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India Film Edited to Play in Qatar

FILE: Nov 16, 2022; Doha, QATAR; La’eeb, the mascot for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, on banners along the Corniche Waterfront. Mandatory Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports

A musical adaptation of "Monsoon Wedding" starting Thursday in Qatar had to remove alcohol and kissing, but the hit film's director Mira Nair insists it has not lost its "soul".

One of the biggest made-in-India international hits, the 2001 film recounts the chaotic preparations for the Delhi wedding of an Indian girl to an Indian-American man.

But just as its plot exposes cultural clashes when an extended Indian family comes together, bringing an adapted version to Qatar on the margins of the football World Cup has also meant some upheaval.

"With respect to Qatari society, we have made some adjustments that are superficial because we do not mean to offend anyone," director Mira Nair told AFP.

Alcohol is largely banned and public displays of affection are also forbidden, leaving viewers in Islamic Qatar without some elements of a typical Punjabi celebration.

"But at the core, what you are seeing in the musical is what it is," the award-winning director said.

"The soul is there. I will not touch the soul."

Nair, 65, said that in her family, alcohol is "very ordinary for us, it is part of life. It is not in Qatar." So it had to go.

"We have just not made it the center of attention, and it never was in the play. It's just that we live with it," said the director.

Actors will say "give me an orange juice" - instead of something stronger.

"The whole joie de vivre that we want to have in this mad, crazy family is completely unaltered, but we are respectful to the place we are in," Nair stressed.

The hugging and kissing that was seen in the earlier version has also been toned down.

"There is romance," said the director. "But romance can be done in several very elegant ways, and very artful ways. The film is about love, and love comes with romance."

Performances will go on until November 27 - a week after the World Cup kicks off in the tiny Gulf country.

Nair said it told "the eternal story" of "how we navigate this challenge of love... the desire for it, but also how we keep secrets around it."

That delicate balancing act, she added, "is always something that erupts when a family gets together or two families get together in their wedding."