Review: Mira Nair's 'Mississippi Masala' Swoons on Blu-ray from Criterion

by Sam Cohen

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday May 25, 2022

Review: Mira Nair's 'Mississippi Masala' Swoons on Blu-ray from Criterion

Plenty of dramas have tackled the thorny issue of what happens when vibrant cultures are added to the melting pot that is the United States of America, but few are as warm, incisive, and satisfying as Mira Nair's 1991 film "Mississippi Masala." It's a film that could easily become overwhelmed by the racism that dominates the lives of its characters, yet it enriches with sensuality and an absolutely rapturous romance at the center of it all. Although this was Nair's second feature, you can clearly see her mastery of the form as she spins a story that feels more relevant than ever.

The Criterion Collection brings Mira Nair's "Mississippi Masala" to Blu-ray for the first time, with a stunning new 4K restoration that does wonders in reviving this beautiful film. The new restoration is sourced from the original 35mm camera negative and includes the original Dolby 2.0 surround track, which is great for those of you who have home entertainment systems, plus the restoration process was overseen by Nair. As for the restoration itself, it looks absolutely stellar. Detail and contrast really shine here, showcasing Ed Lachman's terrific cinematography.

"Mississippi Masala" follows the story of Mina (Sarita Choudhury), a twenty-something who spends her days cleaning rooms in an Indian-run motel in Mississippi. Her family fled from Idi Amin's Ugandan dictatorship several years prior, and much of the pain they felt about leaving home has been carried with them. But when Mina falls for a Black carpet cleaner named Demetrius (Denzel Washington), they're tasked with navigating their respective cultures to fully explore the love they have for each other.

Part of what makes "Mississippi Masala" such a strong film is that it takes this kind of heavy premise — one that could easily be undercut or overshadowed with the violent racism that both of the main characters have experienced — and sidesteps it by focusing on the power of love that Mina and Demetrius share. It elevates the film into something remarkably sweet and heartfelt, and it's bolstered by beautiful cinematography.

As for special features, Criterion has rounded out this release with a bevy of interviews with cast, crew and film experts to help paint remarkable context around the film. In particular, there's a terrific interview with cinematographer Ed Lachman as he details how enriching it was to shoot in both Uganda and Mississippi for the film. If you're interested in the film, you'd be remiss not to pick up this new Blu-ray edition from the Criterion Collection.

Other special features include:

• New audio commentary featuring Nair

• New conversation between actor Sarita Choudhury and film critic Devika Girish

• New interviews with screenwriter Sooni Taraporevala and production designer and photographer Mitch Epstein

• English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

• Plus: An essay by critic Bilal Qureshi and, for the Blu-ray, excerpts from Nair's production journal

"Mississippi Masala" is now available on Blu-ray from the Criterion Collection.