Mira Nair Case Study
Nowadays much attention is paid to studying and precise consideration of art representatives from various countries. This work will focus on the depiction and analysis of Mira Nair’s work. She is considered one of the most famous film producers of modern times originating from India and currently working in both India and the USA. Mira Nair has an outstanding style of the representation of reality and the life of the representatives of various social classes in the context of different world events and situations. The current work will place special emphasis on the description of Mira Nair’s major works and the description of their distinct features. A deep study of Mira Nair’s works and their recognition by the broad audience enable to develop a comprehensive understanding of her style of reality representation.
Mira Nair is widely known as an accomplished film director, producer, and writer of Indian origin. She was born in Bhudaneshwar, a small Indian town, in 1957 (Regents of the University of Minnesota, 2009). Her father worked as a civilian servant and her mother worked as a social worker (Regents of the University of Minnesota, 2009). Mira Nair was the youngest child in the family. At the age of thirteen, she went to Irish Catholic missionary school in Simala (Regents of the University of Minnesota, 2009). Then, she started to study sociology at Delhi University. There she tried herself first as an actor in the street theatre where she spent three years. At the age of nineteen, Mira Nair obtained a scholarship for studying sociology in Harvard (Regents of the University of Minnesota, 2009). During her studies, she clearly understood that she is more attracted by filmmaking than by being an actress. Since that time, Mira Nair has directed more than 20 films and founded a production company (Tasker, 2011). Nowadays, she combines her career in filmmaking with teaching at Columbia University in the position of an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Film (Tasker, 2011).
Her first works were devoted to the depiction of Indian life and traditions. The first work Jama Masjid Street Journal (1979) reflects her attitude to the motherland through the depiction of life on the streets of Old Delhi (Regents of the University of Minnesota, 2009). The next film So Far From India (1982) showed the life of a news dealer and his pregnant wife who live in New York. This picture brought the first significant recognition to Mira Nair. It has won the Global Village Film Festival award in New York and the American Film Festival (Regents of the University of Minnesota, 2009).
In 1985, Mira Nair worked as the director of India Cabaret that depicts the life of a male customer of a Bombay night club and his wife (Regents of the University of Minnesota, 2009). Similar to the next one, this film did not bring tremendous success or recognition. In 1987, Mira Nair worked at the film Children of a Desired Sex that was ordered by the international television (Regents of the University of Minnesota, 2009). After its completion, she took the decision to complete her work in documentary filmmaking.
The common thing of the above-mentioned three films is that in all of them Mira Nair lays emphasis on the truth observation (Tasker, 2011). She follows the lives of common people who live in sophisticated conditions and are obliged to struggle against the system and established notions.
Among other notable works of Mira Nair is the feature film Salaam Bombay! where she explored the struggle of children living in Bombey (Fandango and Flixster, 2016). Mira Nair showed “the reality of children who are denied a childhood…survive on the streets of resilience, humor, flamboyance and dignity” (Regents of the University of Minnesota, 2009, p. 2). The main hero is on his way from the village where he was abandoned in the circus to India’s biggest city in search of a new life and new family (Rickey, 2016). Salaam Bombay! represents a successful combination of the narrative film together with the “extemporaneous style of cinema virtie” (Tasker, 2011). Similar to previous films, Mira Nair lays emphasis on the depiction of urban life by focusing the viewers’ attention on the immobility of major actors (Tasker, 2011). This picture was nominated for an Academy Award Foreign Language Film in 1988 (IMDB, n.d.). In addition to this nomination, the film won more than 20 awards among which are the awards of the Cannes Festival for the best feature film and the most popular entry (IMDB, n.d.). This film brought her the recognition of the representatives of world filmmaking industry.
The next work of Mira Nair was also successful. Mississippi Masala tells the story of love that takes place in Uganda and then in the Southern part of America. This film starts the topic of immigration and an enormous interest in the life of marginal groups in the works of Mira Nair. One more time, she uses the technique of mixing various film characteristics. In the case of Mississippi Masala, Mira Nair combines comedy, family melodrama, and historical drama into a distinct form of romance (Tasker, 2011). It should be noted that such film starts as Denzel Washington and Sarita Choudhury played the major roles in this work (IMDB, n.d.). The talent of Mira Nair in the combination with a highly professional team enabled this film to take three awards at the Venice Film Festival and to be highly recognized at the Sundance Film Festival in 1992 (Regents of the University of Minnesota, 2009).
