Photography as Inspiration – Mira Nair – The Namesake

If it weren’t for photography, I wouldn’t be a flimmaker. Every film I make is fueled by photographs. Sometimes it is a particular image of a photographer, sometimes it is what I have learned by seeing the world through his or her eyes. Either way, photographs have always helped me crystallize the visual style of the film I’m about to make. -Mira Nair

I have just finished watching the film The Namesake which always fills me with a complicated set of emotions and leaves me with a sadness and an ache, I am not entirely sure for what. And on another day watching Hoosiers will produce exactly the same combination of feelings, though with a completely different tenor. One day, I will write about all that in more depth, but not today, not aside from reprinting two poems below, which will have to suffice for now.

The quote at the top of this post, though is from a featurette which appears on The Namesake DVD which shows some photographs which supplied inspiration for some scenes in the movie. Though, in truth, I did not need a featurette to tell me of the value Ms. Nair places on visual images and her immense skill in creating them herself. It is as if scene after scene of the movie, both in India and America, snap into stills in my mind and catch my breath. As a photographer, this kissing of the moving image and the still photograph which informs Ms. Nair’s process makes me very happy.

In my opinion such virtuosity would all be of little account if it did not service a great story, with deep themes and symbols. And the movie does not disappoint, though not having read Jhumpa Lahiri’s novel I cannot comment on its effectiveness as an adaptation. With Ashima’s goodbye speech and peaceful final smile at the end of the movie, we understand that home truly can be a many splendored thing.

Watching Hoosiers in the Himalayas

I never thought I would ache for Illinois.
Especially here in this cherished place,
Amidst these swaying pines that whisper joy,
Of windswept hills and cold alpine spaces,
Amidst these pines that wreathed in monsoon mists
Transform the world medieval once again,
That silent stand like monks in sacred trysts.
Yet in this cherished place there comes this pain
For rich, dark, furrowed fields a world away
For harvest leaves that dying golden fall
On silent walks of silent towns that stay
More silent still when winter carpets all
And winter snowdrifts sweep, and families keep
To glowing houses. I watch this screen and weep.

Image source


i stand and breathe
my last few gulps of air duty-free
shuffling up the aisle
of this airlock between atmospheres

soon i will be complete
torn into a duality
that appears unseamed in separate hemispheres
that tears each time they meet
at the touching of my sleeping eastern flesh with east

i walk through door
and I am me
in ways that i have not been for years
as thick warm eastern air enfolds me
and fills my lungs
displacing stale indifference
and leaves me coughing sputtering
amidst these warm embraces
invading my protesting western space
amidst these cluttered streets
breaking life into me
more honest and complete

it may take some time to breathe