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Chat with Nandita Das
PTI
February 18, 2003
First Published: 11:26 IST(15/2/2003)
Last Updated: 15:15 IST(18/2/2003)

Nandita_Das: Hi! I am ready for all your bouquets and more of brickbats! So here it goes...

Susheel: How did you get your first movie?
Nandita_Das: To be honest, I never wanted to be an actress. So I didn't "get" a movie. It just happened. After finishing my masters in social work, I was working in NGOs with women and children, and was also doing street theatre. I did a couple of small films that go to the festival circuit, on the TV and just die. Fire was the first film that was released and for all the right and wrong reasons, created quite a noise. After that, the others just followed.

Laughingbuddha: In one of the many interviews during the Gujarat crisis, you had said: I have never felt threathened as a Hindu in India, but as a woman I can feel what it means to be cornered. Do you think a woman's predicament is the same as that of a member of the minority community (in India or elsewhere)?
Nandita_Das: There are a lot of things that one takes for granted, being a part of a majority community or a community that enjoys certain privileges by the society. I am a born Hindu and I am lucky to have been raised in a very liberal family where caste, class, religion or even sexual preferences have not been the criteria to choose friends or to like or dislike anybody. But the situation in the country has become so communal that it forces us to think from the point of view of the minorities, which actually should be a very natural thing. The kind of fear and insecurity that the minority community lives in is strangely similar to certain fears, lack of opportunity, lack of confidence that women too have lived in. In that context, I might have drawn a parallel in the interview that you've mentioned. Why can't we just live and let live, instead of creating barriers and finding differences?

Shishirgupta77: I am a big fan of yours becuase I feel that you are celebrity with a purpose. But I haven't heard much about your work for social cause recently. Are you still active there? If yes, what are the activities you are involved with right now?
Nandita_Das: I have never claimed to be a social worker as that's a term for those who dedicate their entire lives to social causes, but I think every individual ought to and needs to, for his or her own sanity and well-being, do something worthwhile for the society he or she lives in. As my main work at the moment is acting, which is not just shooting but the enormous baggage that comes with it (including this chat show!) takes up a lot of time. I do some bit of the "other" work as and when time permits. It ranges from doing workshops with school teachers to giving talks at women's rallies, to young people in colleges, to panel discussions on certain forums. I think to vocalize one's views and to share them with others is important for one's own self, and the society at large.

Priyadarshani: How do you feel when people compare you with Smita Patil?
Nandita_Das: Smita Patil was a wonderful actress and from what I know of her from her family (now that I know them well) and her colleagues, she was an outstanding human being. So it can only be a compliment. But instead of 'labelling' people, we should allow each one to be their individual self without any pressure. I am trying to do work that I can relate to, that I feel good about and something that stirs my head and heart. I admit not all of it is that fantastic or isn't what I had expected it to be, but then I realize that choosing a project is like gambling. You only know certain factors and you just have to plunge in!

NRIi: How many languages do you know? You appear so authentic when you do a Rajasthani, or Gujarati role.
Nandita_Das: I have always loved learning different languages and have grown up with many - as my mother is Gujarati and my father is an Oriya and now I am married to a Bengali! Born in Mumbai, living in Delhi, I have done films in Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, Oriya, Bengali, Gujarati, Marwadi, Hindi and English. While it is nightmarish to speak the South-Indian languages in the beginning, but the pleasure of working in different environments with different talents from different parts of the country makes me forget these struggles of the language. And I have no regrets!

Laughingbuddha: You taught at Rishi Valley School for a while. How was the experience like? Do you think you have a feel for the profession?
Nandita_Das: The four months spent there as a teacher during the break of one year after my B.A. have been the best months in my life! It was a great experience where I loved teaching the children - history, geography, English, Hindi, folk-dance and also did some plays. And I was like a student of arts and crafts where I learnt somethings like pottery, tie and dye, batik, etc. And had a most peaceful and enjoyable time, far away from the city. They have invited me to do a talk or a workshop and I hope I can do it this year.

Atahot: Do you believe in religion?
Nandita_Das: Like I said, I am a born Hindu but I wasn't brought-up with any ritualism. Spirituality is something that interests me a great deal. To be honest, I am not religious at all but have the deepest respect for those who practice it honestly and genuinely, and these people are so few and would never indulge in any kind of violence in the name of religion. So the only 'ism' I really believe in is humanism. While all this sounds big and preachy, I am sure you would agree that in today's mad world if we all just became better human beings, the world would be a better place to live.

Atahot: What's your opinion regarding the war situation in the Gulf region?
Nandita_Das: I am absolutely against any kind of a war! No violence can ever be justified. I think America's big brother policy has created enough mess all around the world. And it's a pity that the rest of the world is unable to unite and raise enough voice to stop such bullying. Political agenda is difficult to understand and that's why they use emotional tactics (as if it's a fight for terrorism) to justify their actions.

Kumar_18: You have worked with a lot of different stars ranging from Amitabh Bachchan to a newcomer like Rahul Khanna. Who are your favourite co-stars and who did you enjoy working with the most?
Nandita_Das: I have made a lots of wonderful friends in lots of my films. But you make friends because they are wonderful people, not only because they are good or bad, or big or small actors. I don't want to get into names as it's no point creating enemies and the friends will in any case remain friends! Rahul Khanna is surely a dear friend and a wonderful co-actor.

