Jump to content

Mississippi Masala

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Mississippi Masala
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMira Nair
Written bySooni Taraporevala
Produced byMira Nair
Studio Canal Souss
CinematographyEdward Lachman
Edited byRoberto Silvi
Music byL. Subramaniam
Distributed byPalace Pictures (United Kingdom)[1]
Cinecom Pictures
The Samuel Goldwyn Company (United States)
Release date
  • September 18, 1991 (1991-09-18)
Running time
118 minutes
CountriesUnited Kingdom
United States
Budget$5 million[2]
Box office$7,332,515[3]

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.[4]


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.



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.[5] 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.[5][6] 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.[7]


On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 92% of 74 critics' reviews are positive, with an average rating of 7.6/10. The website's consensus reads: "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"[8]

Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote, "Mississippi Masala appears to have been produced on a modest (by Hollywood standards) budget, but it is a big movie in terms of talent, geography and concerns. Racism isn't the major issue, at least on the surface. Mina and Demetrius must fight the sense of cultural dislocation that, for different reasons, has become a part of the heritage of each."[9] Peter Rainer of Los Angeles Times wrote, "Despite the awkwardness of much of the staging, and the unevenness of the script, the movie does give you a sense of real people living real lives."[10]

Awards and honors[edit]

Home media[edit]

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.[4]


  1. ^ "Mississippi Masala (1991)". BBFC. Archived from the original on 11 November 2021. Retrieved 11 November 2021.
  2. ^ "Mississippi Masala". AFI|Catalog. Archived from the original on 8 January 2022. Retrieved 8 January 2022.
  3. ^ "Mississippi Masala (2022)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved 13 May 2022.
  4. ^ a b "Mississippi Masala". The Criterion Collection. Archived from the original on 7 October 2022. Retrieved 7 October 2022.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Asmelash, Leah (12 June 2022). "'Mississippi Masala' was released 30 years ago. Here's how it still resonates with audiences today". CNN. Archived from the original on 13 June 2022. Retrieved 13 June 2022.
  7. ^ "Mitch Epstein on MISSISSIPPI MASALA". The Criterion Channel. Retrieved 8 November 2022.
  8. ^ "Mississippi Masala". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 27 December 2023. Edit this at Wikidata
  9. ^ Canby, Vincent (5 February 1992). "Review/Film; Indian Immigrants in a Black-and-White Milieu". The New York Times. New York. Archived from the original on 10 May 2023. Retrieved 2 December 2023.
  10. ^ Rainer, Peter (14 February 1992). "International Affair Spice 'Masala'". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles. p. 609. Retrieved 2 December 2023 – via Newspapers.com.

Further reading[edit]

  • Reddy, Vanita (October 2015). "Afro-Asian Intimacies and the Politics and Aesthetics of Cross-Racial Struggle in Mira Nair's Mississippi Masala". Journal of Asian American Studies. 18 (3): 233–263. doi:10.1353/jaas.2015.0021. S2CID 146321538.
  • Singh, Amardeep (2018). The films of Mira Nair: Diaspora Vérité. Jackson, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 9781496819116.
  • McFerson, Hazel M. (2006). Blacks and Asians in America: Crossings, Conflict and Commonality. Durham, North Carolina: Carolina Academic Press. ISBN 9781594601026.

External links[edit]