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Salaam Bombay! and Mississippi Masala brought Mira Nair tremendous success. The next films are The Perez Family and Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love. It is worth mentioning that Mira Nair acted not only as a director, but also as a co-writer in the latter. The Perez Family was the first studio film of Mira Nair. This film also depicts a life story of immigrants who moved from Cuba to the USA (Fandango and Flixster, 2016). As in previous films, this one has numerous star actors: Alfred Molina, Maria Tomei, and Anjelica Huston (Tasker, 2011). Obtaining the inspiration for this film from a Hindu erotic manual, Mira Nair created one of her boldest works (Regents of the University of Minnesota, 2009). In this film, she combines the wisdom of sexuality with the politics and power of human relationships in the pre-colonial India of the 16th century (Regents of the University of Minnesota, 2009). Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love received numerous positive reviews from critics. This film was called “luminous, exotic, alluring” and “sumptuous beyond description” (Regents of the University of Minnesota, 2009, p. 6). However, some of them noted that it is more focused on the depiction of sex and power instead of storytelling (Regents of the University of Minnesota, 2009). Notwithstanding the fact that this movie introduces the life story of Indian people who lived centuries ago, this film is closely connected with the modern life in India and the USA as it depicts the break of linkage between the spiritual life and sex (Regents of the University of Minnesota, 2009). Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love was very popular in the USA, Japan, and the countries of the Far East; however, it was banned in India (Regents of the University of Minnesota, 2009)
In 1999, Mira Nair returned to the production of documentary films and presented The Laughing Club to the broad audience. This picture was introduced at the Festival International de Programmes Audiovisuels 2000 where it was awarded the Special Jury Prize (IMDB, n.d.).
Additional attention should be paid to the next feature under the name Monsoon Wedding. This movie depicts the arranging procedures of marriage in New Delhi (Fandango and Flixster, 2016). It shows a combination of beauty and chaos of wedding preparations in New Delhi. Mira Nair does not only depicts a simple story of preparation and marriage of an Indian-American man and an Indian woman, but also contrasts the life of the newly established upper middle class and working class in India. Moreover, the film director instills strong Western influence into Indian marriage traditions. In such a manner, Mira Nair brought this film closer to the Western and Indian audiences. Monsoon Wedding is considered one of the best and most sensitive works of Mira Nair as she paid extraordinary attention to the plot depiction and all the details. This film also won numerous highly recognized awards: the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 2001 and the Golden Globe as the Best Foreign Language Film (IMDB, n.d.).
Later on, Mira Nair became interested in the production of made-for-television movies My Own Country and Hysteria Blindness. The last was ordered by HBO (IMDB, n.d.). Hysterical Blindness is notable for the availability of star actors, such as “Uma Thurman, Juliette Lewis, Gena Rowlands” (IMDB, n.d.). HBO obtained about $ 15 million from the audience. This film received numerous positive reviews from critics, three Emmy Awards, and the Golden Globe for Uma Thurman (IMDB, n.d.).
Mira Nair also reacted to the events that occurred in New York on September 11, 2001. She became one of the active members of the group of eleven filmmakers who created short films (for 11 minutes and 9 seconds) about the victims of this catastrophe (IMDB, n.d.). This group was created by the French producer Alaim Brigand (Tasker, 2011). Mira Nair showed the real life of the family of Hamdani whose son Mohammad Salam Hamdani was mistakenly accused by the press of being a terrorist and died on September 11, 2001, being then “lauded as a hero” (Tasker, 2011). Mira Nair chose this particular life story for a better depiction of the life of marginals in the post-9/11 USA (Tasker, 2011).
Tremendous success of Monsoon Wedding acted as a strong facilitator of Mira Nair’s establishment as a high-quality director. This played the key role in pushing her career to “high-profile directing jobs”, such asVanity Fair (Tasker, 2011). In 2003, Mira Nair started her work on this film, with Reese Witherspoon as the main actress (IMDB, n.d.). The film is based on the famous novel of William Thackeray. Vanity Fair represents the story of individuals who lived in post-colonial England (Regents of the University of Minnesota, 2009). It was filmed on the territory of the UK and India (Regents of the University of Minnesota, 2009). Vanity Fair was sharply criticized for “uncharacteristically modern interpretation” of the major characters of Thackeray’s novel and Mira Nair’s attempts to artificially increase the strength of ties between England and South Asia by introducing several “Bollywood-style dance numbers” (Tasker, 2011).