Amiya_a: If you have to relate yourself to one profession, which one would you choose - a stage artist, a film actress, a social worker or something else?
Nandita_Das: The good thing about life is that you can do different things instead of always having to choose this over that. It's wonderful for those who can specialize in one thing but I have too many varied interests, I am too restless and a bit adventurous! And therefore enjoy all the different things that I do. They satisfy different aspects of my life, so I would not like to compare them with each other. In fact, I would like to try my hands in a couple of more things! That is, of course, if all of you don't judge me too much and allow me to also make mistakes!

Sridhar_sathya: In a movie in which you acted with Shabhana, you seemed to be enjoying the lesbianism. Did you really enjoy it or you just acted it?
Nandita_Das: As an actress, one gets various roles. You don't become a widow if you do a widow's role or a beggar if you do a beggar's. But unfortunately, you neither become a queen if you do a role of a queen and fortunately you don't become mad if you do the role of a mad woman! So why do I have to, after six years of doing the film Fire, still answer questions about my personal preferences if I have done a role of a woman who has a lesbian relationship? I think homosexuality is a reality of the society, from time immemorial, and I see nothing wrong in people wanting to live their lives in their own way as long as they are not harming anybody else. For heaven's sake there are many HARMFUL attitudes, people and actions which are ruining our society. Why don't we feel more passionnate about them?

Broken_heartz: What is the driving force that led you to decide on an early marriage?
Nandita_Das: I am glad you think that I am that young. I assure you that I am old enough to marry even by 21st century standards! I think love is a beautiful thing and I hope each of us can experience it. And if that love becomes a marriage, and if that feels good, one should go for it! Well, that's exactly what I have done! I met a person who I think I want to grow old with and so we decided to marry!

Rogermit: Nandita, you seem to be all steamed up about a question which at best was a bit of a tongue-in-cheek one, possibly not very elegant. Are you generally short-tempered?
Nandita_Das: Like many of us, I have a very serious side to me and a fun side. Serious question, even if it is rather obvious, or like somebody commented, as being dumb, have to be answered with serious honesty. But a fun question, believe you me, will be answered funnally! Or at least, I will try! BTW, I am a bit short-tempered but it comes down quite fast. Are you a mind-reader?

Get_on_my_cloud: Hello Nandita, are you what you wanted to be (in your heart) in your life? If not then what's missing?
Nandita_Das: I truely believe that the journey is as important, if not more, as the destination. And if you are wandering, you are necessarily lost. Maybe I still haven't found my calling, but I am enjoying what I am doing and I am sure what is missing in life will emerge. No regrets!

Bondhu: What's wrong with Mumbai? You always quote 'staying in Delhi as a handicap'. You know god helps them who helps themselves....
Nandita_Das: Hey! It's a choice I have made. I am not complaining. In fact, I like the distance from the film world. But everything has it's own advantages and disadvantages so I was just talking about professional handicaps. I am sure you can see things in their context.

Brain: Has spiritualism touched your life yet?
Nandita_Das: Sprititualism is not a tangible thing that you can quantify. It's a quest, it's an awareness and to be aware of that quest is probably spirituality. Do I make sense? I guess it means different things to each one of us.

Ansab17: Hi! I am Anuj, your neighbour. How's your mom Savita Das doing?
Nandita_Das: Hi Anuj! I am not so good with names but if I see you, I would recognize you as a neighbour (as you had mentioned). Thanks! My mother is well, who although has retired from National Book Trust but is even more active now reading, writing and travelling a lot!

Trocoli20: I feel you are not getting roles in accordance to your talent. Can the real actress in you be satisfied?
Nandita_Das: I have no fixed notions of the kind of roles I want to do as there are as many lives, there are as many roles and each life can be so interesting, depending upon how it's portrayed. I think an actor's position in films is perceived to be much larger than it is. An actor is just an ingredient (albeit important), in the business of movie-making. But I am an optimist and look forward to some interesting work in the future!

Kartikvv: Which is your next Hindi film? Are you doing any more Tamil movies?
Nandita_Das: I have just completed an "experimental film" (neither commercial or art), which is unfortunately still untitled. But it should be a fun Hindi film, which is very treatment based. I am doing a short film in New Zealand, and a Tamil film, and a couple of projects that are in the pipeline apart from doing more shows of the play that I did late last year.

gnandini: Isn't it time you tasted Hollywood?
Nandita_Das: I don't choose roles depending upon where it's coming from but what the project is all about. I would be happy to do the film from anywhere as long as the director, the story and the role excites me. There have been a couple of projects that have come from abroad but some have stereotyped Indian women so much that it didn't excite me. And then there were projects like Time Machine, which I couldn't do as Rituporno Ghosh had taken my dates for Chokher Bali, a Bengali film. But neither of the films happened.

Laughingbuddha: Why have you dessociated yourself from your new film, Bas Yuin Hi?
Nandita_Das: There is no way one can disassociate oneself from any film as it is canned for life! But it's just that you feel more strongly about certain films because of the process and the content. This is meant to be a light fun film and I have nothing much to say beyond that.


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