West ready for well-made Indian films: Mira Nair

By Subhash K. Jha

Mumbai, March 31 (IANS) US-based Indian filmmaker Mira Nair, who has just been honoured as the Person of the Year 2007 by a leading ethnic Indian paper in the US, says the West is now ready to embrace a well-structured Indian film.

"Yes, the West, like any market, is ready to accept a well-made film that sweeps you away," Nair, whose "The Namesake" made a good impact abroad, told IANS in an interview.

"However, I think the song-and-dance drama will always be our beloved cinema, not so much the Western mainstream's cup of tea," she added. The filmmaker was honoured Friday night by the paper India Abroad.

"The Namesake" was based on Jhumpa Lahiri's novel by the same name and its DVD was released in the US in November 2007.

"And 'The Namesake' was all over TV and Radio being touted as the great family classic. I've hardly ever met a person who has seen the film only once. At least two-three times is the average."

According to her, "The Namesake", starring Tabu and Irrfan Khan, is a universal film. "The Ganguli family's journey in the film is our collective journey, as also the story between parents and children".

The maker of films like "Salaam Bombay" and "Monsoon Wedding" is now gearing up to shoot her next movie "Amelia" with leading Hollywood actress Hillary Swank.

Excerpts from an interview with IANS:

Q: Do you feel the West is ready to accept an Indian reality beyond the Bollywood song-and-dance formula? I refer specifically to films like "The Namesake" and "Water".

A: Yes, the West, like any market, is ready to accept a well-made film that sweeps you away. However, I think the song-and-dance drama will always be our beloved cinema, not so much the Western mainstream's cup of tea.

Q: "The Namesake" seems to have acquired a life of its own. Do you agree?

A: Yes, I do. Recently, the DVD came out in the US over the thanksgiving weekend, a big family holiday weekend here, and "The Namesake" was all over TV and Radio being touted as the great family classic. I've hardly ever met a person who has seen the film only once. At least two-three times is the average.

The film, as you know, has played for more than four-five months in any country, has out-performed major American films at the box-office, has bolstered the sales of the book internationally, and despite it having opened here in March many months ahead of the Oscars and other awards season, it is being remembered by the voters.

Q: The film seems to have touched a chord among audiences beyond the Diaspora-driven NRI audiences who immediately associated with the theme of cultural displacement. How do you explain the film's impact beyond cultural boundaries?

A: The film is universal because each one of us has left one home for another, if not a country for another. The Ganguli family's journey in the film is our collective journey, as also the story between parents and children.

In whichever film I make, I strongly believe that if one captures the truth of the character, the truth of the world in the film, it speaks volumes to human beings all over. After all, we are essentially the same.

Cinema, I also believe, should transport you across different realities. And while you soar, recognise yourself and your own aspirations in the journey on screen. Since I'm such an unabashed desi, I love to move people with characters that look, dress, sound and joke like us.

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