Mississippi Masala (1991)

Director: Mira Nair

Denzel Washington stars in Mira Nair’s follow-up to her critical smash Salaam Bombay! as Demetrius, a young black man with his own successful carpet-cleaning company who meets Mina a beautiful, young Indian woman after she crashes into his van. The two exchange a few coyly interested looks along with their insurance information and after a second chance encounter, they begin dating, much to the chagrin of their families who disapprove of their interracial romance in the Deep South and both wish they would instead “stick to their own kind.” Mina’s situation is further complicated by the history of her family who, along with many Asian Indians, were expelled from Uganda by Idi Amin in 1972 and to add more fuel to the plot, her father has been privately trying to sue his former homeland to get his property back. Nair has much to say and the viewer recognizes at once that it is a personal film for her since she herself is married to a Ugandan husband. Unfortunately, possibly still influenced by the neorealist elements of her first work and her love of sociology, Nair tries to work in too many elements and the story that the viewer most connects with (that of the two young lovers) gets a bit lost in the process. Possibly, she would’ve made the movie differently today (those who have seen Monsoon Wedding might agree) but as it stands, it’s still a worthwhile and wonderfully directed film with another cool, charismatic and sexy performance from Denzel Washington easily upstaging the nervous newcomer, Sarita Choudhury. Nair fans will delight in the film which, like its name implies is best when it’s colorful, brilliantly hot and spicy in its portrayal of prejudices, hypocrisy and family duty and far less when it tries to wrap up details from its too brief beginning at the end of the film, as the viewer is simply anxious for the romantic resolution.