The APAHM Project 2021 Day 26: Mississippi Masala
Updated: May 31, 2021
Film: Mississippi Masala
Directed by: Mira Nair
Where to Watch: YouTube
Wanna Skip? Pick a Movie from APAHM Project 2020
Why it Made the List:
Having lived in Greenwood, MS for 6 months earlier this year, I thought it was interesting to watch a movie that filmed in Greenwood and takes place in Greenwood. "Mississippi Masala" goes into a deep dive of what it is like the have an interracial relationship in the South.
This film, like many others this year, were pulled from a list I made in 2020 for The APAHM Project. At the time, the film wasn't possible to watch; I couldn't find it anywhere. So I am happy that we are now able to watch this film!
"Mississippi Masala" stars a young Denzel Washington (pre his "Malcom X" breakthrough role) and Sarita Choudhury ("Homeland") as Demetrius and Meena, who meet when Meena accidentally rear-ends Demetrius's carpet cleaning van. They exchange numbers for the insurance and later meet again at a dance club.
Meena is at the club with Greenwood's most eligible Indian bachelor and Demetrius runs into his ex, a successful musician. In an attempt to make his ex jealous, Demetrius asks Meena to dance. Meena's date is frustrated and goes home, leaving Demetrius to give Meena a ride home. The two begin a romance and sneak away on a weekend beach trip to Biloxi (about 4 hours south of Greenwood).
Some men from the Indian community recognize the pair and barge in on their hotel room to find Meena and Demetrius in bed. Word spreads across Greenwood and Meena's parents are disappointed in their daughter.
Now we have to go back to the beginning. Meena's family is not from India, nor are they from a long generation of Indian's in Mississippi. Meena's family is from Uganda, Africa. They have lived there for 3 generations. Meena and her family speak Swahili, they own land. In 1972, Idi Amin, the dictator of Uganda, bans all Asians from Uganda and gives them 90 days to leave. Many of these people include Gujaratis and those who were originally brought to Africa to complete the Uganda Railway. Meena's father is especially upset to leave. He leaves behind the only home he's ever known and his life-long friend who tells him that Uganda was for Black Africans. This causes Meena's father to distrust Black people.
Meena and Demetrius' relationship has caused divide on both sides. For Meena, she faces judgement from the Black community. For Demetrius, Indian hotel owners no longer want to hire him for his carpet cleaning. Meena's father has been trying to go back to Uganda and get his land back. He finally receives a hearing and decides to move his family back to Africa, which will also prevent Meena from seeing Demetrius. Meena drives to find Demetrius and they decide to run away together in his cleaning van. Meena's father returns to Africa alone for his hearing where he discovers his friend died shortly after the Asian expulsion. Realizing Africa was not the same as he remembered, h writes home to his wife to say home is where the heart is.
The movie touches on several things other than the obvious of the judgement that comes with being in an interracial relationship, especially from a culture with rich traditions and practices when it comes to marriage. I never knew that there was a large Indian population in Uganda. Nor did I know there was an expulsion of them in the 1970s, which is still very recent (especially when you think about other similar acts like The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882). Another topic the film talks about is colorism. Meena is constantly reminded about how dark her skin is and how this makes her seen as lesser. Even Demetrius's brother mistakes her for Hispanic. 60% of Indian women reported using skin lightening products to be deemed as more desirable, beautiful, and accepted. Undoubtedly, one of the main themes is that of home. To Meena, America is home. For her father, it is Uganda. But for all the main players, home is where their loved ones are. As Meena and her father both struggle to find where they belong, they realize that where they belong is not a where but a who.
I always joke that I will never go back to Greenwood, MS. But to "go" back there in this movie brought a smile to my face. The film was excellent and really well-written. I think it captured parts of the South well. (Also, yes, there is a large Indian population in Greenwood and other parts of MS!) I loved the complexity of it as well. It was a film that I think is relevant to today in a lot of ways. In an age where the color of our skin still causes so much divide for some people. I write this blog post as I have already completed watching all of the films for 2021 APAHM Project and I would have to say that out of all of them, this is in the Top 3 movies I would recommend you to watch (the others being "Chan is Missing" and "Yellow Rose").
Stop Hate and Donate:
**A Reminder! I will be matching donations from this blog post based upon the number of likes it gets! Share this post and tell your friends to like this post!**
Today’s donation link is for Nafia Fatima, a Pakistani college student who had acid thrown on her in March. Fatima is now left with severe burns and possibly will never be able to see again.
Donations will go towards medical bills, legal fees, and provide income since Fatima is not able to work. Click here to donate to the GoFundMe page.
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**note I have not seen either of these films**
Monsoon Wedding available to Rent or Buy