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‘Monsoon Wedding’ is taking to the stage — a musical a decade in the making : NPR

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Monsoon Marriage ceremony got here out over 20 years in the past. It was an indie darling and big success. Now it is being made right into a musical. It has been a decade within the making, labored on between London, Delhi and Doha.



SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

In 2001, the Indian filmmaker Mira Nair launched “Monsoon Marriage ceremony.” It was the story of a Punjabi wedding ceremony in New Delhi. There’s rain and dancing and massive household drama. The film turned one of many highest-grossing worldwide movies in American field workplace historical past. 20 years later, “Monsoon Marriage ceremony” has been was a musical, and it simply opened in New York Metropolis. NPR’s Bilal Qureshi takes us backstage.

BILAL QURESHI, BYLINE: St. Ann’s Warehouse is a black field theater positioned straight underneath the Brooklyn Bridge. And inside, throughout this last rehearsal, greater than two dozen actors are all singing each their Western and Indian scales as director Mira Nair hums alongside.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP #1: (Singing in non-English language).

MIRA NAIR: I can not say that I used to be an enormous fan of American musicals. I did see rather a lot, however once I had the concept to make “Monsoon Marriage ceremony,” my movie, right into a musical, I did suppose, everybody right here flocks to “Fiddler On The Roof.” Everybody right here seems at their tales in numerous methods on the stage. However the place are our tales? You recognize? The place are the brown folks? The place is the Verma household?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character, singing) Effective monsoon weddings revenue from love (ph). Rain is coming, Ria.

QURESHI: So Mira Nair created “Monsoon Marriage ceremony” the musical.

SHARVARI DESHPANDE: My identify is Sharvari Deshpande. I play Ria.

ANISHA NAGARAJAN: My identify is Anisha Nagarajan, and I play Alice, or Ay-lice (ph), as she calls herself.

QURESHI: They share the stage with the entire ensemble for the play’s huge closing quantity.

NAGARAJAN: Probably the most iconic “Monsoon Marriage ceremony” track – (singing in non-English language).

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, “MONSOON WEDDING”)

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP #1: (As characters, singing in non-English language).

QURESHI: “Monsoon Marriage ceremony” the film was not a musical. Launched in 2001, it was an intimate household flick, as Mira Nair calls it, the story of a bride nonetheless in love together with her ex and an exuberant portrait of New Delhi. Critic Aseem Chhabra says it was good and genuine.

ASEEM CHHABRA: Our weddings are what’s proven in that movie. And there is music, and there are dances, and there are kinfolk coming from the world over. Some you want. Some you do not like. Some are creepy uncles and gossipy aunties. Every part will get proven in that movie.

QURESHI: Given the movie’s success, Nair determined to show it right into a musical. That was 17 years in the past.

NAIR: We now have a joke hashtag, #AurKaroTheatre. Each time the problem is simply too exhausting, any person will inform me, aur karo theatre. Do extra, and then you definately’ll undergo extra – you already know, that kind of factor. It is a joke, however I’ve been stewarding this for years.

QURESHI: Masi Asare is the musical’s lyricist, and she or he’s additionally a professor of musical theater at Northwestern College.

MASI ASARE: Musicals, completely different from movie, are very costly to make. They do not all the time make again their cash. I do not know that I ought to be saying all of this, however, you already know, there generally is a state of affairs the place the producers or the stakeholders or sort of the powers that be within the U.S. theater business will say, that is too dangerous. Please do it the way in which it is all the time been completed.

QURESHI: The final huge Indian musical to be completed in New York was virtually twenty years in the past. It was glitzy. It was loud. And it was referred to as “Bombay Goals.”

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “SHAKALAKA BABY”)

PREEYA KALIDAS: (As Rani, singing) Shakalaka, child. Shakalaka, child. That is the way it’s actually meant to be.

QURESHI: It was additionally a essential and business catastrophe and closed in lower than one season. From the set of “Monsoon Marriage ceremony” now, Anisha Nagarajan seems again directly taking part in the lead in “Bombay Goals.”

NAGARAJAN: There was a whole lot of concern about whether or not the viewers was prepared for what we’re bringing to the desk, and I believe they’re. Perhaps they weren’t then, however they’re now.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP #2: (As characters, singing in non-English language).

