Director Warns of Hollywood Glamour

Film makers must steer clear of Hollywood's glamour if they are to produce worthwhile movies, Mira Nair '78 said at Radcliffe College's Rama Mehta Lecture last night.

Nair explained that her films explore the stories of people who "live on the margins of society."

"I want to create a world that is so desperately local that it becomes universal," Nair told an audience of about 400. "I want to tell a story with gesture and light and a certain kind of face."

"I am amused and disgusted by Hollywood people who have little time to look beyond films and who are increasingly making films about films," Nair said.

Nair's "The Day the Mercedes Turned Into a Hat," a 10-minute film about the ending of apartheid in South Africa, was played before the audience in its world premiere.


After the film, Nair took questions from the audience. Spectators were interested in what she did at Harvard and Radcliffe during her college years, how she broke into the film business, and what it is like to be a director and a mother.

"[Harvard] gives you a foolish confidence that can be used well," Nair said. "I have no illusions about the elite, because I went to school with them."

Nair said she drew upon her experiences as an undergraduate when making her most recent film, "Mississippi Masala."

"Moving between the white and Black campus groups I felt a tension between them," she said. The film explores the awkward relationships between races in the "Mississippi Bible Belt."

Nair, who was born in India and developed her interest in film when she came to the College in 1976, told the audience of her first attempt with film.

"I was filming a table tennis match in Currier House," Nair said, "and when I saw it,it was one long stretch of black. I realized thatI had forgot to remove the lens cap."

Nair is now a renowned director whose work haswon awards at the Cannes Film Festival andreceived Academy Award nominations.

Students said they enjoyed the lecture, whichis funded semi-annually by Warburg Professor ofEconomics Emeritus John Kenneth Galbraith andCatherine A. Galbraith in memory of Rama Mehta, afellow at the Bunting Institute in the 1960s.

"I think she is an incredible inspiration toall artists, and it is fascinating to hear hertalk about her interests," said Joanna H. Lipper'95.

"It is nice to have a South Asian person ofprominence speaking at Harvard. She is an amazingperson who is very down-to-earth," said PankajTiwari '95, co-president of the South AsianAssociation