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Mira Nair toasts independent filmmakers

By Viral Bhayani, IANS

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She gave the world "Monsoon Wedding". And now Mira Nair is set to showcase more independent Asian cinema across the globe with her new production company.

The name may sound quirky, but International Bhenji Brigade (IBB) - a joint venture between Nair and Bala Entertainment International - is on a serious mission.

Bhenji, meaning "not-so-hip sister", refers to the resourceful women on Nair's film crew whom she teasingly calls her "International Bhenji Brigade".

"IBB celebrates these women and embraces all filmmakers, men and women, who embody their independent spirit. If we don't tell our own stories, nobody else will," Nair told IANS.

Inspired by her hit record of telling stories that are rarely seen or heard, IBB will use Asian talent to create cinema that explores the local but becomes universal.

"What I like about this joint venture is that I will be given complete creative freedom. I think it is time we took our talent to a much wider audience," says Nair.

"I will be tapping new talent as well as existing ones in India and launching them in the global market," she adds.

Nair says she only plans to make three films a year as she does not want to exhaust herself.

Asked if this is her big return to India, she says: "I have never left my roots and don't consider myself as an expatriate or an exile. I'm always so proud that I come from India. When you know where your roots are, you can fly anywhere."

Nair, who once lived in South Africa and left the country as not much was happening there in terms of filmmaking, is now planning to establish Maisha, a film lab in Africa, to teach the craft of filmmaking.

It will have eight mentors from around the world.

Long before the term "crossover film" was coined, Nair had come up with films like "Salaam Bombay" and "Mississippi Masala" for the local and diaspora audience.

Her Oscar nominated film "Salaam Bombay" became the first Indian film to secure worldwide commercial distribution. Her subsequent films like "Kamasutra" garnered international acclaim.

Nair has won several prestigious international awards.

Neil Prashad, the New York-based vice president of operations at Bala Entertainment International Pvt Ltd, said: "Whenever I'm travelling people talk to me about 'Monsoon Wedding'.

"This is how people relate India with our movies. I can't think of any ethnic director whose movie was shown on a thousand screens in the US."


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