By Subhash K Jha
MUMBAI: Back from a smooth holiday with her mother in Bali, Mira Nair speaks to Subhash K Jha
Q: How was your trip to Bali with your mom?
A: Oh, lovely we were holidaying and doing yoga together. We were together, just mother and daughter bonding beautifully in Bali. It was invigorating. I guess it is relationships that have kept me going. I recently attended a retrospective of my friend Sooni Taraporevala’s photography. I was so moved. That was 25 years of images. It took me back to the time were were both undergraduates in the 1970s. Keeping up relationships over the years is my greatest asset. It isn’t easy, Subhash. You have to work on friendships. To keep up relations is not easy. My crew goes back to 35 years when I made documentaries.
Q: Recently there was the re-release of Salaam Bombay?
A: Yes, I was in Mumbai for that. Shaukat aapa (Azmi), who played the ‘Madame,’ was so excited about the reunion. I had met some of the cast two years ago at the Goa Film Festival. That was a mini reunion. This was a major reunion. All the kids who are now grown-up were there. We lost three of the child actors. That’s life. You can’t control death. The great joy comes from knowing that it’s 25 years of Salaam Bombay and of the trust that we had set up for the kids. Penguin is going to re-publish the book on the making of Salaam Bombay that Sooni and I wrote together.There will be a DVD release soon.
Q: Looking back, what would you like to change in Salaam Bombay?
A: It’s amazing how we bunch of friends managed to make a film with extraordinary cinematic achievement. Actually, when I saw Salaam Bombay again I was disarmed by what I saw. The use of silences impressed me. It taught me something that I had now forgotten. I hope the young today can connect with Salaam Bombay. The Bombay from my film in the 1980s doesn’t exist any more.
Q: But the mindset is the same.
A: Oh yes, completely. In some ways Bombay has become sweeter but it’s still very brutal for the have-nots.
Q: You are ready to start another film?
A: Yeah, the script is work in progress. Disney offered me this project. I always wanted to do a film in Uganda which is one of my homes. And it’s a very inspiring story. Disney sent me a true story about an 8-year old girl from the slums who learnt to play chess with bottle caps. And she belongs to one of the worst slums in Kampala. In 12 months she playing against grand-masters of the chess world.
Q: The biggest challenge would be to find the 8-year old actress to play the role?
A: No, no. The biggest challenge would be to take the story beyond its obvious inspirational nobility. Anyway it’s early days. The writing has just begun. I am concentrating on the re-release of Salaam Bombay and the release of The Reluctant Fundamentalist (RF)
Q: Tell about the release of the Reluctant Fundamentalist?
A: It opened on April 26 in the UK and Europe and on May 17 in India. I hope to bring the protagonist Riz Ahmed to India for the release. But he’s been shooting the central part in a television series called Criminal Justice, so he might be busy. But I am hoping he can make it. I am also hoping the rest of the international cast would show up.
Q: Do you see any problems getting the film about Islamic isolation post 9/11 released in India or Pakistan?
A: The wonderful thing is the censor board cleared the film without any cuts.
Q: How far have you progressed with your stage musical version of Monsoon Wedding?
A: Oh, very far. We’ve recorded 7 songs , 4 more to go. I have been working with Vishal Bharadwaj on the music. Soon we go into workshop in New York. January 2014 we go into full rehearsals. I did theatre as an actor in my student days. But never have I directed on stage. It’s exciting. Life is short. You have to go for it.