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Nice Arrangement, A (1991)

Courtesy of Channel Four International

Main image of Nice Arrangement, A (1991)
DirectorGurinder Chadha
Production CompanyFilm Four International
 British Screen
 Umbi Films
ProducerNadine Marsh-Edwards
ScriptMeera Syal
PhotographyNina Kellgren

Cast: Tania Rodrigues (Meena); Meera Syal (Sita); Jamila Massey; Kaleem Janjua; Badi Uzzaman

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Set in a North London home of an Indian family on the morning of their daughter's wedding. Should she go through the arranged marriage or stay with her boyfriend?

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Produced by Film Four, A Nice Arrangement (1990) is a short comedy about the pre-ceremony rituals of an arranged marriage, directed by Gurinder Chadha and written by Meera Syal, who also plays divorcee Auntie Sita.

At the film's opening, a woman on the street comments, "What a racket! Must be another one of those Paki dos". The camera then retires into a house - passing Indian ornaments, relatives in bright saris, trays of food, professional photographers, and gossiping women. This ostentatious interior, where we remain for the rest of the film, is a far cry from the working-class, racist world outside.

While Syal's work as a director, writer, and actress is often concerned with the Western-Asian culture clash, Arrangement, like My Sister Wife (BBC, tx. 23/2/1992), explores how the traditional Indian way of life is under pressure from its own community.

Rather than moralising about its harmful effects, Arrangement gently mocks the lavish excess of the Hindu arranged marriage. Meena (Tania Rodrigues), unable to understand the need for three hundred guests at her wedding, complains she would prefer to marry in a register office. Meena's tragic predicament is that tradition promotes her loveless union with Ajay, while religion prevents her from marrying her Muslim boyfriend, Hasheem.

But the film is as much Auntie Sita's story as Meena's. Her position is quite the opposite of Meena's. Divorce has left Sita neither bitter or sad; instead she celebrates her status as single, explaining that her ex-husband was threatened by her intelligence and career.

Sita's feminist beliefs do not, however, lead her to dissuade Meena from going ahead with her wedding. Nor does Meena herself fight it, calmly assuring Sita that "you can love someone and not marry them". Sita's reply, "Can you marry someone you don't love?", poignantly sums up the dilemma at the heart of arranged marriage.

Shalini Chanda

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Video Clips
1. The gossip (0:55)
2. Sita and Meena (1:00)
3. A real Indian bride (0:50)
Two Sisters (1992)
Chadha, Gurinder (1960-)
Syal, Meera (1962-)