Mira Nair: Keep your voice alive while entertaining

Mira Nair (Photo courtesy: Indo-American Arts Council)
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By Mohd Asim Khan

NEW DELHI–You have to keep your voice alive despite all the pulls and pressures while telling a story that should also be entertaining, feels noted filmmaker Mira Nair, who is currently busy with the post-production of her new film “Queen of Katwe”.

“There are commercial pulls, of course, when you are helming a film. And bigger the project, the greater the number of people you are answerable to. But in the midst of all this, I always try to keep my voice alive. As the director of a film, as the story teller, you have to keep your voice alive,” Nair told IANS here.

Mira Nair (Photo courtesy: Indo-American Arts Council)
Mira Nair (Photo courtesy: Indo-American Arts Council)

Produced by Walt Disney Pictures, “Queen of Katwe”, slated to be released worldwide in October this year, is a biographical drama based on the life of Phiona Mutesi, an 11-year-old Ugandan girl who coincidentally walks into a chess school in her city, develops a passion for the game, and goes on to become a world class player at a very young age. It stars Oscar winning actress Lupita Nyong’o.

“When I heard the story from a Disney representative, I was like ‘That’s my stuff’, and I instantly agreed to direct the film,” said the maker of several critically acclaimed as well as commercially successful movies such as “Salaam Bombay” (1988), “Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love” (1996), “Monsoon Wedding” (2001) and “Mississippi Masala” (1991).

Her themes, and treatment, have always been bold. Is the Hindi filmdom, with a lot more show of skin, getting bolder?

“I don’t think boldness should be associated with showing off skin. It’s not the basis of boldness. I think there is a lot more bolder thinking that is now in cinema here,” said the National Award winning director.

“Also, the craft and quality have seen miles of improvement. In earlier days we had to be apologetic about the standard of things, but now we are as good as anyone else. That is just really exciting,” she added.

If she were to make one of her films, say “Kama Sutra” – which caused an uproar in the 1990s – now, would she make it any different?

“Yes, definitely I would make it very differently because the world has changed and I have grown. But, yes, censorship is still there. That has not changed here, and that is incredible. Not just in cinema but in society as well. In that sense, it’s not the most open place we have been in,” she said.

Nair, who also runs a film training institute called Maisha Film Lab in Uganda, she looks at art as a medium of bringing about positive change in society. How has her cinema been a harbinger of change so far?

“It’s really for you to say. But I think in terms of activism associated with my films, be it Salaam Baalak Trust or Maisha, taking the idea of cinema as a way to change people, I feel heartened. I am glad that we have impacted thousands of lives,” Nair said.

For her, it is “really amazing when you can create a platform where people can start to talk again”.

“That’s extraordinary. So that is the power sometimes you are privileged to have had, and that is the power of cinema that can keep on going,” she added.



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