‘Mississippi Masala’: To the Wisdom of the In-Between

The iconic Mira Nair film is as much about the love between Demetrius and Mina, as it is about the love between Jay and Uganda.

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Denzel Washington and Sarita Choudhury in 'Mississippi Masala' (1992)

Fariha Róisín

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February 15, 2019

There’s a rumor that a studio wouldn’t back Mississippi Masala until director Mira Nair cast Denzel Washington as the film’s charming lead, Demetrius. The interracial love between an Indian woman and a Black man wasn’t “relatable,” and financiers didn’t think the movie could succeed without a white lead, so they backed out. To this day, few Hollywood films depict interracial relationships between people of color. Mississippi Masala focuses on a nuclear family that consists of Mina (Sarita Choudhury) and her parents Jay (Roshan Seth) and Kinnu (Sharmila Tagore), who leave Uganda after Idi Amin expels Asians from the country. The film opens with the three now in Greenwood, Mississippi, where Mina meets and falls in love with Demetrius. When their families discover their romance, things begin to unravel. The film explores the serrated edges of racism both through the lens of Mina and Demetrius’s relationship and Jay’s yearning for his homeland. Over 30 years later, Mississippi Masala asks us to challenge our preconceptions and willingness to subjugate others.

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