Mississippi Masala (1992) Directed by Mira Nair (who would later direct the great film Monsoon Wedding), this film garnered some strong critical praise; the movie guide we have here at our house actually said the film worked a “miracle” with the story. So I picked it up from work and gave it a shot. Our concensus? Uh…it’s not really all that great. Definitely not a miracle, more like an obvious parlor trick.
The film follows the budding romance of an Indian (Asian that is) and a Black man in Mississippi (played by Sarita Choudhury and Denzel Washington) while their respective families throw a tizzy about the interracial aspect of the courtship. Some good, solid themes to work with, but it really didn’t do it for either Katie or myself. I thought the lead female was weak and through no fault of her own, very poorly developed, as was the whole take on the romance. Too quick and not enough exposition. They meet, they flirt, BOOM they’re in l-o-v-e. To be fair, it was the first film for both the director and the female lead.
That being said, the idea behind the inter-racial conflict is interesting and goes beyond the standard (though still interesting) white / black divide. One of the chief reasons that there is such a strong negative reaction from the Indian half of the equation traces it’s roots back to Africa. When the movie begins, it is 1972, when Ugandan dictator Idi Amin expelled all Indians from Uganda, Indians that called the country home for several generations. The family in the film loses everything. The father, who had been a prominent civil rights lawyer fighting for the rights of the disenfranchised, feels betrayed by blacks and carries a deep hurt with him until the present, when he is attempting to sue the Ugandan government to regain his lost property. So when his daughter falls in love with a black man, he understandably latches on to ethnic identity and forbids it, a move no doubt to protect those he loves. This storyline is the most interesting, but sadly, the rest of the movie just doesn’t live up to its emotional punch. Not bad, but not great, and definitely not a miracle.