I am pacing my New Delhi living room as I wait for Mira Nair, India’s most successful English-language film-maker, to arrive. I saw her first feature, Salaam Bombay!, a 1988 film about slum children and the criminal underworld in India’s financial capital, at a Berkeley art house theatre back in my college days. Since then, the director has eschewed the temptations of big-budget Hollywood or Bollywood films to pursue passion projects around her own fierce intellectual interests.

When Nair finally appears in her book-lined study in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, half an hour late, she is grinning broadly. “I’m very, very happy today,” she tells me, leaning forward to show me the design on her T-shirt. The words “Rotis and Roses” — with an illustration of a clenched fist holding a rose — come into focus.

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