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On Mira Nair Movies and the Idea of Home

Anyone who has known me for any length of time, knows that I am not a big movie person and that I eschew TV completely. Due to the lack of TV, unless I rent a DVD and watch it on my computer, I don’t see movies.
But this last year, in an effort to join the rest of the human race, well – at least be up on some movies, I got a Netflix subscription to be able to watch some of the films that I have missed out in the last 25 years of luddite behavior. I have mostly received a movie or two a month from Netflix of which are either art house movies of the last two decades or movies of Jane Austin books or adaptions thereof.
Tonight, after the movie sat on a shelf since August unopened, I watched Mira Nair’sMississippi Masala“. I love Mira Nair films, esp. “The Namesake” and “Mississippi Masala”, as well as lighter fair such as “Monsoon Wedding“. Mira Nair hits the mixture of family, displacement, life changes, tradition vs. modernity, and identity on the head in her movies.
I have spent most of my life in Southern California, born here to folks who have been in SoCal for 3-5 generations. For all of my living in SoCal for most of my life, I come from a long line, on both sides, of folks with itchy feet. Folks who move frequently, both in&out of California and within California. Folks who travel. Folks for whom settling is really something that other people do. Even though we keep leaving, we always come back to California in one way or another. I love this big, crazy sprawled out cities within the city / metro area with all the people in the world who have also made this city their home.
While I love Los Angeles, I have always felt not of this place. I love the land fiercely, but am also fiercely frustrated by the transient nature of this space which causes folks to abuse it so badly or attempt to mold it into what they had before they moved here. I have spent most of my life not feeling like I match any of the majority cultures or sub-cultures.
As a short, brown haired, brown eyed woman in a region that celebrates the blond beach bunny or blonde starlet du jour, I have felt culturally displaced most of my life. Did I mention that by and large, I dislike Hollywood? Maybe it is my dislike of the stereotypes that Hollywood pushes out to the rest of the world that makes me so fiercely reject watching or consuming their products. More than just maybe.
Most of my Netflix watching this last year has been British, Italian, or Indian films or films made by British, Italian or Indian folk who live in other places. Not so odd that.
What I like about Mira Nair films, is while they celebrate the Indian expatriate or migrant experience, she also keenly shows us characters that are trying to navigate cultural spaces that are not always home. Ms. Nair’s films focus on the experience of characters who are navigating the waters of cultural otherness all the while they are fighting for their own space in that place and discovering their identity between two worlds.
When I watch a Mira Nair film brings into sharp focus a question that I ask myself almost every day, really where is home?
I haven’t found it, yet, I yearn for home with all my heart.

3 Responses to “On Mira Nair Movies and the Idea of Home”

  1. thejeshgn.com

    Same with Bollywood movies too. I have started hating them for stereotyped characters they present. But recently we have seen new directors experimenting as a sos act.
    .A lot more good films are being made in non-hindi languages. Sadly they dont get noticed outside as they are not part of so called bollywood.

  2. Black Phoebe :: Ms. Jen

    Hi Thej,
    I think that there a lot of good movies being made in and distributed by Hollywood and Bollywood, it is just sometimes hard to find them in the midst of the formulaic movies that both towns love to churn out.
    I would love some of your recommendations for good ones.
    smiles, jen ;o)

  3. Roland Tanglao

    “When I watch a Mira Nair film brings into sharp focus a question that I ask myself almost every day, really where is home?
    I haven’t found it, yet, I yearn for home with all my heart.”
    Where is home indeed! Great post. I too have struggled with my identity (am I *really* Filipino when I can’t speak the language?) My view is that identity is what you feel. I feel Canadian and I feel at home in Vancouver (even though I am not here) and I feel Filipino in my own way and that’s fine by me!