November 29, 2001


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Monsoon WeddingMonsoon Wedding

Mira Nair started her filmi career at 27 with Salaam Bombay. It was nominated for the Oscar Awards.

Eighteen years later, her fifth film, Monsoon Wedding won her the Golden Lion Award in Venice, making her the first woman and the first Asian to have won it.

A day before the film officially releases in Bombay, Mira Nair shares her thoughts on the film:

Monsoon Wedding was made without any thought of reward. It was made in the spirit of experimentation. I wanted to make a film that didn't involve millions of rupees, special effects and other excesses associated with fiction films. I hoped to inspire younger people to make films cheaply.

The day after I won the Golden Lion Award in Venice, I was to go to New York. At the airport, everyone started clapping. The women there just loved it. After all, it was a woman who won the award! It was very moving.

Just three hours after I won the award, I had 300 e-mails waiting for me. The film was splattered on the front page of all the newspapers there.

Monsoon Wedding started on a small scale. We wrapped up the entire shooting in 30 days.

It became big with 68 characters and five plotlines. Managing the cast and plots was not difficult. There was a lot of discipline and harmony on the sets. I asked the actors for six weeks of their lives. Of that, two were spent in rehearsals.

Many of these actors had not acted before. A lot of them were housewives and my relatives. It's really a homemade film.

I'm an aspiring yogi. I used to practice yoga every day for an hour-and-a-half before shooting. In fact, everyone would practise yoga right from the carpenter to the stars. We really needed it for stamina -- we worked for 15 hours a day, in the heat and rains.

Sabrina Dhawan's script is beautiful. The concept of wedding is the same everywhere, whether Hollywood or Hindi film industry. Sabrina and I wanted to make a film on modern Punjabi life as we know it. What better than making a film about a wedding because that is when the entire family comes together from all over the world? When family politics is at its height, romance in the air and illicit liaisons happen at night.

The film has five stories, each dealing with an aspect of love. There's blind love between the tentwala and the aayah (the real romance of the film); mature love between the parents of the bride; twisted misplaced love; teenage lust and wild sexual love, with affairs before marriage. So the film just uses the wedding as a context. It is actually all about love.

To me, Monsoon Wedding is an intimate, heart-warming family film with a lot of humour and masti. The film has captured some of it -- people are so euphoric about it. That is something I am blessed with.

The soundtrack of the film is amazing. The theme song has been composed and sung by Sukhwindara Singh. There is also a 30-minute background score composed by Michael, who had also done my previous film, Kama Sutra. He's from Canada but completely steeped in Indian music. He's very devoted to it.

I also have a compilation of old songs in the film which are very personal to me. For example, the one which my husband sang to me during our courtship: Aaj jaane ki zid naa karo. There's also some live singing in the film -- the artistes have sung the songs at the mehndi and sangeet ceremonies. No recorded music there.

I gave the film the simple and beautiful name of Monsoon Wedding because it is about how rain brings liberation to a wedding. I have used rain very carefully in the film.

I make films to provoke people into thinking about the world. I can't make those pleasant Sunday films one sees and forgets immediately. I want to present a multi-layered intense frame. I thought about Monsoon Wedding because there was no film about contemporary India as we know it.

I made the film to affirm life and celebrate the family.

All my films -- Salaam Bombay, Mississippi Masala, Kama Sutra etc -- are very different from each other. I have only one life. It is short. I don't believe in repeating myself. I don't want to do something which I already know. I want to extend myself. I want to open myself to risk and failure because in that challenge, is something new.

I always make films only for myself, because I'm an independent producer and director. It's very difficult to do the financing and marketing of a film completely on your own. But I enjoy the total freedom and control over my film. I don't like people telling me how to do things.

Some of my films -- by their nature, theme, language and treatment -- cater only to India. For example, I wanted the children of Salaam Bombay to see the film at Liberty cinema. It was not meant for the big awards and film festivals. And it ran for the silver jubilee here.

The next most important film for this audience, for me, is Monsoon Wedding. The other films were for the international market.

I've got good press and bad press in my life; I've never got press like this. Monsoon Wedding has been called a worldwide hit. They've even said that this is a Four Weddings And A Funeral.

I have just completed a film in America called Hysterical Blindness, starring Uma Thurman. The film is about young, working women looking for love in New Jersey. It's a very hard film -- it is not a pleasant life there. It does have a heart-warming relationship between a mother and daughter.

Directing a foreign cast is not very different from an Indian one as great actors are great anywhere. As a director, my job is to help the actor with whatever he needs in order to give me what I want. Besides, actors are stars for a reason. They have charisma and professionalism.

And stars are stars -- whether it is Naseeruddin Shah or Uma Thurman.

I recently made a documentary on the power of laughter called The Laughing Club Of India. The film is a portrait of people who take laughing very seriously. The moving aspect is people come to laughter clubs usually after experiencing a sense of loss. I shot the film in three weeks in Bombay.

When I watch Monsoon Wedding, I feel assured. The difference in me since I first started is I have a greater sense of calm. I don't lose energy on being unhinged. I have a greater sense of balance. This balance and assurance is reflected in Monsoon Wedding.

I have always been interested in intensity, humour, colour and music. But the manner in which I have presented it in Monsoon Wedding is more mature.

Over the years, I have grown up as an individual -- I'm become a wife, mother and a family person. That growth is reflected in my films.

As told to Ronjita Kulkarni