"Islamophobia has led to myths being spun in the west. We have to speak about it and break them," said Mira Nair at the ongoing International Film Festival of India (IFFI) being held in Goa. Nair was at the festival on Tuesday to talk about her new film The Reluctant Fundamentalist (TRF), based on author Mohsin Hamid’s book by same name, which deals with a Pakistani’s love affair and eventual fall-out with America. "TRF is our answer to the American perspective. People think the Muslim world is largely male, that’s not true.
So, this is an opportunity for me to speak about the dialogue and present our point of view," added Nair who plans to live and work in Mumbai from next year onward. "I want to be back and speak of tales from the soil," she said. The film will be shot in India, Chile and New York. "Delhi and Lahore are similar spiritually and architecturally, so some of the Lahore scenes will be shot in Delhi." Nair said she was interested in Ranbir Kapoor for one of the key roles while an "A-list Hollywood talent" was in the process of being finalised.
On being asked about the Indian obsession with the Oscar awards, Nair called the awards a "political campaign". Nair’s 1988-film Salaam Bombay (SB) on Mumbai’s street children had won many national and international awards as well as a 1989 nomination for best foreign film at the Oscars. "The Americans invented the Oscars for their own shaabashi, a marketing tool and now they (the Oscars) have become so powerful," she said.
About comparisons between Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire and Salaam Bombay, Nair called the former film "Salaam Bombay on speed". "Even in casual parlance we would have never used a word like ‘slumdog’. It doesn’t come from the soil."
A retrospective of 14 of Nair’s feature and documentary films also concluded at the festival, including SB. It reunited the film’s cast after 22 years. Shafiq Syed who played the lead role of Krishna and had started working as an autorickshaw driver in Bangalore said he had now become a sound recordist after a brief stint with director Gautam Ghose, while Nana Patekar who will be a part of TRF slammed the serials being shown on television nowadays. “Back then, people criticised Mira for showing India as a dirty country in Salaam Bombay. But that was way better than the serials shown on TV these days. Thanks to them, we now have four elaborate wedding functions instead of a simple one.”
Nair is also working on a Broadway musical version of her film, Monsoon Wedding, to be due out in 2012 and plans to bring Maisha, her film training academy currently running in East Africa, to India sometime soon.