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'Excellence is beyond borders'

April 01, 2008
Mira Nair, who was crowned the India Abroad Person of the Year for her cumulative achievements as a filmmaker and the outstanding success of her The Namesake, summed up herself with the word 'pagli' -- literally, mad.

She was known for her audaciousness and crazy guts from her childhood. And her mother would use the word every time Nair did something crazy.

Like she would walk into the family living room suddenly, with a cousin or a brother on her side, when friends of the family or relatives had brought home young men in the hope of making a match. Nair would then announce she was planning to marry the two men who had their arm into hers, as the story goes, and her mother would shake her head at 'my pagli daughter.'

Nair remembered her nickname March 28 when she accepted the award from last year's winner, PepsiCo chief Indra Nooyi.

"My nickname growing up was Pagli, which most of you know means crazy girl and it is very hard for me to accept a much more Pagli, a much more crazy girl, than a person of the year," the filmmaker said, "but I really do thank India Abroad, and the wonderful Indra Nooyi for giving me this award." She added, chuckling, "I hope to become her when I grow up."

Nair, 50, has been making documentaries, feature films and movie shorts for over 25 years. While she will be reviving the $100 million Shantaram, whose budget exceeds those of the seven theatrical feature films and two television feature films she has made, she will shoot a quickie in the next two months. Called Amelia, and starring two time Oscar winner Hilary Swank as the pioneering American aviator Amelia Earhart, who disappeared while flying over the Pacific Ocean in 1937 in an attempt to make a trans-world flight. The movie could be in the theatres later in 2008.

Reportage: Arthur J Pais and Suman Guha Mozumder | Photographs: Paresh Gandhi

Also read: Salaam Mira Nair!

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