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Mira Nair: Legacy of film-crafting with realism

High on emotion films are her signature style of conveying art and she is an artist in dealing with human sentiments.

Statesman News Service | New Delhi |


Mira Nair, the 65-year old female filmmaker has redefined the perspective of world cinema with her realistic way of storytelling. Infused with realism and multi-layered commentaries of life and society, her films provide a spectacular representation of thoughts beyond the race of culture and practice. High on emotion films are her signature style of conveying art and she is an artist in dealing with human sentiments. Her films connect with the audience of all ages and genders. The Oscar-nominated director turns a year older today.

Early life

The Indian filmmaker Mira Nair was born in October 1957 in Rourkela, Orissa to an IAS officer father and social worker mother. Nair was introduced to poems of Faiz Ahmed Faiz and ghazals of Begum Akhtar and Noor Jehan by her father at an early age. Later she left for studying in Loreto Convent in Shimla where she developed an infatuation towards literature. While studying sociology in Miranda House at Delhi University, she got attracted to performing arts and went on to study further in Harvard University on a full scholarship. Harvard introduced her to the western perspectives of filmmaking. There she got involved in theatre and won the Boylston Prize for her performance of Jocasta’s speech from Seneca’s Oedipus.


Nair began her career with documentary filming. Not commercial elements, rather realism became her style of storytelling through which she explored the array of India’s tradition and culture. For her film thesis at Harvard, she produced a black and white documentary titled Jama Masjid Street Journal, where she explored the streets of old Delhi. Her second documentary So Far From India, following an Indian newspaper dealer living in the outskirts of New York, bagged him recognition at the American Film Festival and New York's Global Village Film Festival. After a spate of critically acclaimed documentaries, Mira Nair made her transition into narrative filmmaking.

Oscars nomination

It was Nair’s debut feature film Salaam Bombay that took her to the Oscars nomination. The film sought to involve real street children to depict the crime drama on street children of Mumbai. The film earned accolades from around the world and won the Camera D’or and Prix du Public at the Cannes Film Festival in 1988. It was also nominated at the Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film in 1989. Since then Nair embarked on her journey of filmmaking with compelling storytelling. Her pursuit for realism confronted her to use real locations and local elements to bring forth the deeply rooted emotions in a subtle style of presentation through a realistic lens.

Diverse filmography

From Mississippi Masala to Monsoon Weddings, take a look at Mira Nair’s ahead-of-curve filmography.

1988- Salaam Bombay

1991- Mississippi Masala

1995- The Perez Family

1996- Kama Sutra: ATale of Love

2001- Monsoon Wedding

2002- 11’9’’01 September 11

2004- Vanity Fair

2006- The Namesake

2008- New York, I Love You

2008- 8

2009- Amelia

2012- The Reluctant Fundamentalist

2014- Words with Gods

2016- Queen of Katwe

2020- A Suitable Boy

Awards and Accolades

In a career spanning more than 30 years, the world renowned Indian filmmaker Mira Nair stands out for her exemplary pieces of work and exceptional way of crafting the art of storytelling. Throughout his career she earned awards and accolades from around the world.

Here is a list of her awards.

1985: Best Documentary Film, Global Village Film Festival: India Cabaret

1986: Golden Athena, Athens International Film Festival: India Cabaret

1986: Blue Ribbon, American Film Festival: India Cabaret

1988: Audience Award, Cannes Film Festival: Salaam Bombay!

1988: Golden Camera (Best First Film), Cannes Film Festival: Salaam Bombay!

1988: National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Hindi: Salaam Bombay!

1988: National Board of Review Award for Top Foreign Films: Salaam Bombay!

1988: "Jury Prize", "Most Popular Film" and "Prize of the Ecumenical Jury" at Montreal

World Film Festival: Salaam Bombay!

1988: New Generation Award, Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards

1988: Lilian Gish Award (Excellence in Feature Film), Los Angeles Women in Film

Festival: Salaam Bombay!

1991: Golden Osella , Venice Film Festival: Mississippi Masala

1991: Critics Special Award, São Paulo International Film Festival: Mississippi Masala

1992: Best Director (Foreign Film), Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists: Mississippi


1992: Asian Media Award, Asian American International Film Festival

2001: Golden Lion (Best Film), Venice Film Festival: Monsoon Wedding

2001: Laterna Magica Prize, Venice Film Festival: Monsoon Wedding

2002: Audience Award, Canberra International Film Festival: Monsoon Wedding

2002: Special Award for International Cinema, Zee Cine Awards: Monsoon Wedding

2002: UNESCO Award, Venice Film Festival: 11'9"01 September 11

2003: Harvard Arts Medal

2007: "Golden Aphrodite", Love Is Folly International Film Festival (Bulgaria): The Namesake

2012: Padma Bhushan by Government of India

In the words of Mira Nair, “If we don’t tell our own stories, no one else will.” That’s Mira Nair, the revolutionary filmmaker who is always ahead of her time in depicting the stories of reality. Her authentic touch of representation and understanding of human emotions make her one of the best filmmakers of the world. As she turns 65 today, we wish her a Happy Birthday.