We remember the marigolds of the BAFTA award-winning film Monsoon Wedding, diverse images and scenes evocative of the spirit of weddings and festivities spread across several works, and the uncanny realness of human characters brought onto the screen in film after film and show after show by notable director Mira Nair.
Actors seem to be directed in such a way as to make the audience feel as if we may have met before; as if we could reach a hand into the screen, and touch the fictional character that she brought to life, as if they were standing near us. Or at least, as if we may have seen someone like them, or we know of someone who does with haunting familiarity.
Nair draws on screen with Indian colors: the turmeric, the golds, the reds, and the greens. Most significantly, she presents personalities, emotions, contexts and situations in a manner that only keenly perceptive and skilled storytellers can.
In technique, Nair is a master. In storytelling, she tells stories like no other.
But what is her philosophy when it comes to creating art?
Mira Nair presents art as if to convey what already exists; to see a picture of reality and to recreate it using art.
In doing this, she juxtaposes the love and joys of being human alongside disturbing and cringe-worthy scenes and personnas; so much like communicaters who include the criticism of their views with their viewpoints in an effort to strengthen their arguments.
While watching, we wondered, could it have been different? What if instead of choosing a reality to present to us, she re-imagined the reality that she sees to show what a person or society can be, or should be instead?
Does pushing for social progress necessitate disturbing portrayals of the undesirable? Or can it involve the creation of a reimagined situation instead?
After all, isn't it the most extraordinary and exclusive power of art to paint unseen realities into existence?
Why not use the medium to paint a picture that renews faith? Why must we be shown, instead, merely whatever 'is'?
If a policymaker is meant to choose policies to further advancement and prosperity, and a professional is meant to provide inputs to make it happen, then isn't it the job of an artist to infuse new energy into the people, and to help them see a promising, beautiful reality for themselves, even in the most difficult of times?
Isn't it easier to make people cringe, feel resentful, than to make people want to be better and act better because an exemplary artist showed them how incredible they already are, and how incredible they can be?
Why choose the former? ■