Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Mira Nair|
|Produced by||Mira Nair
Studio Canal Souss
|Written by||Sooni Taraporevala|
|Music by||L. Subramaniam|
|Edited by||Roberto Silvi|
|Distributed by||Cinecom Pictures
The Samuel Goldwyn Company (USA)
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 in the United States.
In 1972, dictator Idi Amin enacts the policy of the forceful removal of Asians from Uganda. Jay (Roshan Seth) his wife, Kinnu (Sharmila Tagore), and their daughter, Mina (Sarita Choudhury), a family of third-generation Ugandan Indians residing in Kampala reluctantly and tearfully leave their home behind and relocate. After spending a few years in England, Jay, Kinnu, and Mina 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 (Denzel Washington), 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 the Black 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 – Demetrius Williams
- Sarita Choudhury – Mina
- Sahira Nair – Young Mina
- Roshan Seth – Jay
- Sharmila Tagore – Kinnu
- Charles S. Dutton – Tyrone Williams
- Joe Seneca – Williben Williams
- Ranjit Chowdhry – Anil
- Joseph Olita – Idi Amin
- Mohan Gokhale – Pontiac
- Mohan Agashe – Kanti Napkin
- Tico Wells – Dexter Williams
- Yvette Hawkins – Aunt Rose
- Anjan Srivastav – Jammubhai (as Anjan Srivastava)
- Mira Nair – Gossip 1
- Rajika Puri – Gossip 2
- Richard Crick – Hotel Customer
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.
It received an 80% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
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 – Mira Nair and Sooni Taraporevala; Golden Ciak/Best Film – Mira Nair
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists: