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Thursday, Sep 19, 2019

Doing it my way

Often called the next Smita Patil, Nandita Das believes that there's so much more to life than acting and says so in a conversation with Deepa Gahlot.

entertainment Updated: Aug 08, 2007 11:30 IST
Deepa Gahlot
Deepa Gahlot

She walks into a la-di-dah society party in jeans and crumpled kurta, erasing the haute couture-clad Page 3 types with her earthy sex appeal. Yup, she's one of those who can turn heads in a crowd of beauty queens. Right now, she spots her father, artist Jatin Das, in a far corner of the lawn, gives him a hug and then mingles.

This is Delhi, she's on home turf. Two of her films Maati Maay and Podokkhep have just been screened. In a career spanning 12 years, she has done a variety of roles, in various languages, with some of India's most stalwart directors.. Mrinal Sen, Tapan Sinha, Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihalani, Mani Ratnam, Deepa Mehta, Rituparno Ghosh, and now Adoor Gopalakrishnan (Moonnu Pennungal-Three Women) and Santosh Sivan (Before the Rains). Plus, there's a film from across the border titled Ramchand Pakistani.

It's been a while since you had two films which are ready for release.
There is no pattern in my work. Sometimes there's nothing to talk about, then there's plenty. I don't live in Bombay, I don't have a secretary. I might have shifted if I was ambitious.. but living in Delhi helps me retain my sanity. I don't lose out on anything because of the distance, those who want to work with me know where to reach me. Delhi is neutral ground, my parents and friends are here. In any case, acting is not my profession, it's an interest.

Why don't you see acting as a profession?
As an interest, not a profession. I am involved with human rights work. I don't compartmentalise, everything I do is part of a continuum, a means of communication. Whether it is travelling to work with NGOs, or doing a project on Gandhi for young people. I just want to do more than just being an actress.

<b1>Which causes are you involved in?
Women's issues, ethnic violence.. I do talks and workshops on communalism, a lot of advocacy work, I work with children. There's a lot to discover which I wouldn't if I was just acting. Like I travelled to Madhubani for the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Indian People's Theatre Association. I was amazed at the kind of work they are doing. I do this for myself, so I can interact with more people, it keeps me rooted.

Would you agree that a cause does not get any attention today unless a star is attached to it.. is that a good thing?
(Pauses) I used to think I was a catalyst, but now I see that often the star gets more attention than the cause. There is just no depth in the media coverage of so many important issues. Perhaps we need more heroes…more role models. I visit schools and colleges and I'm disturbed by the fading idealism.

When we were in college, we were doing so many young people are under greater pressure, they have no one to talk to.

I went to small towns and girls would ask me how I have succeeded despite my dark complexion.. Obviously, there's been no one to look them straight in the eye and tell them that they can achieve whatever they want.

I feel bad that I can't always do follow-ups. I do what I can, I can't change the world.

But don't think that if you can't do big things, you shouldn't take small steps either.

I used to blog, but I got so much hate mail when I wrote against communalism that it started sapping my energy. Young people want direction, they don't have to become celebrities, they can flower in their own way.

You have done films in many languages and all kinds of roles, is there something you feel you couldn't do?

Couldn't? Lots (Smiles). But I can say what I don't get.. a fun film that doesn't insult one's intelligence. Fun can also be done a film about human relationships.

Would you say a film like Mahesh Manjrekar's


– in which you just hung around -- was an aberration?

I didn't think so at the time. I thought it was mainstream, yet not 100 per cent mainstream. It was set in a village and talked about underprivileged, not many mainstream films do that now.

You almost did


Yes, well, I have nothing against mainstream cinema.. I love singing and dancing, I have learnt Odissi for 12 years.

But the structure of mainstream movies is different, its mindset is different. There are others who have survived through it and contributed to society in their own way.

Just curiosity.. what's your role in the Adoor Gopalakrishnan film?
It's about three women, a spinster, a divorcee and a widow.. I play the spinster. I don't know about the others, they are three separate stories.

First Published: Aug 07, 2007 14:15 IST