Bhubaneswar is associated with childhood. New York has her anchored (often), Uganda is where the heart is (often), mum, brother and his kids are in New Delhi, her closest buddies are in Mumbai.
So, is she in a spin? Doesn’t seem so as I join the kerosene-ke-liye-kind of queue to do my q and a number with Mira Nair...at the Taj Mahal hotel..and she’s as steaming and all there as morning chai:
Does the fact that you are married to Mahmood Mamdani..from another faith..give you an extra secular edge in portraying relationships in your films?
I don’t look at the world like that..that you wear a bindi and I don’t. But the fact that we are living in a multiplicity of worlds definitely affects my films and my world view. In terms of how I portray relationships, it comes from someone who has seen life in different points of view.
And as someone who’s pretty rooted in the family..not just my immediate family..but my family that goes across three continents.
That adds..well, I don’t want to say great wisdom..but you know, some sort of experience.
You are a global woman—based in New York, married in Uganda and rooted to India—where is your sense of belonging?
I believe that just because my roots are so strong I can fly and flourish. My roots are really here, in India. This is my home, this is my childhood, this is where my whole family is. So, it’s not as if I’m wandering without any moorings.
I have the privilege, really, of having three homes. But I remain the same. It’s not like I change depending on where I am. I’m also defined largely by my family..my son, my husband..my in-laws..everyone who lives with us. We move literally like a caravan. My whole thing is to provide a home, a haven, a refuge where we can all feel that this is our place.
What sort of prejudices have you faced?
Did you choose The Namesake because you identified with the story in some ways?
When I moved to the US years ago, it used to be confusing in the beginning. Not so now. That’s because I didn’t lose touch with my roots. When I am in India, I have a great time with my family..my mother..I am happy eating sev batata puri.
You signed a deal with Balaji Rao of Venky’s Chicken in 2004 to make films till 2007. What happened to that?
The man went absconding. He simply disappeared. And I have too much on my plate as a producer and a creative person to follow it up with a court case. I have no time to run after two-faced businessmen.
You made a documentary on the 9/11 tragedy. But we never got to see it. Now you are working on the AIDS films. When do we get to see these?
The AIDS films are being made by Santosh Sivan, Farhan Akhtar, Vishal Bharadwaj and I. They are all 12-minute films, tackling different aspects of AIDS, which is spreading at an alarming rate in India. It’s a film for India..so the Indian audiences will get to see it.
We plan to attach these to big banners..perhaps at the beginning of their films when the audiences can come and see it.
As a rule, how much does publicity count for any film?
The business of filmmaking needs publicity. It’s very essential. Look at me..I am on my fourth week of publicity for The Namesake. I have probably given 50 interviews in just four weeks. This is my second leg..the first one was in other countries. In every interview, I need to be articulate and smiling. It’s exhausting. But at the end of the day, it is some thing that needs to be done.
<b1>But I must add that I love interacting with people. Besides, publicists and PR has come into its own in India now..they weren’t there when I did Salaam Bombay. I remember hiring a tonga and filling it with the child actors of the movie, going around the streets of Mumbai..with a speaker and mike in hand. I would ask people to come and see the film. We even did small skits on the streets.
Now, I have to pose for photo-shoots, a make-up girl in tow..(goes ballistic) “Madame make-up kar rahi hai’..Movies don’t exist in a vacuum, they have to be publicised.
How’s your preparation going for Shantaram?
I plan to follow Gregory David Roberts’ book closely. The role of Kadar Bhai, a criminal with morals, is being played by Amitabh Bachchan. I plan to start shooting from November this year to March next. When Johnny Depp, who’s the film’s producer, approached me, I went for it.
There have been rumours that Shah Rukh Khan may be in Shantaram.
They’re just rumours. Shah Rukh hasn’t been approached.
You were scheduled to remake the first Munnabhai with an Amer ican twist..starring Chris Tucker. What’s the status on that?
Oh, I’ll make it soon..probably next year. I think it’s inter esting to place a desi concept against an American setting. Chris Tucker came into the scene because my son, Zohran, is a big fan of his.