Author(s): Mira Nair
Source: Irish Pages, Vol. 3, No. 2, The Home Place (2006), pp. 103-108 Published by: Irish Pages LTD
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/30057428 .
Accessed: 09/11/2012 06:27
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Illumining the actual.
I make images in my work. I don't pen words, especially not words to be delivered from church pulpits. So I experienced great agony writing this essay, particularlysince it was also meant for publication, until I began to see it as an opportunity to think aloud with you on what has been possessing my mind of late, in this tumultuous past year since the watershed of 9/11/01. I have been reflecting on the torrent of ceaseless images flooding our lives: in the print media, TV and of course, in our popular cinema, ultimately asking myself the age-old questionsTer Braakraises in his still-radicalessay:what is the role of an artist in any society?What is the place and future of cinema in the world today? In the new "globalvillage"of incessant images, increasinglyI see the failure of mass media to impart actual understanding.This overactive pluralism gives one the illusion of knowing a lot about a lot when actually you know a smattering about nothing at all, leaving in its wake an audience so thoroughly bludgeoned by little bits of information that one is left confused and consequently apathetic politically. Perhapsthat is its intention. The fact is that while images have become more and more international, people's lives have remained astonishingly parochial. This ironic truth of contemporary life is especially troubling in today's war-mongering times, when so much depends on understanding worlds so different, and consequently totally divided, from one's own. In this post-9/11 world, where the schisms of the globe are being cemented into huge walls between one belief and way of life and another, now more than ever we need cinema to reveal our tiny local worlds in all their glorious particularity. In my limited experience, it's when I've made a film that's done full-blown justice to the truths and idiosyncraciesof the specifically local, that it crosses over to become surprisinglyuniversal. f
Take Monsoon edding,or instance. I wanted to make an intimate family W
out of nothing, a love song to the city of Delhi where I come flick, something
from, to return to my old habits of guerilla film-making.Except this time, fired m
by the recent empowering of the Dogme ethod, I wanted to make a film in just 30 days.That was the original premise: to prove to myself that I didn't need the juggernaut of millions of dollars, studios, special effects and plenty of men in suits to make a good story in the most interesting visual way possible. I wanted
to capture, first and foremost, the spirit of masti(meaning an intoxication with life) inherent in the full-bodied Punjabi community from where I come, and then, to capture the Indiathat I know and love, an India which lives in several centuries at the same time. As Arundhati Roy put it, "as Indian citizens we subsist on a regular diet of caste massacresand nuclear tests, mosque breakings and fashion shows, church burnings and expanding cell phone networks, bonded labour and the digital revolution, female infanticide and...