Why Mira Nair Tells the Stories She Tells

There are so many stories in the world that Mira Nair could tell.

But this is how she chooses: “I make films about things that get under my skin and don’t let me go.”

It’ll be an idea, say. Or a book. And she’ll find that she’s talking about it. Sometimes to herself. Sometimes to others. It gets so it’s burning her up inside, it’s something she has to say, it’s a story that could take “you on a ride that has the full appetite of life.”

That appetite’s important to Mira Nair. Three horoscopes have said that she’ll die by the age of 61. “I don’t really believe it,” she says. “But I don’t forget it, either.”

She made Salaam Bombay in 30 days for peanuts. She read The Namesake on a plane, called Jhumpa Lahiri when she landed, bought the rights a week later, made the movie nine months later.

Fittingly, her nickname is Toofani – Hindi for whirlwind. Her idea is that you must always have a little toofani in you.

Whirlwind that she is, she is also a woman of focus. “Focus is born out of love,” she believes. So, she focuses on that story she wants to tell. And she loves it. Love, she says, is the foundation for any kind of excellence we aspire to.

Ms. Nair knows full well that just because it’s a story she wants to tell doesn’t mean it’s a story audiences will want to see.

So be it, says the whirlwind.

“You’re on this world for a short time,” she says. “I feel like I have to do what makes my heart beat faster.”

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