Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Mira Nair, We Still Love You

<--- Step away from the Swank, Mira!

Yesterday, innocently walking cross town, I was suddenly struck by a bolt of sympathy for director Mira Nair. It's totally turned into the Year of the Female Director (yay!) but she hasn't been able to join the party that Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker), Lone Scherfig (An Education), Jane Campion (Bright Star), Andrea Arnold (Fish Tank) and others are undoubtedly enjoying. Not with the critical drubbing that Amelia has taken at least.

I don't like what she did with Amelia at all (my review) but I definitely wish Nair well her next time behind the camera.

I remember being totally moved by her narrative feature debut Salaam Bombay! (1988) the second of only three films from India's massive film industry to have ever received an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Film. [Trivia: It was up against another great 80s picture, Pedro Almodovar's Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, but they both lost to Denmark's Pelle the Conqueror]. It's a good underseen rental option the next time you're in the mood for street urchins. Step away from Oliver! and Slumdog Millionaire and give it a shot.

And then there's Monsoon Wedding... one of the richest movies of the early Aughts.


What a beautiful movie. I still listen to the soundtrack on occasion.
*

15 comments:

Guy said...

Love her too, and I'm sure she'll be fine. I think the twin failures of "Vanity Fair" and "Amelia" will ensure that she's never entrusted with studio prestige material again, but that's no bad thing ... she clearly needs to tell stories where she has some level of personal experience and investment.

Leith Q said...

For the record, "Salaam Bombay" can hardly be considered part of the massive Indian film industry known as Bollywood. "Salaam Bombay" uses more Western approaches to filmmaking, generally speaking, and does not fit the basic mold of Bollywood films. Bollywood refers to movies made with lavish production budgets, big name stars, musical numbers, and are often much longer than your average two hour film. Craftmanship is generally a non-issue and they are made in direct contrast of what India actually is. Bollywood films are made to appeal to the average Indian citizen (someone who is not well off financially and seeks an "escape from reality" in their choice of films). Bollywood does not portray India very realistically. Characters are often wealthy, not the poor street urchins of "Salaam Bombay."
Nair's film would fall into the category of Parallel Indian Cinema-arthouse Indian film. Additionally, Deepa Mehta's trilogy of "Earth," "Fire," and "Water" fall into this category.
Bollywood is quite far from "Salaam Bombay." The other Indian nominees, "Mother India" and "Lagaan" are more traditional Bollywood films, although they are much more approachable to the Western viewer than others (perhaps why they were nominated). In fact, in my fairly extensive reading of Bollywood, most authors and books don't even mention "Salaam Bombay"'s nomination. However, they do recognize the nominations of "Mother India" and "Lagaan."

Overall, I hope Mira Nair makes a film more akin to her roots next time.

NATHANIEL R said...

Leith I'm using Bollywood here in the general sense of Indian cinema and not the "style" sense in the way people sometimes say Hollywood not to signify big studio mall pictures but to signify The Movies! as it were or the industry itself.

but you're correct about the style issue and the difference of course and far of an expert than i will ever be on the matter.

However I do think it's needlessly exclusionary and strange not to cite SALAAM BOMBAY as an Oscar nominee when you're talking about India. Oscar doesn't distinguish between Bollywood style and more personal Indian cinema. Foreign film nominations are country-based.

Kurtis O said...

I LOOOOVE "Monsoon Wedding," and I'd be just fine with Nair sticking to films that involve her native country.

Given "Vanity Fair" and "Amelia," it does appear that, maybe, that's precisely what she should do.

Leith Q said...

Yeah, I definitely agree. It's just that in all my reading about Indian cinema, "Salaam Bombay" never figured into the conversation. I didn't even know it was nominated until I did some outside investigating. Bollywood doesn't even recognize such films as part of the same entity.
And not to be more nit-picky, Bollywood, in its most strict definition, refers to Hindi language cinema. Other Indian languages have their own designations (Kollywood, Tollywood, etc.).

But I love your blog, and read it daily. I think it'd be awesome if you wrote a little more about Bollywood from time to time. Talk about AMPAS disliking violent, heavy, foreign films--there's a reason why more Indian movies haven't been nominated and for a completely different reason.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

And yet both Slumdog and Oliver won Best picture Oscars. These Oscar voters re like dogs with a bone.

Guy is Vanity Fair that bad?

Sean said...

She gets points for "Hysterical Blindness."

Michael Parsons said...

Bring her back to the 'Hysterical BLindness' era. Forget the epic films! Stick to small!

Anonymous said...

it seemed she had to substitute Peter Weir for SHANTARAM, but the title is no longer mentioned about her projects.
I think SALAM BOMBAY is still her best achievement, but I love this lady too.
I haven't watched AMELIA yet, but after the reviews, I'm not looking forward for it...
What a pity she never worked with Aamir Khan (by far the best actor among all the Bollywood megastars) as she announced after MOONSUN WEEDING triumph...

mirko

Anonymous said...

a very valid point,Mira Nair shines through in work related to India,I also thought The Namesake was very good,the actress who played the mother,Tabu i think, was really really good!

Sunil Gupta said...

Good blog and Nice posting.
Priya | True Hindi Love Story

elliot said...

this is a great blog

Anonymous said...

Jane says
Vanity Fair wasn't a bad film. It was beautiful and all and I enjoyed the two hours -- especially looking at a beautifully pompous JRM in the Regency haircut. It just lacked depth and heart and failed to do justice to the masterpiece. And Witherspoon, while charming in the right part, was totally wrong for this.
I think Nair made a mistake in leading ladies in Amelia, too. A fine actress. But I find her so unappealing personally and lacking in charm. She tried to make up for it with a forced spunk -- didn't work.

YT said...

Thought that Mira Nair would have learned her lesson after "Vanity Fair." Guess not. Sad.

Cindy said...

I can't stand her movies. I don't get it!