Mira Nair

  • Actor, Director, Writer, Producer, Executive Producer

Oct 15, 1957  in Orissa, India

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Known worldwide for making international films which capture the complexity of people and the complexity of life, Mira Nair is an accomplished Indian-American director, screenwriter, and producer. Under the banner of Mirabai Films, her production house, this unorthodox filmmaker is famous for directing award-winning films such as Salaam Bombay, Monsoon Wedding, and The Namesake. In 2012, she was awarded India's third highest civilian award the Padma Bhushan by the former President of India, Pratibha Patil.

Under her production house, she established an annual filmmaker's lab Maisha, to provide financial support to budding screenwriters and directors in India and East Africa.

Early Life
TBorn and raised in Orissa, India to Amrit Nair, a civil servant, and Praveen Nair, a social activist, Mira Nair grew up with two elder brothers. Owing to her father's transferable job, Mira shifted to Delhi with her family when she was 11. At the age of 13, she was sent to study at Loreto Convent Tara Hall, an Irish-Catholic missionary school in Simla. She graduated in Sociology from Miranda House, Delhi University and went to Harvard University on a full scholarship for her masters.

Personal Life
While in college at Harvard University, Mira met her first husband Mitch Epstein. But their matrimony soon ended in divorce and in 1988, she married Mahmoud Mamdani, an academic, and author, who she met in Uganda while researching of her film Mississippi Masala. They have a son Zohan, born in 1991.

Movie Career
She started her career by acting in plays while she was still in college, but was bored with the decorous productions of repetitive musicals. She also found acting too constraining for her need to have control over her creativity. Her want to channelize her innovations led her to become a documentary filmmaker. The underlying theme of her documentaries was always to explore the Indian culture and capture Indians in their true essence. Before making her first feature film, she directed four documentaries Jama Masjid Street Journal, So Far From India, recognized as a Best Documentary winner at the American Film Festival, India Cabaret, and Children of A Desired Sex.

In 1988, she produced and directed her first feature film, Salaam Bombay. Based on the day to day lives of children living on the streets of Bombay, the movie opened to great reviews from the critics. It won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Hindi, the Golden Camera and Audience Awards at the Cannes Film Festival and was India's second film submission for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. She subsequently directed the critically successful romantic drama film Mississippi Masala. Starring Roshan Seth, Denzel Washington and Sharmila Tagore, the movie chronicles the story of Ugandan-born Indians displaced to Mississippi. The movie duplicated the success of Salaam Bombay, making Mira Nair create her own niche.

In the year 1996, Mira Nair directed, co-produced, and co-wrote Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love, which dealt with the controversial subject of two strong women celebrating their sexuality. Starring Rekha, Indira Varma, and Naveen Andrews in lead roles, the movie opened to a lot of criticisms by the Indian audience, who thrashed it for its obscenity.

Wanting to prove a point to her film students that good cinema doesn’t depend on big budget, Mira along with her friends and relatives as the cast and crew made Monsoon Wedding. Based on a big fat Punjabi wedding in Delhi, the movie featured Naseeruddin Shah, Lillete Dubey, Shefali Shah, and Ram Kapoor. The movie was a sleeper hit and was widely acclaimed by critics. It won the Golden Lion Award and received a Golden Globe Award nomination.

Keeping her knack of making movies on controversial subjects in place, she next directed the Hysterical Blindness, which won several awards, include a Golden Globe. In 2004, she roped in Reese Witherspoon for Vanity Fair, a remake of the classic novel by the same name. She then went on to direct the Tabu and Irrfan Khan starrer The Namesake, an Indian American drama film, based on a novel by Jhumpa Lahiri. The film opened to fairly good reviews with the cast being appreciated for their performances. Her thirst for making meaningful cinema led her produce and direct films like New York, I Love You, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, and Words With Gods.

Her 2016 project includes biographical sports film Queen of Katwe, starring David Oyelowo, and Lupita Nyong'o.