Mira Nair – A passion for life and work

There’s a vibrancy and exuberance about Mira Nair. A passion for life and all its experiences reflected beautifully in the spectrum of universes depicted in her films.

I first saw the ebullient and infectious Monsoon Wedding at a premiere screened in Delhi as a fundraiser for  Salaam Baalak Trust - the foundation for street children, an  offshoot from Mira’s close and personal interaction with the real actors of Salaam Bombay, her first feature film. I have always felt that she has always been attracted to the stories of those who are considered marginalised and able to shine a light on the optimism that brightens the far-end of the darkest corridor.

Mira’s body of work is multi-faceted, brilliant, spirited and touches a chord with each sentiment they convey.

Finding hope in the narrow alleys of Delhi - beyond the darkness and dread – abandoned children making  the streets their home at night and daytime playground is what forms the essence of Salaam Bombay. The narrative is documentary-styled as the film is set in real geographies,  where not a single scene is shot on a set or in a studio, capturing the essence of the everyday life of the young inhabitants in all its squalour and vigour.         

Mississippi Masala challenges us to invest in and respect and show tolerance to America's cultural stew of many colours. An entire universe of pain and longing is created within the scope of filial relationships, separation, and racial outcomes within the paradigm of longing for Uganda - so palpable that it seems like an aching soul. 

The Reluctant Fundamentalist digs deep into the traumatic aftermath of 9/11 when people of a certain skin colour and background come to be reviled in New York . An intriguing film about the blowback involved when melting-pot America goes to war, Mohsin Hamid's best-selling novel on which the film is based, depicts a central clash between tradition and progress, old and new, and in some ways, recalls Mississippi Masala  in its layered characters and the many transitions they encounter. In Vanity Fair, the feisty Becky Sharp wants to marry well, and since she has neither fortune nor title, an appropriate marriage is her only recourse to the life she aspires for. Morality vs pragmatism hangs in the balance as a question across centuries and yet do we blame her?

Mira’s films examine family and culture: confront conflict and taboo across continents and periods. The crisscrossing of cultural milieus dominates The Namesake, as does lyrical chronicling in A Suitable Boy or the Queen of Katwe, the inspirational real-life tale of an impoverished girl who became an international chess master in Uganda.

The earthy fervour of Monsoon Wedding’s popular Bollywood songs and gravitas of classical ragas imbue Mira’s cosmopolitan oeuvre with a vibrant Indian ethos which informs her craft so brilliantly.  Says the ever-effervescent Mira about her work, ‘For a couple of years before presenting it to you, it must obsess me, it must interest me, delight me, trouble me.”

Mira will be in conversation to talk about her work at JLF New York. Do book your slot and listen in to what promises to be an exciting ride indeed!

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