Focusing on The Margins

In the piquant film Mississippi Masala, Indian-born Mira Nair depicts outsiders in multiethnic America

Outsiders are Mira Nair's specialty. She has always, the filmmaker says, "been drawn to stories of people who live on the margins of society; people who are on the edge, or outside, learning the language of being in between; dealing with the question, 'What, and where, is home?' "

At the relatively tender age of 34, India-born Nair has built a global reputation for her skill at portraying those lives. With unsentimental care, her camera has focused over the past 13 years on homeless children, homesick exiles and struggling immigrants. Her first feature film, Salaam Bombay!, won awards at Cannes in...