|Directed by||Mira Nair|
|Written by||Sooni Taraporevala|
|Produced by||Mira Nair|
Studio Canal Souss
|Edited by||Roberto Silvi|
|Music by||L. Subramaniam|
|Distributed by||Palace Pictures (United Kingdom)|
The Samuel Goldwyn Company (United States)
Mississippi Masala is a 1991 romantic drama film directed by Mira Nair, based upon a screenplay by Sooni Taraporevala, starring Denzel Washington, Sarita Choudhury, and Roshan Seth. Set primarily in rural Mississippi, the film explores interracial romance between African Americans and Indian Americans.
It was released in France on 18 September 1991, in the United Kingdom on 17 January 1992 and in the U.S. on 5 February 1992. The film grossed $7,332,515 USD at the box office. The film was made a part of The Criterion Collection on May 24, 2022.
In 1972, dictator Idi Amin enacts a policy of forceful expulsion of Asians from Uganda. Jay, his wife Kinnu, and their daughter Mina, a family of Ugandan Indians residing in Kampala, reluctantly and tearfully leave their home behind and relocate. After spending a few years in England, the family settle in Greenwood, Mississippi to live with family members who own a chain of motels there. Despite the passage of time, Jay is unable to come to terms with his sudden departure from his home country, and cannot fully embrace the American lifestyle. He dreams of one day returning with his family to Kampala. The effects of Amin's dictatorship have caused Jay to become distrustful towards black people.
Mina, on the other hand, has fully assimilated to the American culture and has a diverse group of friends. She feels stifled by her parents' wish to only associate with members of their own community. She falls in love with Demetrius, a local African American self-employed carpet cleaner. Mina is aware that her parents will not approve and keeps the relationship somewhat secret. The pair decide to spend a romantic clandestine weekend together in Biloxi, where they are spotted by members of the Indian community, and the gossip begins to spread. Jay is outraged and ashamed, and forbids Mina from ever seeing Demetrius again. Mina also faces both subtle and outright dislike from Demetrius' community. Demetrius confronts Jay, who reveals his experiences and racist treatment in Uganda, causing Demetrius to call out Jay on his hypocrisy. Ultimately, the two families cannot fully come to terms with the interracial pair, who flee the state together in Demetrius's van.
Jay's wish finally becomes reality when he travels to Kampala to attend a court proceeding on the disposition of his previously confiscated house. While in the country however, he sees how much it has changed and realises that he no longer identifies with the land of his birth. Jay returns to America and relinquishes his long-nurtured dream of returning to Uganda, the place he considered home.
- Denzel Washington as Demetrius Williams
- Sarita Choudhury as Mina
- Sahira Nair as young Mina
- Roshan Seth as Jay
- Sharmila Tagore as Kinnu
- Charles S. Dutton as Tyrone Williams
- Joe Seneca as Williben Williams
- Ranjit Chowdhry as Anil
- Mohan Gokhale as Pontiac
- Konga Mbadu as Okelo
- Mohan Agashe as Kanti Napkin
- Tico Wells as Dexter Williams
- Yvette Hawkins as Aunt Rose
- Anjan Srivastav as Jammubhai (as Anjan Srivastava)
- Natalie Oliver-Atherton as Alicia LeShay (as Natalie Oliver)
- Mira Nair as Gossip 1
- Rajika Puri as Gossip 2
- Richard Crick as Hotel Customer
- Michael Wawuyo as Soldier on Bus
- Joseph Olita as Idi Amin
The script was written in Brooklyn, New York, after research by Nair, Taraporevala, and their team in Mississippi and Kampala. While doing research in Mississippi, Nair met a carpet cleaner named Demetrius and decided to model the main character after him. Ben Kingsley was originally cast in the role of Mina's father, but he eventually withdrew from the project, prompting the original backers of the film to pull out. Nair was able to gain new funding after Denzel Washington was chosen for the role of Demetrius. She later mentioned she faced substantial pressure from potential backers to select white leads rather than Indians or African Americans. The Mississippi-based scenes were filmed in Mississippi, in the towns of Greenwood, Grenada, Biloxi, and Ocean Springs. The Uganda scenes were filmed in Kampala, Uganda, including in Nair's home. Though the Monte Cristo motel was an existing business chosen by Nair and production designer Mitch Epstein for shooting, the production crew added a dark green trim to the exterior to echo the verdant landscape of Uganda.
The film was positively received by critics. It received a 92% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes from 73 reviews with the consensus: "Sarita Choudhury and Denzel Washington’s romantic chemistry lights up the screen in Mississippi Masala, Mira Nair’s observant and sexy tale of cultures clashing."
Awards and honors
- 1993 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture – Denzel Washington
- 1991 São Paulo International Film Festival – Mira Nair, Critics Special Award
- 1991 48th Venice International Film Festival – Golden Osella Best Original Screenplay – Sooni Taraporevala; Golden Ciak/Best Film – Mira Nair
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:
- 2002: AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions – Nominated
On May 24, 2022, The Criterion Collection released Mississippi Masala in a newly restored 4K edition on Blu-ray and DVD. The special edition includes new interviews from Nair, Taraporevala, production designer and photographer Mitch Epstein, and cinematographer Edward Lachman.
- ^ "Mississippi Masala (1991)". BBFC. Retrieved 11 November 2021.
- ^ "Mississippi Masala". AFI|Catalog.
- ^ "Mississippi Masala (2022)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved 13 May 2022.
- ^ a b "Mississippi Masala". The Criterion Collection. Retrieved 7 October 2022.
- ^ a b Muir, John Kenneth (2006). "Mississippi Masala (1991) and The Perez Family (1995)". Mercy in her eyes: the films of Mira Nair. Hal Leonard. pp. 71–106. ISBN 1-55783-649-3.
- ^ Asmelash, Leah (12 June 2022). "'Mississippi Masala' was released 30 years ago. Here's how it still resonates with audiences today". CNN.
- ^ "Mitch Epstein on MISSISSIPPI MASALA". The Criterion Channel. Retrieved 8 November 2022.
- ^ "Mississippi Masala" – via www.rottentomatoes.com.
- ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions Nominees" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 March 2011. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
- Mississippi Masala at IMDb
- Mississippi Masala at AllMovie
- Mississippi Masala at Box Office Mojo
- Mississippi Masala at Rotten Tomatoes
- Mississippi Masala at the TCM Movie Database
- Mississippi Masala: The Ocean of Comings and Goings an essay by Bilal Qureshi at the Criterion Collection
- Official trailer
- 1991 films
- 1991 romantic drama films
- 1991 independent films
- African-American romantic drama films
- African-American films
- Films about Indian Americans
- British Indian films
- 1990s English-language films
- Films about Indian weddings
- Films about interracial romance
- Films about racism
- Films about weddings
- 1990s American films
- Films about women in the Indian diaspora
- Films set in Mississippi
- Films shot in Mississippi
- Films shot in Uganda
- Films set in Uganda
- Films directed by Mira Nair
- Films produced by Michael Nozik
- Films set in 1972
- Films set in 1990
- The Samuel Goldwyn Company films
- Cultural depictions of Idi Amin
- Films about forced migration
- Films with screenplays by Sooni Taraporevala
- Mirabai Films films
- Films scored by L. Subramaniam