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Heard at the Oscars 2015 ...THE desi bit ...

(Photo Credits: Both pictures obtained from WikiCommons) 

 Now the news about Lupita Nyongo doing Mira Nair's next was doing the rounds late last year too, but Oscars last night brought fresh focus on the fact.

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When Lupita Nyong'o (one of the stars of McQueen's Oscar-winning "12 Years a Slave" movie)  was asked about her upcoming ventures on the red carpet, she said she is going to star in Mira Nair's 'Queen of Katwe'. The movie is a film adaptation of the book by Tim Crothers titled, The Queen of Katwe: A Story of Life, Chess, and One Extraordinary Girl's Dream of Becoming a Grandmaster. The story is based on the Ugandan chess prodigy, Phiona Mutesi.

What is Mira Nair's connection with Uganda, you ask? Mira Nair first met her second (and current)husband, Professor Mahmood Mamdani in Uganda in 1988 while researching for her award winning film, Mississippi Masala- a 1992 film that depicted interracial romance between Indian Americans and African Americans in America.

Wait, there is more on her connection with Uganda. In 2004, Nair founded Maisha Film Lab

to EMPOWER visionary artists by giving them the tools to tell their stories through film; ENRICH world cinema by bringing new and yet-unheard voices into the global discourse; and ESTABLISH the roots of a self-sustaining film industry in East Africa. All of Maisha’s programs are 100% scholarships. According to their website, The roots of the Maisha Foundation date back to 1991, when Oscar-nominated director Mira Nair was shooting her second feature film, ‘Mississippi Masala’ in Kampala, Uganda. During production, Nair was inspired by Uganda’s rich storytelling tradition, but noted a lack in resources that would allow potential filmmakers to express these narratives onscreen. Encouraged by her own experiences and the support of the international filmmaking community, Nair founded the Maisha Foundation in 2004. Since then, more than 500 participants have attended the Maisha labs on full scholarships, having produced over 50 short films that have been screened in multiple international film festivals.

We say... 

Indian films or films involving Indians or Indian Americans (thinking of the 'The Hundred Foot Journey') might not have received any recognition at the Oscars, but looking out 'anything desi' for desideewar proved fruitful. For even though we all know and revere Mira Nair, the global face of an Indian- origin film-maker, we found facts on her that we did not know about. Of course, we knew of her 'Salaam Bombay' (1988); saw her 'Mississippi Masala' (1991), 'Kama Sutra' (1996), 'The Monsoon Wedding' (2001); loved her 'The Namesake' (2006) and see some of her recent ones ('Amelia', 2009, and 'The Reluctant Fundamentalist', 2013) solely due to her name. We even knew that she was born and raised in Orissa, that she studied in Delhi at the Miranda House there, that she moved to USA later to study documentary film-making at Harvard and that she was initially married to the  American photographer Mitch Epstein for about a decade before marrying the love of her life, the third-generation Indian-Ugandan Professor. However, most of us probably did not know that the 57-year old Padma Bhushan awardee is the founder of one of the only not-for-profit organizations in East Africa that provides training in film in the East African region (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda).

Well, interesting stuff, we say. We'll certainly look forward to watching 'The Queen of Katwe'.

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