[VoxSpace Selects] Mira Nair : Remembering The Chronicler Of Untold Tales

The Mira Nair Story – And Her Prowess In Establishing Art On A Global Platform

‘If we don’t tell our stories, no one will’- Nothing can sum up better the career of a woman who after winning several international accolades and awards in a career that is longer than 2 decades, is still on a quest to tell stories that no one else would.

Born in Odisha, Mira Nair is one of the rare personalities who can truly be called a global filmmaker. Like her films, her life has also been a cornucopia of enriching experiences that are spread across three continents. She has successfully juggled with stories from India, America, and Africa. Not even once engaging in stereotypes, she reflects an insight into cultural nuances that is rare. It is probably from this deep understanding of diversity, her film caters to film lovers who are not held back by geographical barriers.

Whether it is the adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray’s novel in ‘Vanity Fair’, story of typical Punjabi wedding in ‘Monsoon Wedding‘, the story of resilience and determination in ‘Queen of Katwe‘ or Amelia Earhart’s biopic ‘Amelia‘, Nair is one of the very few who can claim to have such internationally diverse understanding of films.

What Sets Mira Nair Apart In The League Of Visionary Film Makers?

It is just not her understanding of international films that makes her unique. What truly sets her apart from the rest of the filmmakers is her ability to understand people.

It is because of this understanding the characters in her films are deliciously layered. Even though her film, which would be categorized as ‘artsy’ in our common parlance, is never convoluted. They are always, without fail, about regular people, with ordinary stories narrated in the most extraordinary fashion.

Though her works cannot be confined to one genre, one of the recurring underlying themes in her movies is family. In a culture where the concept of family is so prominent, that we are taught to ignore the undercurrents, Nair talks about issues that are common to many families, but few choose to speak about it or even acknowledge it. Take Monsoon Wedding and Namesake for example. Gogol’s search for his identity and his conflict with his parents is something many go through, but few talk about. In Monsoon Wedding too, Nair expertly reveals what many would find when the cover of a seemingly normal family is peeled off to reveal the real humans.

The Brutality Of Film Making – A Sign Of Creative Genius

It is also perhaps this ruthless honesty that makes a film like Salaam Bombay possible. The grime, the squalor is real and so are the cast. The film actually stars children who live on the streets of Mumbai (then Bombay). However, the film maintains a fine balance. Neither does it becomes a documentary chronicling the lives of street dwellers, losing its cinematic essence, nor does it become preachy. It is the same honesty that is also reflected in her last release ‘Queen of Katwe’. Again, the acute poverty and the struggle is real. The determination is inspiring but never cliched or preachy.

Apart from her understanding of her craft, her films are also a reflection of her deep understanding of world affairs. Her film,’The Reluctant Fundamentalist’ not only explores the depths of personal turmoil. It also reflects a thorough understanding of geopolitics. She was also one of the directors who was featured in `11’09’01. It was an anthology from different directors representing one country and sharing their vision on the 9/11 attacks in 11 minutes, 9 seconds and one frame. To say that Mira Nair is not afraid of experimenting would be an understatement of the highest degree.

Telling stories that are honest, earnest, real and most importantly the stories that nobody else would tell, world cinema truly has a lot to thank Mira Nair for.

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