India Currents gave me a voice in days I was very lost. Having my articles selected for publishing was very validating – Shailaja Dixit, Executive Director, Narika, Fremont
The Aunties Are Coming
Mira Nair bottled the Punjabi wedding with its joie de vie and flung it into the universe where it exploded with foot stomping josh. This rollicking, never-a-dull-moment musical showing presently at St Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn is running to packed houses.
Always the one with impeccable timing Nair rolled out the bubbly as the city filled up with graduating families. T-shirts, with “The Aunties Are Coming” emblazoned on the back, sold like hotcakes.
“I designed them myself,” said Nair to Ritu Marwah of India Currents.
From the moment the tipur tipur of the rain dance spilled the actors onto the stage, to the end when a downpour of rain fell from the ceiling forming a curtain around the wedding stage, the audience sat mesmerized. Giggling at the finer directorial touches with which Nair tickled the audience’s funny bone, members of the audience were making plans to bring more friends to see the show.
“ I think this is the best show I have ever seen,” said McKenna who had been invited by a graduating friend. “ I must come back with my friends.”
After two days she wrote again, “Thank you again for inviting me. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about how amazing the show was!”
The sound of a musical is critical to its success
The Punjabi songs and Indian thumkas don’t need to be translated. Joy has only one language. Unabashedly and unapologetically colorful the musical belts out old wedding favorites in Punjabi. The audience claps along. The music envelopes the foot-stomping, clapping non-Punjabi speakers welcoming them into the fold.
Not for a minute did McKenna feel she did not want to be part of the wedding party.
Tony award-winning Susan Birkenhead was the lyricist for the musical. Masi Asare, a Tony-nominated songwriter and dramatist co-wrote the lyrics for the current production. She is a professor of musical theater at Northwestern University. Vishal Bhardwaj, trained in the classical tradition, the composer has his finger on the pulse of Indian pop.
Does the musical depart from the movie?
To some, who had seen Monsoon Wedding the movie, the thought of going to a theater adaption of their favorite film, which won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, was a risky enterprise. Who could do justice to the celluloid Dubey?
Those are large shoes to fill. But we forget we are dealing with a master of direction, Mira Nair. Namit Das, born into a musical family (his father is renowned ghazal singer Chandan Dass), named by Time Out one of “25 actors under the age of 35 who are lighting up the Mumbai stage,” sparkled as the wedding planner PK Dubey.
Monsoon Wedding, the Musical’s Dubey, and Alice lose none of the celluloid magic in their parallel love story. Anisha Nagarajan (Madhuri on the 2010 NBC television series, Outsourced) plays the Vermas’ housekeeper Alice, who falls for the lovestruck wedding planner, Dubey, played by Das.
The bachelorette evening includes women of all ages in its raunchy tale-telling. The chest-heaving aunties, telling tales of wedding night antics turning into forgetful boring husbands as the years move on, in a women’s only evening draw the audience in.
The quintessential train or airport scene, when a departing lover is pulled from the jaws of the plane at the last minute, is superbly executed with a tongue-in-cheek backdrop of a knight on a white charger galloping to his departing lover sending the audience a titter. This was a welcome addition in the Musical.
Writers Arpita Mukherjee and Sabrina Dhawan have woven in serious themes of hushed-about sexual abuse inflicted by family members things Dhawan has seen herself and was passionate about. The musical’s singing, dancing, and exuberant sets help to bring moments of levity to balance the story’s sorrow.
“ I shaped the film like an accordion, like the human heart. It is so expansive and then the heart is squeezed by abject pain, loss, or whatever is the drama of the moment,” Nair said to NPR.
This is the fourth iteration of the show. “ This is the final version,” Nair said to India Currents. “The rehearsal is over. The show is on. “
Tickets and Additional Information
Performances of Monsoon Wedding, the Musical begin May 6 and run through June 25 at St. Ann’s Warehouse (45 Water St, Brooklyn, NY 11201). The production officially opens on May 22.
Tickets, starting at $49, are on sale now at stannswarehouse.org and 718.254.8779.