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The Mira Nair File

February 2007
The Mira Nair File


4 Countries she has lived in.

5 Documentaries she has made.

9 Feature-length movies she has directed.

19 Her age when she came to America

30 Number of days it took her to film Monsoon Wedding.

49 Her age (she was born Oct. 15, 1957 in Bhubaneswar, Orissa.)

60 million Budget of her next film Gangsta M.D.


"Truthfulness attracts me, and truth comes in all kinds of strange ways. If the dialogue, if the story itself has the truth, that's a big thing." (AboutFilm.com)

"I make films to provoke people into thinking about the world. I can't make those pleasant Sunday films one sees and forgets immediately." (Rediff.com)

"I do have a private agenda, I suppose, to resist the cultural imperialism of Hollywood by putting people like ourselves on screen. It is an enormous validation to see people on screen who look like us in India or elsewhere in the South. We must tell our own stories, because nobody else is going to do it for us." (Unesco.org)

"I've never sought to be on an A-list. I've done my own thing and my own thing has thankfully now brought me an audience." (Imdb.com)


The youngest of three children from a middle-class Punjabi family, she earned a degree at Delhi University before winning a scholarship to Harvard. She studied sociology and film there, producing the documentary Jama Masjid Street Journal for her master's degree thesis.

Her first four projects were documentaries, including India Cabaret, which chronicled the lives of strippers in a Bombay nightclub. She turned to fiction with her breakthrough film Salaam Bombay! which won the prestigious Camera d'Or and Prix du Publique at the 1988 Cannes Film Festival. It was the first Indian film to be nominated for an Academy Award as Best Foreign Language Film and the first to enjoy worldwide commercial distribution.

Her 2001 film Monsoon Wedding was awarded the prestigious Golden Lion award at the Venice film festival. She is currently working on the film Gangsta M.D., a remake of the Bollywood blockbuster Munna Bhai M.B.B.S., with Chris Tucker playing Sanjay Dutt's role.

Nair is an adjunct professor at Columbia University's film school. She and her second husband, Mahmood Mamdani, a political science professor at Columbia, have a teen-aged son, Zohran.


Nair has homes in three cities, New York, Delhi and Kampala, Uganda, the birthplace of her husband, Mahmood. She spends about four months a year in Kampala, where she founded Maisha Film Lab, which holds annual training sessions for aspiring filmmakers from East Africa and South Asia.

"I've been able to look at the world differently from three continents practically," she told indieWIRE, the independent film news service. "I've always lived between India and the U.S. When I married Mahmood I became a daughter-in-law of Africa. That really changed my worldview. I can see it from so many perspectives."


She turned down an opportunity to direct Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

She is the aunt of Ishaan Nair, who plays the role of Varun Verma in Monsoon Wedding.



Official website of Nair and her production company.


A video conversation between Nair and actor John Lithgow at Harvard University.


Nair discusses her latest movie The Namesake in this video interview.

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