Mira Nair, the Indian director, scored an international art-house hit with her feature debut, Salaam Bombay!
, a tale of life in the streets of seething urban India. Her next film was a surprising turnabout: Mississippi Masala
is a cultural study and a love story set in the rural American south. The love story comes courtesy of Denzel Washington, as a rug cleaner, and Sarita Choudhury (from Nair's Kama Sutra
), as the daughter of Indian immigrants running a small-time motel; both give fresh, charming performances. But Nair is equally interested in capturing the feelings of an exile's life, and Roshan Seth, the fine actor who played Nehru in Gandhi
, superbly catches the hope and sorrow of dislocation. Although the issues are serious, Nair maintains a breezy, naturalistic approach, and the various ingredients of this masala blend into a rich, flavorful stew. --Robert Horton