The Films of Mira Nair
The first full-length study of the Indian American filmmaker’s extraordinary cinema
The Films of Mira Nair: Diaspora Vérité presents the first, full-length scholarly study of her cinema. Mira Nair has broken new ground as both a feminist filmmaker and an Indian filmmaker. Several of her works, especially those related to the South Asian diaspora, have been influential around the globe.
Amardeep Singh delves into the complexities of Nair’s films from 1981 to 2016, offering critical commentary on all of Nair’s major works, including her early documentary projects as well as shorts. The subtitle, “diaspora vérité,” alludes to Singh’s primary theme: Nair’s filmmaking project is driven aesthetically by her background in the documentary realist tradition (cinéma vérité) and thematically by her interest in the lives of migrants and diasporic populations. Mainly, Nair’s filmmaking intends to document imaginatively the experiences of diasporic communities.
Nair’s focus on the diasporic appears in the long list of her films that have explored the subject, such as Mississippi Masala, So Far from India, Monsoon Wedding, The Perez Family, My Own Country, The Namesake, and The Reluctant Fundamentalist. However, a version of the diasporic sensibility also emerges even in films with an apparently different scope, such as Nair’s adaptation of Thackeray’s Vanity Fair.
Nair began her career as a documentary filmmaker in the early 1980s. While Nair now has largely moved away from the documentary format in favor of making fictional feature films, Singh shows that a documentary realist style remains active in her subsequent fictional cinema.
Mira Nair is one of the most important filmmakers of the past five decades. Amardeep Singh’s lucid and elegant prose captures the range of topics and film styles Nair brings to the screen. From the cinéma vérité of her documentary films to her sweeping stories of the diaspora, Singh helps the reader understand the innovations Nair develops. Singh offers a coherent and compelling account of Nair’s prolific and still-developing career. This book illustrates Nair’s concerns about women and the disenfranchised and how her cinematic arc resonates with contemporary social concerns. Singh’s book is a must-read for those interested in global cinema.- Sujata Moorti, author of Color of Rape: Gender and Race in Television’s Public Spheres and coeditor of Global Bollywood: Travels of Hindi Song and Dance and Local Violence, Global Media: Feminist Analyses of Gendered Representations
Amardeep Singh is a rooted cosmopolitanism, and his sensibility is the right one for a restless, transnational filmmaker like Mira Nair whose work not just crosses but questions borders. Many of us diasporics, citizens of a scattered world, have taken delight in seeing our lives, ourselves, depicted in Nair’s films. With this lucid, authoritative study of the filmmaker’s impressive oeuvre, we are given a lens to look not only at ourselves but at Nair—and her work—up close.- Amitava Kumar, author of many books, including Immigrant, Montana: A Novel