Director Mira Nair brings the story of her acclaimed film Monsoon Wedding to life again – as a musical – at Berkeley Rep, opening this Friday. Although she’s known for her films like Mississippi Masala and The Namesake, she says that her first love was the theater, and describes returning to her ‘intuitive home.’ She has worked with composer (and filmmaker) Vishal Bhardwadj, and they now have 22 new songs to carry the story forward.
There’s more information about the show at the Berkeley Rep website. (The run of the show has been extended to Sunday, July 2nd)
Nair says it was her agent, back in 2002, after the film had been in theaters for months (including one right across from his office) who gave her the idea for the adaptation. “He would see it a few times a week. And one day he said to me, ‘Mira, you really should think of making it a musical. This is an anti-depressant of a film, this saves me hundreds of dollars in shrink bills!’” She thought it could work on stage, and with songs – although more in the tradition of Indian pop. “It’s Shakespearean in its plots, you know, the upper class, the working class, the two sets of lovers… And of course the fact that it’s a wedding, which is knit in the tapestry of any wedding, but especially a Punjabi wedding, is all kinds of folk, traditional, and other kinds of music.” And returning to the theater has been a thrill, she says. “The most exciting thing about theater, which no film can duplicate, is that it is live. There is nothing more exciting. And more naked, frankly. I love the idea of no safety nets. Every single thing that has to be coordinated in a series of moving parts that then make a moment happen. And I just love the Zen of that. That what you see this moment you will never see again, unlike the movies, which immortalize things and pickle them in the most protective of ways.”