QURESHI: “Monsoon Marriage ceremony” is definitely arriving in a really completely different period. “Hamilton,” “A Unusual Loop” and others have proven that leaning into distinction can work on the stage.

NAIR: I didn’t wish to go down the meeting line of Tony Award-winning Broadway creators. You recognize, I wished to do what we did within the movie, which was to return dwelling to Delhi and to India. And I did suppose solely of Vishal Bhardwaj.

QURESHI: Vishal Bhardwaj is an acclaimed composer and filmmaker in India. He based mostly many of the musical rating and songs on the Indian Raga system.

VISHAL BHARDWAJ: It is a mixture of notes which creates a spell and a temper. There’s very, very, you already know, strict rule in Indian classical music.

NAMIT DAS: (As PK Dubey, singing in non-English language).

NAIR: It’s one thing deeply uncommon, what we are trying to do.

DAS: (As PK Dubey, singing) Is she not a sight, goddess of the sunshine?

NAIR: I’ve actually not held again for the viewers to be actually dipped within the vat of very beautiful classical Indian singing.

DAS: (As PK Dubey, singing in non-English language).

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character, singing in non-English language).

QURESHI: On stage, these strict Indian melodies additionally must merge with the narrative calls for of an American musical.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As character, singing) Why does nobody see, in Delhi or in Hoboken, I am nonetheless the identical me?

NAIR: This solid has been extraordinary and exhausting to seek out once we started in 2017. South Asian actors had been stuffed with expertise however not sufficient expertise to hold generally a complete present. And simply to seek out our actors has taken us, with out exaggeration, greater than three years.

QURESHI: The primary draft in 2017 was described by Selection as missing the attraction and subtlety of the movie. Since then, it has been workshopped in London, Delhi and Doha, says affiliate director Arpita Mukherjee.

ARPITA MUKHERJEE: It virtually wanted worldwide improvement to seek out that proper marriage and the orchestrations. You recognize, it is taken so many goes at that marriage, and that is very troublesome.

DAS: (As PK Dubey, singing) Alice, come right here.

NAGARAJAN: (As Alice, singing) No, no, no, not right here.

NAIR: And I all the time considered the movie as an accordion, one thing that expands your coronary heart after which squeezes it. It is solely as a result of one can chuckle that one can then cry, you already know? And I actually consider that in life. And that’s actually what I wished to maintain. That is what I wished to aspire for – that depth and that layering that may take you from one place after which into one other place.

DAS: (As PK Dubey, singing) OK, I’ll begin. One thing, one thing’s taking place right here on this coronary heart.

QURESHI: Essayist Pico Iyer wrote the liner notes for the DVD launch of “Monsoon Marriage ceremony” on the Criterion Assortment.

PICO IYER: I keep in mind once I was writing about “Monsoon Marriage ceremony,” I invoked Shakespeare due to the way in which that Shakespeare drew on all of the business instruments of theater when he was dwelling, which must do with broad comedy and storytelling and issues which might be enticing to the group and but would infuse that with a subtlety and class that made it one thing a lot bigger. And I believe she has that uncommon reward that each artist craves, primarily. And it involves its most interesting end result, virtually, in “Monsoon Marriage ceremony.”

QURESHI: Mira Nair hopes the musical additionally reaches the same end result and at last finds its dwelling.

NAIR: To be opening in New York Metropolis and to be opening in what I contemplate the temple of inspiration for me of theater, which is St. Ann’s Warehouse, is sort of a fruition of a serious dream and a serious quantity of labor. And I am hoping, in fact, that the audiences will really feel this fruition in one of the simplest ways potential and, inshallah, the critics, too, which is able to all the time make my life simpler. However that I’ll see within the week to return.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP #3: (As characters, singing in non-English language).

QURESHI: Bilal Qureshi, NPR Information.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP #3: (As characters, singing in non-English language).

Copyright © 2023 NPR. All rights reserved. Go to our web site phrases of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for additional info.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This textual content might not be in its last type and could also be up to date or revised sooner or later. Accuracy and availability could range. The authoritative file of NPR’s programming is the audio file.

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