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Everyone wants a piece of Mira Nair’s dil ka tukra
Uttara Choudhury
Thursday, June 08, 2006 22:50 IST
NEW YORK: The buzz around director Mira Nair’s new film The Namesake is so thick it’s palpable. Nair who is a mega-star in the US after Monsoon Wedding is gearing up for a grand premiere in November in the sumptuous red-carpeted, gold-trimmed 1,131-seat 1960s-style Ziegfeld movie palace in Manhattan.

The picture based on Pulitzer Prize-winning Indian writer Jhumpa Lahiri’s first novel — an immigrant saga spanning two continents — will open the Indo-American Arts Council (IAAC) film festival on November 1. The film starring Kal Penn, Tabu, Irrfan Khan, Jacinda Barrett and Zuleikha Robinson is being hailed as “the anthem of the diaspora.” “This film is a ‘dil ka tukra,’ a piece of my heart, a seesaw of two great cities of the world — New York and Kolkata,” said Nair who has wrapped up an exacting post-production schedule for her $9 million budget eighth feature film.

“The is a heartbreaking, funny and universal story of the Ganguli family, spanning 30 years, encompasses the tale of millions of us who have left one home for another, who have known what it is to continue the old ways with the new world, who have left the shadow of our parents to find ourselves for the first time,” she added.

Nair had generous praise for her actors; “The film features stupendous performances and is already being described as the anthem of the diaspora.” Indian cultural czarina Aroon Shivdasani, the executive director of the IAAC, is understandably pleased to open the festival with the prized premiere of The Namesake.

“When we started planning for the sixth IAAC festival, I went to Mira to ask her if she would give us The Namesake and she said I will absolutely love to give you the film but it also depends on Fox Searchlight Pictures which is releasing the film in theatres on November 3,” Shivdasani told DNA.

“It really is a coup d'état because this is the first time a major US film distributor is combining forces to jointly premiere a movie,” added Shivdasani who saw the film at a private screening for just four people on Wednesday afternoon.

Shivdasani gives Nair top marks for being able to intelligently portray the immigrant experience and the tangled skein of generational ties. “She has stayed close to the book but Mira being Mira has brought in her intrinsic love for India. Yesterday, I saw Kolkata through Mira’s eyes – you just have to see how she has portrayed the sounds, smell and bustling street life.”

Shivdasani said Bollywood actress Tabu packed a stunning performance; “Some actors look like dazed crazes when they portray new immigrants. But Tabu’s body language and expression show her trying to cope intelligently with a new culture and by the end of the film she becomes completely self-possessed, a woman who has accepted her role as a nourisher. I think she will sweep awards.”

There is so much buzz about the film already that Fox Searchlight has been careful not to overdose the public. “Fox Searchlight couldn’t be more proud to be releasing Mira’s beautiful film about the universal themes of love and loss within a family. We are all in love with this movie,” said Nancy Utley from Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Following IAAC tradition, a gala dinner will follow the opening night screening of The Namesake. Gala chairs for this year are celebrated author Salman Rushdie and model/actress Padma Lakshmi. “The IAAC is an important, thriving initiative and I am delighted to support it,” said Rushdie, who has been the patron saint of the high-profile organisation started in 1998.

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