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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Who is Mira Nair?

Who is Mira Nair? The acting world know Mira Nair as an Indian film director and producer based in New York. Her production company is Mirabai Films.

Mira Nair was born October 15, 1957 in Rourkela,[3] Orissa, where her Punjabi father, Nayyar (she spells her surname Nair, having his roots in Amritsar, Punjab), was employed. She was the youngest of three children from a middle-class hindu family. Her father was a civil servant and her mother a social worker. was educated at Delhi University and Harvard University. Her debut feature film, Salaam Bombay! (1988), won the Golden Camera award at the Cannes Film Festival and also earned the nomination for Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. She used the proceeds of the film, to establish an organization for street children, called the Salaam Baalak Trust in India.[1] She often works with longtime creative collaborator, screenwriter Sooni Taraporevala, whom she met at Harvard.

She has won a number of awards, including a National Film Award and various international film festival awards, and was a nominee at the Academy Awards, Golden Globes, BAFTA Awards and Filmfare Awards. She was also awarded the India Abroad Person of the Year-2007, which was presented by Indra Nooyi, Chairperson and CEO, PepsiCo, Inc, and India Abroad Person of the Year-2006.[2]


Mira did her early schooling at a boarding school in Shimla. She studied sociology at Miranda House, Delhi University, where she became involved in political street theater and performed for three years in an amateur drama company. In 1976, at age 19 she left for the US [4] with a scholarship at Harvard, where she continued her studies in sociology.[5] While at Harvard she met her husband, photographer Mitch Epstein, as well as her screenwriter, Sooni Taraporevala and gradually moved towards making documentary films.

At the beginning of her career as a film artist, Nair directed four documentaries. India Cabaret, a film about the lives of strippers in a Bombay nightclub, won an award at the American Film Festival in 1986.

Salaam Bombay! (1988), with a screenplay by Sooni Taraporevala, was nominated for an Oscar for best foreign language film, and won many other awards. It is today considered a groundbreaking film classic, and is standard fare for film students.

The 1991 film Mississippi Masala starred Denzel Washington and Sarita Choudhury, and profiled a family of displaced Ugandan-Indians living and working in Mississippi. The screenplay was again by Sooni Taraporevala, and produced by Michael Nozik. In 1995 her film adaption of the book The Perez Family, by Christine Bell, was released. The film starred Marisa Tomei, Alfred Molina, and Angelica Huston, and was again produced by Michael Nozik.


She was also the director of the movie Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love, a provocative movie set in 16th century India. My Own Country starring Naveen Andrews,
was produced for HBO films, adapted from the memoir by Abraham Verghese by Sooni Taraporevala.

Nair's most popular film to date, Monsoon Wedding (2001), about a chaotic Punjabi Indian wedding with a screenplay by Sabrina Dhawan, was awarded the prestigious Golden Lion award at the Venice film festival. Her 2004 version of Thackeray's novel, Vanity Fair, starred Reese Witherspoon.

Her film, The Namesake, premiered in the fall of 2006 at Dartmouth College where Nair was presented with the Dartmouth Film Award. Another premiere was held in fall 2006 with the Indo-American Cultural Council in New York. The Namesake, adapted by Sooni Taraporevala from the novel by Pulitzer prize winner Jhumpa Lahiri, was released in March 2007.

Her latest project is Maisha, a film lab to help East Africans and South Asians learn to make films. Maisha is headquartered in Nair's adopted home of Kampala, Uganda.

Nair is also working on the big-budget Johnny Depp-starrer Shantaram in India, the U.K. and possibly Australia. Production was delayed due to a Writers Guild of America, East strike that lasted from November 2007 until February 2008. Nair has stated that Shantaram was not dead and that it may be possible for production to begin in 2010. She is also credited with directing a film in pre-production New York, I Love You, a romantic-drama anthology of love stories set in New York. Her future film Impressionist is a coming-of-age story set in the Raj of the 1920s.

Nair will be honoured with the Pride of India award at the 9th Bollywood Film Awards later this year for her contributions to the film industry. [6]

She has done a 12-minute movie on AIDS awareness (funded by The Gates Foundation) called Migration.[7][8]

Nair lives near Columbia University in New York City where she is an adjunct professor in the Film Division of the School of Arts, and where her husband, Professor Mahmood Mamdani, also teaches [9][10]. Nair and her husband first met in 1988, when she went to Uganda for the first time to research for the film Mississippi Masala [4]. Nair has been an enthusiastic yoga practitioner for decades; when making a film, she has the cast and crew start the day with a yoga session.[11] Nair has one son, Zohran Mamdani,[12] born in 1991, currently attending The Bronx High School of Science.

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