A Film Class On Mira Nair

‘Auteur Theory’ According to an Indian-American Woman

“Every frame and every scene has to have an intention.” — Mira Nair

How might the focus on a minority woman for in an auteur film course shift the effects of auteur theory? In this class students will study the work of Mira Nair and the political-economic relationships that breathe life into her characters and camera angles. Nair’s diverse film language challenges the origins of auteur theory and its hegemonic tendencies in film studies. By inviting audiences to engage with her politics from various aesthetic platforms — ranging from neorealist traditions and small budget cinema to box office hits and Disney-funded films— Nair captures the differences in women’s experiences across the world and the contradictory nature of globalization. In this course, we will examine how Nair’s ouevre can be used to better understand the aesthetics of intersectional feminism and anticolonial theory.

Grades/Assignments for UCR Students: 20% Attendance (pop quizzes and participation); 25% Midterm (May 2); 25% Shot-by-Shot Analysis (Due May 30); 30% Final Paper (10–12 Pages, Due Finals Week)

week 1 — Introduction

April 4: A Brief History of Bollywood Cinema in Neoliberal India

(no class)

April 6: Auteur Theory

Truffaut V. Nair + Dumbfounded
“there are no plays, only authors”-Truffaut
“You see Denzel’s behind in this film….that sold me a few tickets” — Nair
“Seems so safe, till one day things go cray, I swear if things don’t change, My actions can’t be blamed” — Dumbfounded

week 2 — Nair’s (Dangerous) Gaze

workshopping practice: intensive group discussion

April 11: “My family is almost exactly like the one in ‘Monsoon Wedding’. We are very open, fairly liberal, loud people” — Nair

April 13: Remediation and the Gaze within the Gaze

week 3 — A Stage for South Asians in America

workshopping practice: intensive group discussion

April 18: A Stage for Solidarity Amongst the Non-Aligned Majority in the United States

April 20: If Bollywood is Just One Long Love Letter to NRIs, begging us to return home, then what is South Asian American Cinema?

week 4 — We’re Not Poverty Porn

workshopping practice: intensive group discussion

April 25: “Salaam Bombay’ didn’t put a halo on the poor…”

April 27: “Instead, it said that they will teach us how to live.” — Nair

week 5 — We’re Not Exotic Birds

May 2: (MIDTERM)

  • Screen: Mira Nair’s Kama Sutra (1996; on Netflix)

May 4: …Nor are we your Indian princess, so please no Jasmine or Aladdin references!

week 6 — And We Are Definitely Not Your Terrorist

workshopping practice: improvisation and adaptation

May 9: “you should not imagine that we Pakistanis are all potential terrorists” — Changez

  • Read: Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007; Ch. 1–6)
  • Screen: Jut Sally’s Reel Bad Arabs (2006)
  • Listen: Swet Shop Boys’ Cashmere (2016)

May 11: “…just as we should not imagine that you Americans are all undercover assassins” — Changez

  • Read: Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007, Ch. 7–12)
“Bounce Back” —Terrorist Goes Native

week 7 — The Terrorist is a Social Construction

May 16: At the Intersection of Literary Theory and Film Theory

May 18: Surveillance & Cinema

week 8 — Becky Sharp, Shashi Tharoor, & India as Stage

May 23: “Revenge may be wicked, but it’s perfectly natural” — Becky Sharp

  • Screen: Mira Nair’s Vanity Fair (2004)

May 25: “Becky, be careful, those curries can burn” — Amelia

  • Screen: Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Ltd. (2007)
  • David Bordwell and Kristine Thompson’s “The Relation of Shot to Shot: Editing” Film Art: An Introduction

week 9 — Immigrants, Refugees, & Lost Souls

May 30: “We Haven’t Located Us Yet”

  • Screen: Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Ltd. (2007)
  • Discussion: Mira Nair, Wes Anderson, and Editing

June 1: Between India, Uganda, and the United States

“It’s weird, but I got a scholarship to Harvard…..soon the people that will be running the country will look like us (Indian)” — Mira Nair

week 10 — Mira Nair & the Feminist Aesthetic

June 6: Queens

June 8: Debby & Beth

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