Telling new stories

Telling new stories

Director's cut

Telling new stories

With background in theatre, Mira Nair ventured into films quite on purpose, when at college she found Cambridge theatre meekly political. She started as a student of Delhi University and the thrust of her instincts took her into all the adventures she has taken up. Her films are Indian and at the same time global. They are an artistic take on ‘Hollywood Bollywood’ films.

The 58-year-old is well known as a filmmaker but few people know that she is also a social entrepreneur and a passionate film editor.

“I wanted to build new narratives through editing documentaries. I understood how cutting the film in a way is also a way to control (emotions),” says Nair. She says, “Class and economics is my line (of work) and hence I began to make documentaries all about India. There were less documentaries being made in the 80s and it was such a struggle to raise funds.”

Nair runs a free film school called Maisha Film Lab in Kampala, Uganda, along with her husband. “The school is 11 years old and every year we take 10 students from the place. Now some of them also have grown up to be professional filmmakers,” she exclaims. Guest lecturers and professionals from the film industry are deputed at the school. “Most of them are my friends and they have never refused. The first year Vishal Bhardwaj was called to teach a class,” she avers.

Nair who often shared alternate narratives on mainstream topics such as migration (in ‘Mississipi Masala’), woman (in ‘The Namesake’), Punjabi weddings (in ‘Monsoon Wedding’), also took it upon herself to share “the modern African tales” as she calls it.
Married to a Ugandian, she lived in the place for some time to realise various issues and conflicts still prevalent in the modern day and age. She tries to learn about people and their environment and picks up from there.

“In my childhood (in Orissa) I found the milkman’s life infinitely interesting,” she laughs. This agog was not her first nor her last. Seemingly all her films went through certain kind of personal journey or were derived from one.

The best example remains ‘Salaam Bombay’, where she not only lived and worked with street kids but also cast them as method actors.

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