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Stage Adaptation of Mira Nair’s ‘Monsoon Wedding’ Makes ‘Concerted Effort’ to Question Patriarchy

Stage Adaptation of Mira Nair’s ‘Monsoon Wedding’ Makes ‘Concerted Effort’ to Question Patriarchy

  • The production, which debuted in New York earlier this month, is playing at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn through June 25.

The stage adaptation of “Monsoon Wedding,” the 2001 film by Mira Nair made its New York debut earlier this month. Based on a book by Arpita Mukherjee and Sabrina Dhawan, the musical is conceived and directed by Nair, and “tries to capture the 2001 film’s spirit,” according to The New York Times. 

“Monsoon Wedding” follows the Vermas, a Punjabi family in Delhi busily preparing for a lavish wedding. As event planners string marigold flower chains and pitch a pole tent for the festivities, mania ensues. The bride-to-be, Aditi, is torn between her feelings for her ex-lover and her soon-to-be husband, the wedding planner falls in love with the family’s maid, and buried family secrets come to the surface during the days-long celebration. “Nair’s celebration rings joyful and cathartic: as a love song to her home city of Delhi and to her own Punjabi family,” says the musical’s synopsis. “At its core, it’s a story of families: how they love, rejoice, and endure together.”

The production was first staged in 2017 at Berkeley Repertory Theater, where it received mixed reviews, the Bay Area Player reported at the time. Work on the adaptation began in 2006, with Nair and the film’s screenwriter, Dhawan, collaborating with composer Vishal Bhardwaj and the lyricist Susan Birkenhead. Nair told The Times that “she’d been inspired by the 2004 Broadway revival of “Fiddler on the Roof,” a show built around cultural traditions adapting to survive.

The Times further notes that “like the film, the musical touches upon the fallout of India’s 1947 partition, brought to life in the characters’ religious, social and economic differences. Nair told the publication that the film is about “our families, but so deeply universal — this essential story of understanding a whole society and movement through a very personal story.” 

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However, the musical deviates a little from the film, in terms of messaging. For the musical, Nair had to revisit one of the film’s subplots, she told The Times, “about a relative’s grooming and sexual abuse of two younger family members.” A “concerted effort” was made to have “the women question the patriarchy and speak up,” Nair said. “Other characters who are afflicted by this don’t shove it under the rug; they make decisions in their own lives that reflect that they will not accept this behavior, which we didn’t have before.” 

The change is reflective of Nair’s work which “has never shied away from examining cultural distinctions,” The Times notes. “Mississippi Masala” (1991) explored the interracial romance between a Black man and Indian American woman, “Salaam Bombay!” (1988), revolved around children living in the slums.

“Monsoon Wedding” is currently playing at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn, New York, through June 25. 

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