Bringing East and West closer

Madhur Tankha
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Raring to go again:Internationally acclaimed film-maker Mira Nair at Penguin Spring Fever literature festival in New Delhi over the weekend.
Raring to go again:Internationally acclaimed film-maker Mira Nair at Penguin Spring Fever literature festival in New Delhi over the weekend.

“Dozens of movies speaking about the American point of view and focusing on the American forces fighting for democracy and nobility in Iraq and Afghanistan have been made. But these films do not speak from the perspective of women on whose homes bombs have been dropped,” says internationally-acclaimed Indian film-maker Mira Nair, who seeks to bridge the widening gulf between the East and the West through her new film, The Reluctant Fundamentalist .

The film has been adapted from a thriller penned by famous Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid who studied in America before making the United Kingdom his home. The book speaks about ethnic profiling and how difficult it is for an average Pakistani to settle down in the United States.

Mira, whose paternal family hails from Lahore, says the springboard for making The Reluctant Fundamentalist was her first trip to the Pakistani city.

“Though we grew up in Bhubaneswar and Rourkela, we were Lahoris. We were fans of Faiz Ahmed Faiz... My father came from Lahore. My first trip to that city was a familiar and moving experience. I was awed by the largeness of it, the art of it and the hospitality. These things you do not read in newspapers. I wanted to portray contemporary Pakistan and also wanted to create a dialogue with America. Six months later, I went through Mohsin Hamid’s novel.”

Admitting that there was a trust deficit between the West and the East, the film-maker says earlier people of different nationalities used to live like one big happy family in New York. “I was a proud New Yorker. Then 9/11 happened in front of me. For eight months to a year we were looked at as the other. My father-in-law and son used to take a walk in the nearby park. But we stopped them from going out for walks.”

Before becoming a film-maker, Mira was drawn to theatre. She worked with renowned theatre personality Badal Sircar. “We were young actors who would talk about political apathy. Theatre makes a dent in people’s imagination. I would generally play a girlfriend’s mother.”

Explaining how she made Salaam Bombay , Mira says the child actors were trained by theatre practitioner Barry John. “In the workshops, acting was considered a bad word. Children’s talent had to be harnessed. They would dance to Madonna’s songs.…I pulled out Irrfan Khan from the National School of Drama,” said the film-maker on the third day of the ongoing Spring Fever literature festival titled “The Global Storyteller” at India Habitat Centre here over the weekend.

The film-maker, who is about to make a musical of Monsoon Wedding , says she has already recorded seven songs. “We have to record four more. It will be staged in May next year. I feel at home on stage. I like taking crazy risks.”

Noting that making the Naseeruddin Shah-starrer film was extremely difficult, Mira says she was not getting actors for her film. She had to rope in aunties from Delhi’s posh locality and a cinematographer since his brother, a professional actor, was working on another project in London.



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