Mira Nair Biography

About Mira Nair

Mira Nair is an internationally accomplished film director, writer and producer born in India and currently based in the U.S.A. She has directed award-winning documentaries such as So Far From India and India Cabaret. Her debut feature film, Salaam Bombay! was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1988. It won the Camera D’Or for the best first feature film and the Prix du Publique for ‘most popular entry’ at the Cannes Film Festival besides 25 other international awards. Her next film Mississippi Masala won three awards at the Venice Film Festival. Her most recent film, The Queen of Katwe, which got released in October, 2016 in India, is about the journey of a young Ugandan woman who aspires to be a chess champion.

Personal Life

Mira Nair was born on 15 October, 1957 in Rourkela, Odisha. Her father, Amrit Nair, was a civil servant and her mother, Praveen Nair, a social worker. Nair moved with her family to Delhi at the age of eleven due to her father’s transferring posts. She is the youngest among her siblings. She left home at the age of thirteen to attend Loreto Convent Tara Hall, an Irish-Catholic missionary school in Shimla, where she developed interest in English literature. Later, Nair went to Miranda House at Delhi University and earned her graduation degree in Sociology. She was offered a full scholarship to Cambridge University, but accepted a similar opportunity at Harvard University.

Mira Nair met her first husband, Mitch Epstein, in 1977 at Harvard University. They divorced by 1987. Nair met her husband Mahmood Mamdani in 1988 while researching for her film Mississippi Masala in Uganda. Their son, Zohran, was born in 1991. She lives in New York City near Columbia University, where she works as an adjunct professor in the Film Division of the university’s School of Arts. Apart from teaching and films, Mira also takes interest in yoga. In fact, when making a film, she makes sure that her cast and crew begin the day with yoga.


Mira Nair began her career with small-scale films. With time, she developed interest in direction and made a number of documentaries for television. Her first film, Jama Masjid Street (1979) describes the life of Muslims in Old Delhi. Her other noted film, India Cabaret (1985) revolves around the lives in Mumbai nightclubs. Salaam Bombay! (1988) is a critically acclaimed movie that won numerous awards in international film festivals. Her 1991 film Mississippi Masala, starring Denzel Washington and Sarita Choudhury, won rave reviews. The Perez Family, which starred Alfred Molina, Marisa Tomei and Angelica Huston, was released in 1995. She also directed a movie called Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love Story, which narrates the story of love life in India in the 16th century. Her movie Monsoon Wedding in 2001 was a major success and won her several awards, including the prestigious Golden Lion award at the Venice film festival. In 2006, she made The Namesake, adapted from Pulitzer prize winner Jhumpa Lahiri’s award winning novel, and it also drew positive response from film critics.

Awards and Recognition

  • 1985: Best Documentary Film, Global Village Film Festival for India Cabaret
  • 1986: Golden Athena, Athens International Film Festival for India Cabaret
  • 1988: Audience Award, Cannes Film Festival for Salaam Bombay!
  • 1988: Golden Camera (Best First Film), Cannes Film Festival for Salaam Bombay!
  • 1988: National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Hindi for Salaam Bombay!
  • 1988: Jury Prize, Most Popular Film and Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at Montreal World Film Festival for Salaam Bombay!
  • 1988: New Generation Award, Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards
  • 1991: Golden Osella (Best Original Screenplay), Venice Film Festival for Mississippi Masala
  • 1991: Critics Special Award, São Paulo International Film Festival for Mississippi Masala
  • 1992: Best Director (Foreign Film), Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists for Mississippi Masala
  • 2001: Golden Lion (Best Film), Venice Film Festival for Monsoon Wedding
  • 2002: UNESCO Award, Venice Film Festival
  • 2012: Padma Bhushan by Government of India