Mira Nair in 5 quotes

by Marlies Dekkers
I love women who give convention the middle finger, especially when they do so in a creative, elegant way. Meet one of my heroes, Indian director-writer-producer Mira Nair.

Mira was born in India, where, in her own words ‘bright girls who decide to make films rather than babies, are told: ‘Why don’t you keep it as a hobby?’ Well, this bright girl went Delhi University and Harvard and became a director. Her first movie, ‘Salaam Bombay!’ –a moving, gritty story of life on the streets of Mumbai, featuring actual street children- won the Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival, making Nair the first female winner of the award.

Mira continued to make movies, often with controversial subjects such as interracial love in ‘Mississippi Masala or radicalisation in ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’. In the mean time, she set up several nonprofit organizations and rejected an offer to direct a Harry Potter movie saying: ‘I would prefer someone else make it. I am better suited to emotions, human beings, and less interested in special effects.’ Take that, Hollywood! Then, in an ultimate f*ck you-gesture to the patriarchal voices of her childhood, she had a son, proving that yes, bright girls can have it all.

Mira Nair is currently working on an adaptation of the book The Queen of Katwe, which tells the real-life story of Phiona Mutesi, a chess prodigy from the slums of Kampala, Uganda. Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o will play the lead. I can’t wait to see it! In the mean time, here are some quotes by Mira that I believe summarize her world view pretty well:

1. “Marriage of attraction is a gamble anyway, so you might as well marry into a family that is similar to your own, and make that much less of an adjustment. But the ‘love marriage’, as it is called, is equally common in India now. It would be interesting to do a comparison of what would work better. Marriage is hard work, and it is a gamble.”

2. “I like to be unabashed, which is an Indian trait, both emotionally and visually. It’s important to have a circus to play it.”

3. “It gave me a lot of pleasure and pride that 90 percent of the crew for ‘Monsoon Wedding’ and most of my films, are women. We get the work done, you know, with much less play of ego. And I really believe in harmony, and I believe in working in a spirit of egolessnes and that the film is bigger than all of us.”

4. “I grew up thinking anything was possible simply because of seeing women in power- like, you know, running the country. Which is a thought that continues to give Americans indigestion…”

5. “Never treat anything you do as a stepping stone. Do it fully, and follow it completely.”

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