Woman power!

REDEFINING CINEMA, these filmmakers have started what is called ‘international cinema’, which is neither complete Hollywood nor Bollywood. They like to tell stories of universal appeal about India and Indians.

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Published: Thu 1 Mar 2007, 10:59 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 8:47 PM

Though Indians refer to them as NRIs, these talented ladies make their motherland proud with their touching and meaningful cinema. We touch on what these women are all about and why they have left some male counterparts far behind!

Mira Nair

Born in a small town in Orissa, India, this talented lady always dreamt of conquering the world. After spending most of her childhood in Kolkata and Rourkela, Mira went on study sociology in Delhi University, where she became involved in street theatre and performed in a small drama company for three years. She left for the US at age 19 with a scholarship from Harvard, where she met her first husband Mitch Epstein, as well as her colleague Sooni Taraporevala.

Primarily concerned with telling the stories of people on the margins of society, she has made four non-fiction films about various aspects of Indian life and won the best documentary prize at the American Film Festival for 'India Cabaret' (1985).

In 1988, Nair’s debut feature film, 'Salaam Bombay!', was nominated for an Academy Award, Golden Globe, and BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Language Film. It also won the Camera D'Or (for best first feature) and the Prix du Publique (for most popular entry) at the Cannes Film Festival as well as 25 other international awards.

Next came 'Mississippi Masala' in 1991 and the tradition of awards continued. After enjoying the success of films like 'Monsoon Wedding' and 'Vanity Fair', she has just released her new film 'The Namesake' which is an adaptation of Jhumpa Lahiri’s novel with the same name.

Director of around 15 films, Mira is now all geared up to adapt one more novel 'Shantaram' into a film which will cast biggies like Johnny Depp and Amitabh Bachchan. She says, 'The audience in India is very important for me. In the beginning I was seen as an outsider in this industry and then an object of great envy. All the national directors wanted to be international. They would come up to me and say, "If I cast Michael Caine and Sean Connery, do you think this will make it’?" There was this fascination with the international that was totally unwise. I like to handle bold Indian subjects, both sensitively and visually.'

Mira now lives with her husband Mahmood Mamdani and son Zohran in New York.

Gurinder Chadha

This talented director was born in Kenya and lived in India for a few years before moving permanently to the United Kingdom.

Gurinder was a BBC reporter before she started making documentaries. She made several award winning documentaries for BBC and Channel 4. 'I’m English But…' was her first successful documentary in 1989, which she made for Channel 4. After a year, Chadha came up with her own production house Umbi Films in 1993.

She made a few short films before her one of her most famous feature films, 'Bhaji On The Beach' in 1993. It was a comedy with sassy humor and a serious political and cultural overtone. It traced the adventures of three generations of Anglo Asian women on holiday in Blackpool. Chadha is famous for making films revolving around the lives of British-Asians.

She says, 'I knew from an early age that people didn't see the different sides of me. I formulated a kind of bi-cultural identity quite early and I was always very comfortable with it, but I knew people didn't quite see that.'

Then came Chadha’s most commercially successful film 'Bend It Like Beckham' in 2002. It was again a comedy about an Asian girl who takes a fancy to football while trying to balance it with her parent’s demands. The film became a super hit and made a mark for Gurinder in world cinema.

Gurinder went on to make more of bi-cultural films like the Aishwarya Rai starrer 'Bride and Prejudice' and 'Mistress Of Spices'. Both the films were critically acclaimed.

Chadha is married to a Japanese-American filmmaker Paul Mayeda Berges who has worked with her on a number of films. She is now pregnant with twins whom she intends to name Aishwarya and Abhishek. After the delivery, Gurinder will start working on her upcoming projects like 'Dallas and Angus', 'Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging' which are under pre-production stage.

Deepa Mehta

This Canada based director was born in Amritsar, India. She was born into the film industry as her father was a film distributor and a theater owner in India.

She went to study in the University of Delhi, where she met her husband Canadian filmmaker and producer Paul Saltzman. She graduated with a degree in philosophy before migrating to Canada.

Deepa says she never wanted to be involved in filmmaking or any aspects of films, for that matter. 'I was going to study for my PhD, and I met a friend who said they needed someone to work part time in a place called Cinematic Workshop. It was a small production company in Delhi that made documentary films. I learned how to do sound first, then camera work, editing and then finally I made my own documentary and discovered how much I loved it.'

She began her cinematic career writing scripts for children’s films. In 1991, Mehta produced and directed her first feature film 'Sam & Me' followed by 'Camilla'. She is most famous for her element trilogy- 'Fire', 'Earth' and 'Water'. Her latest film 'Water' ignited many controversies and was also nominated for the Oscars this year.

In the short span of her career, Deepa has come up as a new face of Indian cinema. After directing six critically acclaimed films, she is preparing for a new film entitled 'Exclusion', which is rumoured to star Amitabh Bachchan and John Abraham. The plot is based on the Komagata Maru incident that occurred in Canada. One more film, 'Stella', is in pre-production stage. Deepa wants to show the real India through her lens. After her divorce from husband Paul Saltzman, Deepa now lives in Toronto, Canada with her daughter Devyani.

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