Nandita Das, with Shabana Azmi and Seema Biswas, was among the first actors to be confirmed for Deepa Mehta’s Winds Of Change, the screen adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s Booker Award-winning novel, Midnight’s Children. But now her name doesn’t figure in the film’s cast. Reason: Nandita voluntarily opted out.
“My son Vihaan is still too young to be left on his own. Maybe six months from now I’d have been more prepared but right now, my baby is more important. So I’ll just enjoy the film as a viewer. Hopefully, I’ll be in Deepa’s Komagata Maru that should take off a year from now at the earliest,” she reasons.
Komagata Maru is based on a real-life incident involving a Japanese steamship. It sailed from Hong Kong to Canada in 1914, carrying 376 passengers from Punjab, all British subjects who were not allowed to land, and the ship was forced to return to India. “I play an important character in the film, but at this point I can’t say I’m definitely doing it because I was definitely doing Water and Winds Of Change too,” smiles Nandita who was earlier seen in Deepa’s Fire (’96) and Earth (’98).
She’s also just been conferred the Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters) by French ambassador, Jerome Bonnafont, one of the highest civilian awards of France, for her contribution to the development of Indo-French cooperation in cinema. She received the award three years ago but the ceremony happened only this month, and eight-month-old Vihaan was in his mother’s arms.
“For 14 years, I was asked why I hadn’t shifted base from Delhi to Mumbai, why I chose to do off-beat films and why I took a three-year break from acting to direct Firaaq,” she says. "It used to bug me that I needed to defend and explain my decisions. But this award is a reaffirmation of the choices I made and stood by.”