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Mira Nair, Geeta Malik and Minhal Baig Selected Mentors for 1497 Writers Lab for South Asian Screenwriters

Mira Nair, Geeta Malik and Minhal Baig Selected Mentors for 1497 Writers Lab for South Asian Screenwriters

  • Founded by Adeel Ahmed, Kamran Khan, and Lipica Shah, the lab aims to support and lift talent of South Asian descent to reduce their underrepresentation in the American film and TV industry.

Filmmakers Mira Nair, Geeta Malik and Minhal Baig are named mentors for the 1497 Writers Lab, a Hollywood inclusion workshop for South Asian screenwriters. They will mentor a class of underrepresented South Asian screenwriters for its third edition. Founded by Adeel Ahmed, Kamran Khan, and Lipica Shah, the lab aims to support and lift talent of South Asian descent to reduce their underrepresentation in the U.S. film and TV industry, according to its website. Baig is returning after having also served as a mentor for last year’s lab, held virtually and in-person in New York.  

This year’s edition will be held in Malibu, California, Oct. 18 through 23, and will “include a newly structured format each of the three lab participants will be given a dedicated pod of experts — a filmmaker, a producer, a representative, and a Lab alum — to help them with script development and career guidance,” according to The Hollywood Reporter. 

Ahmed, Khan, and Shah have assembled a team of industry figures descended from all eight officially recognized South Asian countries — Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, The Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka — to serve as mentors, Lab advisors and on the selection committee. “We are excited to bring back this unique opportunity for emerging filmmakers to work with top-tier talent in the industry,” the co-founders said in a joint statement. “The Features Lab has evolved tremendously over the past two years,” they said, adding that they “want to continue empowering our community to write whatever stories speak to their creative souls, unbound by geographical borders, cultural content or anyone else’s expectations. We believe these artists can challenge gatekeepers in the American film and television industry and demonstrate the vibrancy, diversity and richness of our storytelling power.”

Geeta Malik

Nair’s narrative feature debut, “Salaam Bombay!” (1988), won the Caméra d’Or and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. She went on to direct “Mississippi Masala” (1991), “The Perez Family” (1995), “Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love” (1996), “Hysterical Blindness” (2002), “Vanity Fair” (2004), “The Namesake” (2006), “Amelia” (2009), and “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” (2012). Her film, “Queen of Katwe” (2016), starring Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo, is based on the true story of the Ugandan chess prodigy, Phiona Mutesi. Her acclaimed film “Monsoon Wedding” (2001) was brought to the Berkeley Repertory Theatre as a musical, where it completed an extended, sold-out run this past summer.

A long-time activist, she used the profits from “Salaam Bombay!” to create Salaam Baalak Trust, which works with street children in India. In 2005, she established Maisha Film Lab in Kampala, Uganda, a nonprofit training initiative for emerging East African filmmakers. In 2012, she was awarded the Padma Bhushan—India’s second-highest civilian honor—by the president of India.

Malik, who directed an upcoming episode of the breakout WBTV/ABC hit comedy “Abbott Elementary,” has written and directed the dramedy “India Sweet and Spices.” Starring Bollywood superstar Manisha Koirala, Adil Hussain, Sophia Ali, and Rish Shah, the film premiered at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival. It was released theatrically by Bleecker Street and is currently streaming on Hulu. Malik, a Film Independent Project Involve Fellow, is an alumna of UCLA’s graduate film program.

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Minhal Baig

She wrote and directed the viral narrative short, “Aunty Gs,” which earned a College Television Award (a “student Emmy”) in comedy from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Her other short films include “Shameless,” “Beast,” and “Apu’s Revenge.” Her first feature, “Troublemaker,” premiered at the 2011 Cinequest Film Festival. Her accolades include the inaugural Academy Gold Fellowship for Women and the Academy Nicholl Fellowship.

Baig, who directed “Hala,” about a Muslim teenager coping with the unraveling of her family as she comes into her own, also wrote for the first season of Hulu’s “Ramy,” and the final season of Netflix’s “Bojack Horseman.” Last February, she signed an overall deal with Amazon Studios. Her first project as part of the deal is an adaptation of Samantha Schweblin’s short story collection “Mouthful of Birds.”

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