Saturday, April 30, 2011

Salaam Bombay : Auteur Meera Nair

The year 2010 saw a dramatic increase in use of 3-D technology in filmmaking after the box office hit of Avatar but when will the “status” of women filmmakers will improve? In 2009, there were 217 million moviegoers. Among them, 113 millions of the moviegoers were women and 104 million of the moviegoers were men (WMM). However, there are only few films that focuses on women’s story and there are only few film festivals throughout the world which dedicate in showing the work of women directors. Facts about the percentage of women in film behind the camera are really discouraging. For instance, The Celluloid Ceiling 2007 report states that, women accounted for 6% of directors of the top 250 domestic grossing films released in 2007. In Bell Hooks essay Making Movie Magic describes that the movies provide the shared experience which audiences can relate to and initiate a dialogue about charged issues. But whose experiences have been highlighted in most movies and who writes and directs most of these movies? The sole answer is men. No wonder there are only few films focused on women.

Being frustrated with this vicious circle of male dominance in all most every sector, few females have been successful in establishing their image in filmmaking and actively involved in fighting over the rights of women and other minorities. Like Catherine Saalfield, Meera Nair combines documentary work with an activist agenda. She started her career with four television documentaries. Her films, Salaam Bombay, Monsoon Wedding and the Namesake illuminate the ambiguities of immigrant experience and raises issues about race, class, sexuality, intergenerational strive and also highlight the conflicts between modern and traditional cultures.

“Salaam Bombay” won the Golden Camera award at the Cannes Film Festival and also earned the nomination for Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Salaam Bombay as the title implies is set in the streets of Bombay. Similar to Broken Mirrors that Maggie Humm talks about in her essay, Salaam Bombay also dives into the daily interactions of prostitutes, pimps, drug dealers in streets of Bombay (92). Maggie Humm has also indicated what she sees as the advantages for feminist film theory of paying attention to feminist literary theory on the subject of authorship(98). Nair wanted to create unmediated, authentic kind of cinema, capture and document the exordinaryness of ordinary life and to represent the unrepresented. Salaam Bombay took on feminist issues like human trafficking, abuse and violence against women.Impressively, this film was shot entirely on location , and the actors seem very natural. In the opening credits, the actors' names are preceded by the word "introducing," so it is clear that it is their first feature film. In fact, all but one of the actors are non-professionals

Nair also explain in an interview with Cinema Diaspora that how lack of audiences for documentary lead her to create Salaam Bombay as fiction. Some reviews on Salaam bombay criticized her work as the misrepresentation of child labor. But her work had direct impact on Indian government policies on street kids (Cinema Diaspora).

Works cited:
Bell Hooks, Making Movie Magic
Judith Redding and Victoria A Bronsworth, Catherine Saalfield: Art and Activism
Maggie Humm, Author/Auteur: Feminist Literary Theory and Feminist Film
interview with Cinema Diaspora

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