Saturday, May 13, 2023

When Hollywood meets Bollywood "Mississippi Masala"

One outcome of "Mississippi Masala" (1991) is to realize that racism is universal.  The underlying reason is that humans fear outsiders and/or look down on them.  If they are of a different color or even dress differently that is more than enough to awaken primitive feelings.  Among liberal whites we feel superior to those who are prejudiced against blacks.

"Mississippi Masala" (1991) not only brings Bollywood and Hollywood together, but opens us up to universal truths.  

 The movie starts in Uganda, Africa where Idi Amin had decided to rid his country of Indians.  The Indians had been brought to Uganda by the British to work on the railroad, but stayed and many became professionals and business managers. 

For the father, Jay it is agonizing leaving friends behind, but he has no choice.

We follow Jay's family with a young daughter that ended up owning a motel in Mississippi.  A black man, running a small business runs into an accident with the daughter.  They meet each other the same evening at a night club dominated by blacks, but she fits right in.  He makes a play for her really to make an ex girl friend jealous.  But inevitably they are strongly attached to one another.  At first blacks and Indians seem to get along, but as their relation deepens the black customers drop off causing financial stress.  Her family remembering how black Africans had forced them to abandon their home, despite the father feeling Uganda was his home. 

Bringing the two cultures together was done very professionally.  Here are some contributors

Mira Nair, director and producer was educated in India and Harvard University.  After a brief acting career and some documentaries her first feature film was "Salaam Bombay" (1988) which won two awards at the Cannes Film Festival.  Her film credits included "Monsoon Wedding" (2002), "The Namesake" (2007) and "The Reluctant Fundamentalist" (2012).

Sooni Taraporevala, born in India, won a scholarship to Harvard where she studied English, film and photography.  She established herself as a still photographer.  As a Parsi she developed photographs into a book and exhibits in India, the U.S., France and Britain. Through friendship with Mira Nair she got into script writing.  For this film she made trips to Uganda, Mississippi and New York.  She credits Denzel with helping on the script to better understand blacks in America.  Her film credits include "Salaam Bombay" (1988), "Such a Long Journey" (1988), "The Namesake" (2007) and "Yeh Ballet" (2021).  She has also been a director and has two credits for her still photography.

Music was composed by L. Subramaniam.  He had 7 credits including "Salaam Bombay" (1988).

Cinematography was by Edward Lachman.  He has 80 film credits including "Selena" (1997), "Erin Brockovich"  (2000). "Far From Heaven" (2002), "Paradise:  Hope" (2013) and "Carol" (2015).

Editing was done by Roberto Silvi.  He has 50 film credits including "The Ninth Configuration" (1980), "Closer to the Moon" (2014) and "The Homesman" (2014).. 

Denzel Washington after winning his first Oscar for "Glory" (1990) took one of the main roles for this film.  He got started in theatre and returned to it a few times winning a Tony Award.  His first break was as a lead character on popular tv. show "St. Elsewhere" (1982-1988).  His film credits as an actor include "The Pelican Brief" (1993), "Philadelphia"(1993), "The Hurricane" (1999), "Inside Man"(2006), "The Great Debaters" (2007), "Flight" (2012), "The Magnificent Seven"(2016), and "Fences" (2016).  He won a second Oscar as well as numerous other awards.  He also has produced 12 films and directed 5 films.  He now is one of the highest paid actors commanding over $20 million per film.  He has been generous with his wealth and has been a national spokesman and board member for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

Sarita Choudhury played the love interest in her first film.  She spent time studying at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario.  She has 92 film credits including "Midnight's Children" (2012), "Admission" (2013), "Learning to Drive" (2014) and "A Hologram for the King" (2016).

Roshan Seth played the father, Jay who all his life felt Uganda was his real home.  He studied at London 's Academy and Dramatic Arts and performed in theatre roles.  But he noticed he was only wanted for ethnic roles.  Back in India he developed quite a career, including such films as "Gandhi" (1982), "Such a Long Journey" (1998), "Monsoon Wedding" (2001), "Kabul Express" (2006), "Amal" (2007), "Guru" (2007), "Trishna" (2011), "Ek Tha Tiger" (2012), and "Behind Her Eyes" (2021).

Sharmila Tagore played the mother.  She is distantly related to Nobel Prize winner, Rabindranath Tagore.  She married a famous cricketer and a noble, Mansoor Ali Khan.  She was mother to two successful stars, Saif Ali Khan and Soha Ali Khan.  She started with Bengali films before being brought to Bollywood where she played romantic roles in heer youth and became one of highest paid actresses,   She has 109 film credits including "Devi" (1960), "Nayak" (1966), "Khushboo" (1975), "Chupke Chupke" (1975), "Eklavya" (2007), "8 x 10 Tasveer" (2009) and "Break Ke Baad" (2010).

This is not only a compelling story, but an example of how collaboration should work.  I was able to get a copy from my local library.

As usual I have bolded the first mention of films I have seen.

No comments:

Post a Comment