In the old days, a movie was over when it said “The End.” Not anymore – teasers for sequels at the end of the credits are de rigueur in comic book adaptations, while in Indian films, the credits run alongside party tracks in which the leads assemble on a dance floor and shake their body parts.
Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding (2001) has one of the best marriages of credits and a song. Several audience members filed out of the cinemas as soon as the names of the cast and crew started rolling, but the more alert ones realised that the movie wasn’t done yet. It isn’t over until Sukhwinder Singh sings.
Nair brilliantly splices together visuals of the nuptials of Aditi (Vasundhara Das) and Hemant (Parvin Dabbas) with the roll call of everyone who worked on the movie (The last line: “We are like that only 40 locations, 30 days exactly & approximately). The ceremony caps several days of stress and strain on Aditi and her family. Lalit (Naseeruddin Shah) worries about the bills, his wife Pammi (Lillete Dubey) keeps the peace while sneaking cigarette breaks in the bathroom, and Aditi wonders whether Hemant is the man for her. Aditi’s cousin Ria (Shefali Shah) confronts a disturbing family secret, while the wedding planner Dube (Vijay Raaz) chomps on marigolds every time he sees the maid Alice (Tillotama Shome).
Nair’s most accomplished film dispenses with lip-synced songs and dexterously weaves background tunes and instrumental pieces into the narrative. Ajj Mera Jee Karda, a slow tempo bhangra beat number composed and gloriously sung by Sukhwinder Singh, uses the Punjabi word for the crow to maintain the metre of the lyrics as well as herald the glories of the monsoon.
The song has a single stanza in Singh’s voice and a second one by a female chorus. The lyrics speak of the bounty of the season and the joy spread by a wedding that has finally taken place as planned. The poignancy of Lalit and Pammi wistfully watching their daughter being wed is followed by the look of quiet triumph on the faces of Hemant and Aditi. It’s just as Dube predicted – a perfect conclusion to a near perfect movie.