Thursday, December 30, 2010

Mississippi Masala (1991)

Genre : Romance, Comedy, Drama, Desi.
Language : English, Spanish, Swahili.
Country : India, USA, UK.
Cast : Denzel Washington, Sairta Chaudhury, Roshan Seth, Sharmila Tagore, Charles S. Dutton.
Directed by : Mira Nair
Run Time : 118 min
Release Date : 5th February, 1992 (USA).

Synopsis :
Mississippi Masala” is a lively and seductive tale of interracial romance between African-Americans and Indian-Americans in the United States. The director touches gently on the irony of this discrimination being practiced in an area synonymous with racial strife, and by a man who is subject to the same kind of exclusion by whites!

While the film focuses on a hot romance, it's also a fascinating study of a unique immigrant community with a richness of detail that borders on the ethnographic, as well as a telling examination of class and status anxiety. The smouldering, sensual attraction between the two leads has such an explosiveness that it's clear they were meant to be together!

Plot :
Mississippi Masala” is a tale of how prejudice makes victims and instigators of us all. In 1972, Jay (Roshan Seth), a third-generation Ugandan Indian lawyer, is forced by the bigoted Idi Amin’s regime to take his family and flee the country. Jay is deeply hurt by the “Africa for Africans” sentiment growing among the black people of Uganda, particularly with the changed behaviour of his childhood friend Okelo (Konga Mbandu). He vows to hate and distrust all blacks - at least until he is able to reclaim the real estate stolen from him by the Ugandan government!

Jay moves with his wife, Kinnu (Sharmila Tagore) and daughter, Mina to Greenwood, Mississippi to live with other family members who own a chain of motels there. Now in 1990, Mina (Sarita Choudhury), a child with sketchy memories of Africa, has grown into a ripe beauty of 24, with an American accent that immediately suggests she does not share all of her family's ideas. She works at Anil’s family motel (the Monte Cristo) and helping her parents in earning their livelihood.

Accidently, Mina makes the acquaintance of Demetrius (Denzel Washington), a local African American carpet cleaner. At first attracted to Mina because he is fascinated by her African background, Demetrius slowly falls in love with her. This is not the sort of social life Mina's parents approve of; they expect their daughter to marry within their extended community of Indian exiles, and forbid her to see Demetrius.

The ban only serves to underline the isolated nature of the young woman's life, and there are ironies in the racism and colour consciousness she faces. Within her own community, she is considered too dark-skinned to make a desirable wife (her mother explains that ‘if you want to catch a husband, you can be dark and rich, or light and poor, but not dark and poor!’). Within the black community, the Indian woman is at first accepted with friendliness when Demetrius takes her to meet his family at a backyard party. But after all of the local Indian motel owners boycott Demetrius’ rug-cleaning company, the blacks get angry, too.

The respective families erupt in turmoil after the pair is confronted by members of the Indian family during a weekend picnic in Biloxi. The situation causes Jay to exercise the same racial prejudice by which he was himself victimized in Uganda. Ironically, Demetrius behaves just as foolishly, blaming Jay's ethnic chauvinism for a drop in his business. Ultimately, the two families cannot come to terms with the interracial pair, who flees together in Demetrius' van!

After a brief return to Kampala to attend a court proceeding on the disposition of his confiscated Ugandan house, Jay relinquishes his long-nurtured dream of returning to Uganda, the place he considered home!

Cast :
■ Demetrius Williams (Denzel Washington)
■ Mina (Sarita Chaudhury)
■ Young Mina (Sahira Nair)
■ Jay, Mina’s Father (Roshan Seth)
■ Kinnu, Mina’s Mother (Sharmila Tagore)
■ Okelo (Konga Mbandu)
■ Tyrone (Charles S. Dutton)
■ Williben (Joe Seneca)
■ Pontiac (Mohan Gokhale)
■ Jammu Bhai (Anjan Srivastava)
■ Anil (Ranjit Chowdhury)
■ Dexter (Tico Wells)

Awards :
1. It won the Critics Special Award at the 1991 São Paulo International Film Festival.
2. It won the Golden Osella Award for Best Story and Screenplay at the 1991 Venice International Film Festival.
3. It won the Best Actor Award at the 1994 NAACP Image Awards - Denzel Washington.
4. It was nominated for the Golden Lion Award at the 1991 Venice International Film Festival.
5. It was nominated for the Best Picture Award at the 1993 Independent Spirit Awards.

Ratings : = 6.5/10; = 3.5/5; = 4.5/5; = 3.5/5; = 6.7/10
[Source : Wikipedia, MirabaiFilms, IMDB, AllMovie, Amazon, Chicago Sun-Times, RottenTomatoes]

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