In 2007, the film The Namesake was presented to a broad audience (Rickey, 2016). This work is considered one of the most influential films introduced by Mira Nair. She depicted the story of immigrants who moved from Calcutta to the USA. Their “all-American son evolves from rejecting his parents and their heritage to embracing them” (Rickey, 2016).
In 2008, Mira Nair acted as the director of a short romantic-drama anthology New York, I Love You and, the next year, started her work on the bibliographical film Amelia that depicts the life path of Amelia Earhart (Hollywood, 2016).
One more film introduced by Mira Nair was The Reluctant Fundamentalist that was based on Moshin Hamid’s novel (E.F., 2013). As many other pictures, The Reluctant Fundamentalist was filmed in several locations: the USA, Istanbul, and Pakistan (E.F., 2013). This film depicts the life of a Pakistani business analyst who lived in New York and had changeable attitudes to the USA (E.F., 2013). In this film, Mira Nair introduced a man who is at odds with himself. The Reluctant Fundamentalist opened the Venice Film Festival in 2013 (McNary, 2013)
This year, Mira Nair has completed her work on Queen of Katwe together with Disney (Rickey, 2016). It should be mentioned that such stars as Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo played in it (The Times of India, 2016). This film introduced the story of the young African- American girl who was selling corn in Uganda (Coming Soon, 2016). Her life changed when she was shown how to play chess. With the tremendous help of her family and community, the girl became an international chess player. She used this opportunity to disclose her talents and change her life as well as the life of her family by escaping from poverty (Coming Soon, 2016). Unlike other movies directed by Mira Nair, Queen of Katwe has more similar characteristics with melodramas (Naahar, 2016). However, similar to her pervious works, Mira Nair also disclosed the topics of identity, family, and feminism (Naahar, 2016). Despite the visualization of a happy end story, this film puts tremendous emphasis on social issues, such as poverty, aggression, racism, and violence (Watercutter, 2016). Additional attention should be paid to the fact that Queen of Katwe is the first cooperation of Mira Nair with one of the biggest filmmaking studios in Hollywood (Thompson, 2016). The film reflects the enormous recognition of Mira Nair as one of the most prominent film directors of the modern time.
During all her life, Mira Nair has been producing films on the territory of the USA and India. Her pictures won numerous awards and critics’ appreciation. The major common thing of Nair’s movies was “a fascination with people on the margins of society, culminating in their struggle to both conform as well as maintain their cultural identity” (Hollywood, 2016). Mira Nair pays much attention to the depiction of the life of immigrants and marginals in the urban environment. One of the major distinctive features of her filmmaking is the successful combination of various locations, “modes of production, and representational techniques” (Tasker, 2011). In numerous films, she tried to combine Western and Indian cultures. In some cases, these efforts brought tremendous success (like in Monsoon Wedding), while other pictures were sharply criticized (like, in the case of Vanity Fair).
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In conclusion, Mira Nair is a filmmaker and film director born in India and continuing her studies and career in India and the USA. She is broadly recognized for her artful approach to film production. Her numerous works received different awards at European and American Film Festivals. Salaam Bombay! was even nominated for an Academy Award Foreign Language Film. The most successful films which obtained high recognition from critics and a broad audience all over the world are Salaam Bombay!, Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love, Monsoon Wedding, and Queen of Katwe. These films brought Mira Nair the tremendous recognition as one of the most prominent filmmakers and an opportunity to cooperate with Hollywood studios, such as Disney. In her works, Mira Nair paid considerable attention to the depiction of the life of immigrants and representatives of marginal groups in urban environments. She disclosed such topics as identity, family, and feminism. Numerous films produced by this director are characterized by a combination of styles and representation of sights of various countries. Moreover, Mira Nair intends to represent Western and Indian cultures by blending one into another. In the majority of cases, such a combination is found to be successful.