the musical is a celebration of the exuberant chaos of contemporary India and its vibrant diaspora.

The musical explores the ever-increasing difference and discrepancy in India between the rich and the poor, the old and the new, the traditional and the modern, the east and the west.”