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Arts & Entertainment

Telling the Story: Monsoon Wedding

Mira Nair

Lesson time 21:07 min

For Mira, Monsoon Wedding was a chance to experiment with telling a story inspired by her upbringing. Learn how to balance emotions in a story to bring out the universal truths and connect your story with a larger audience.

Mira Nair
Teaches Independent Filmmaking
The Oscar-nominated director teaches her methods for directing powerful performances, maximizing budgets, and bringing authentic stories to life.
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I've always believed that the more specifically local and truthful to the local that you make your world and your characters, it becomes surprisingly universal. Take "Monsoon Wedding," for instance, you know? We conceived of this film as an experiment, you know, as really kind of, for me, inspired by dogma, the whole method in Denmark of how to make an interesting film without millions of dollars and men in suits and, you know, how to make an inventive story pretty much based on not much money. And "Monsoon Wedding" was born out of a desire to make an experimental film, to make a film back on the low budget that I had started on several years before, when I had the strength in me and the rigor in me to go back into a $1 million zone of, you know, how I had begun. And I met a wonderful-- I was teaching film at Columbia University at the time, and the smartest woman in my class was a young woman from Delhi, my home city, Sabrina Dhawan. And we began talking about how to make a film that could be, in its heart, a populist film, a film almost offbeat inspired by the current Hindi movie at the time, "Hum Aapke Hain Koun," which was a massive wedding movie, Bollywood style, 21 songs. My whole family and I went to see it like hundreds of Indian families and enjoyed it, you know? And I said to Sabrina, what about making a reality check film of what a real wedding is like, you know-- a Punjabi wedding, the wedding our communities come from, you know? And I mean, at its heart, I did want to make, I hoped, a popular film, but I also wanted to make it experimentally and visually inventively and, again, go into zones which never have been gone into, you know. And "Monsoon Wedding" was inspired also by what us Punjabis-- you know, we are North Indians. We work very hard, but we party even harder. We are the party animals of India. And there is something we do in our weddings especially, but otherwise as well, is that we have masti, which "masti" is a Hindi word which means kind of an intoxication with life. And I wanted to see if I could do that, but in a real way as opposed to a Bollywood way. But in the heart of every family, there are secrets, and there is drama, and especially during a wedding when it all breaks out, you know? And as Sabrina and I, you know, riffed about the story and what it could be, because there are several ideas. The story is-- for me, it was so much about making a story about different kinds of love, you know, of what I called old shoe love, a love of a father and a mother of the bride who had been married 30 years, and although they loved each other, had the passion gone. You know, was there a spark anymore? And that was the love I saw a lot around me, and I wanted to actually pay homage to that love, because it is deep. It's just that it's sometimes neglectful, you know? And then first love, the love of a first kiss, falling in lust, in a sense, you know, and then the love which I thought the arranged marria...

Harness the power of your roots

Oscar-nominated filmmaker Mira Nair approaches directing with the “heart of a poet and the skin of an elephant,” spurred by rejection and fighting to bring uncompromising stories to film. In the Golden Lion-winning director’s MasterClass, learn to make a big impact on a small budget in film production, evoke the best from actors and nonactors, and protect your creative vision so you tell the story that can only come from you.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

How storytelling is a universal art and how important it is for me as a photographer.

Wonderful insights on the artistic vision of the film making process. I admire her style of simplicity and creative thinking.

I am a recent graduate of, but a self-learned filmmaker. This class honestly taught me more about the meaning of film and how to properly use the variety of tools given to me to effectively create a feeling.

Some teachers teach what to learn, some teachers how to learn, and to understand your own mind and your own process and let it flow through you. Mira Nair did just that, without imposing her ideas or dogmas. It was an extremely helpful masterclass, one that will stay with me.


Richard R.

Mira Nair is amazing. Thank you for being a Director that I can relate to and would love to work with soon! @Royesilient


I would love to make this type of film that mixes family and culture. Problem is, the most interesting stories I know are not mine to tell. I could not be honest without hurting people. I also do not write well enough to disguise the characters.

Omar D.

I have to say Mira has such a loving and effective way of communicating her vision. So inspiring. Thank you for sharing and teaching us

R.G. R.

Her idea of the three dimensional elements of a scene and the nuance that is implied in this structure was insightful and helpful.

Andrew Kyle B.

Working with index cards is the best. I use a piece of writing software called Scrivener, which can mimic everything from a simple word processor to screenwriting software, but can also be used to create index card boards. The neat thing is, you can then click on your "index cards" and be taken directly to the scene which they represent. I remember Final Draft doing something similar, but I've moved almost 100% away from FD since discovering Scrivener. Anyway, just being able to view your script with this sort of bird's eye view really helps narrow in what the film is and how it's structured.

Maros M.

I liked when Mira talked about the three conditionality of each scene. That gave me a lot to think when planning a scene in a film. Thank you.