Free-ads - Forum News and columns Features & Interviews Film links Calendar dates for festivals Contact details Statistical Info Funding Info
site web
About Netribution Contact Netribution Search Netribution


interviews / reviews / how to / short shout / carnal cinema / film theory / whining & dining

netribution > features > interview with mira nair
Mira Nair's joyous feature Monsoon Wedding is an exciting blend of Bollywood musical fare and conventional narrative - and it works. With a largely unknown cast outside India, the Venice Film Festival Golden Lion winner scored a massive hit at the RLFF last year. On it's London release it hit the top ten, from just thirty prints, with a screen average higher than Mulholland Drive, which opened concurrently. The regional release is this weekend and if either of us have ever backed a film for our audience, this has to be the one.
Nair now tops the hot director wish list of most Hollywood studios but is she interested? Netribution finds out.
| by netribution |
| photos courtesy of filmfour |
| in london |

You have implied that you have a slightly ambiguous relationship with the tradition of Bollywood films.
With Monsoon Wedding we wanted to make a modern contemporary tale about what its like to live in the Punjabi Delhi milieu that both Sabrina (the writer) and myself are from. And that milieu itself has become ‘Bollywoodised’ so that although Monsoon Wedding is just like you guys coming to my home for my family wedding, what happens now, which didn’t happen when I was growing up, is that a young niece of the house will imitate the latest Bollywood star’s dance number in the last movie and perform for the guests as a sort of item. So in that sense, and in the way we introduce that kind of song and dance, that is actually what is happening in our daily lives there, so it was homemade Bollywood.

I did hire the best Bollywood choreographer to do those scenes. I distinctly remember sitting in my friend’s pool, who had lent it to us for that scene because I couldn’t afford that kind of setting, knowing that there was nothing more beautiful than this Gaudiesque swimming pool in the middle of Delhi. We only had the pool for one night so the choreographer arrived and said ‘OK Mira, how many days do I have to shoot this dance number, five or six?’ and I said ‘you have four hours baby.’ She just looked at me and said ‘OK.’ I told her to just fly and we’d dance along and that’s what we did, we shot it in four hours. It was not like I was pretending that it was Ashoka, or some big epic, it was about making the film in 30 days and it was also about catching the intimacy of our family life.

We understand you lost some of the film, how did that happen?
When we left and everything was wrapped I got a call saying we had lost 300 minutes of exposed footage to x-ray damage at New York airport. It was a freak accident, the dance number was damaged and had to be digitally restored - there was no way we could do that again. The cost of the restoration was the cost of the whole film, all for that one scene. We had to go back to India three months later to shoot the three scenes we had lost again, but after looking at the screenplay for areas that needed strengthening we made them clearer and sharper second time around.

This way we could also buy rain. The original budget had only allowed me one Hollywood rain sequence; the other stuff was all filmed in the real monsoon. This way I could slap rain into everything and make the film look like a really opulent monsoon wedding instead of an independent flick. So we lit acres of Banyan trees in the rain and also for the cop scene, which was all insurance bought rain. You’ve got to take a challenge and make it better.

You chose to not only concentrate on the upper middle-class family and have the story of Dubey and the maid, right from the beginning.
Yes, because we are all raised with people that have devoted sometimes 30 years of their lives to raising us, and all of them have a life too. If you are even half aware you know all about it, so it’s perfectly realistic. We wanted to do a meditation on love and from the beginning they represented this kind of pure, blinding, magic love.

Dubey represents the new middle class. If you want to make a film about today’s India its about the Dubeys who, two years ago, were just cronies. Now he’s got the phone and the car — he’s a wheeler-dealer, an event manager. That’s the new India happening right in front of you, so that was the inspiration for his character, and also the realisation that, my God, if you want a wedding in Delhi you’re at the mercy of the tent contractors.

It’s fascinating the way the family members switch from Hindi to English.
It’s totally real, that’s exactly how we are. At the end of the film there’s a subtitle ‘we are like that only,’ which is a translation of the phrase ‘that’s the way we are baby’, its exactly like that. I think people in the West want to have a slightly imperial notion of India. In actuality India is exactly that — the fisherman all have mobiles now, things have really progressed and, India being India, we had the ability, even before the British came, to make something uniquely ours — it’s just that no one’s really captured it on film yet. Our cinema has a different kind of vocabulary; it’s more flamboyantly artificial. So the real world is maybe not perceived as interesting, but of course it is.

Do you have an inclination to use this film in order to go back to India and make the films that you previously wouldn’t have been able to raise the money for? Or even to remain in America for the same reasons?
I am precisely at that exact crossroads. In the next couple of months, I’m less busy now because I’ve just finished another film, I will think about what to do. I’ve been offered some big studio projects from the big boys in Hollywood. One of them I really like but at the same time I have my own, rather ambitious project. It’s set in India and New York and a lot of people are interested in financing it.

I am fundamentally independent and I truly believe that if we don’t tell our own stories then nobody is going to. There is that, ‘what shall I do?’ dilemma but I’ll sort it out in a couple of months.

Copyright © Netribution Ltd 1999-2002
searchhomeabout usprivacy policy