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Ms. Sense

Nandita Das enjoys doing different things. SAVITHA GAUTAM talks to the actor-activist



Nandita Das: charming communicator

NANDITA DAS. It's a name that paints a picture of a woman who is absolutely sure of herself. A woman who wears many hats effortlessly. An activist who believes in many social causes and puts in heart and soul to get her projects going. An actress who has been involved in the stage and silver screen. A documentary filmmaker who makes public interest ads on rain water harvesting, AIDS and education for underprivileged children. A woman who just calls herself "a communicator."

Now, Nandita is all set for her first ever music video, "Ghoom Taana" with Shubha Mudgal and Salman Ahmed of Junoon. Music video? "It promotes the cause of peace and brotherhood. It has a message... that emotions transcend borders. I liked the theme," says the attractive Nandita during a chat .

Expressing her views is like "a catharsis as one gets few avenues to pour out expressions. The elegantly clad actress with her trademark `powder kumkum' ("The brand is Gopuram, which I buy from here"), was at her fiery best as she touched upon several issues that concern women.

Asserting the need for them to take a stand, Nandita told a story about a rat that "wanted to climb a tree. The other creatures around dissuaded it and so it could not succeed. Another rat did the same and succeeded, despite all the discouraging voices around. It was later discovered that the second rat was deaf! Most of us hesitate to take a stand for various reasons. Many may ridicule you, but believe me, there will be somebody out there who will admire you, quietly or vocally."

Equality

When asked about gender discrimination, the daughter of painter Jatin Das and Varsha, says, "I feel women do not speak up most often. My parents gave me the freedom to choose. My brother and I were treated like equals. I think that helps."

As is known, Nandita is vocal about issues related to AIDS (she attended the Hong Kong conference, "which widened my perspective"), communalism (specially the Gujarat debacle), women and children. "A lot of things disturb me. I remember meeting a woman slum dweller who was beaten black and blue by her husband. As I looked on helplessly, there she was consoling me, telling me she would continue fighting," says the Geography graduate with a Masters in Social Work, adding, "It's sad that we have a culture of silence when it comes to domestic violence. If unjust things disturb you, then there is hope. For all of us."

Acting, an interest

About acting, she says, "It's more an interest. Not a profession." She's as comfortable working with big time directors such as Shyam Benegal ("Hari Bhari"), Mrinal Sen ("Aamar Bhuvan"), Deepa Mehta ("Fire" and "1947 Earth") and Mani Ratnam ("Kannathil Muthammittal") as with first timers such as Thankar Bachan ("Azhaghi") or Kavita Lankesh ("Deveeri"). "To me the script definitely matters."

From sex worker to rape victim to underworld don to classical singer (the yet-to-be-released "Vishwa Tulasi" with Mammootty) and terrorist... there's variety in her career graph. Does she get too involved with her characters? "There is a certain detachment. I do empathise with the character, but that happens only while reading the script. At the shoot, I am more conscious of the technical aspects. I'd love to do a comedy with a meaningful theme some day."

Nandita has also tried her hand at direction, making public interest ads on rainwater harvesting (shot by Ravi. K. Chandran) and AIDS. The ads were produced by Leapfrog, the company she started with "best friend" and husband Saumya Sen. "We got married on an impulse. And believe me, we too have had adjustment problems. It's just that we worked it out for ourselves. We women have been so conditioned that we often find it difficult to do things differently."

What does she enjoy doing most? "Being with children. They judge you less and are easy to talk to. They give me a lot of joy," says the once-upon-a-time-teacher at the Rishi Valley School, Madanapalle.

The future? "I don't know what my real calling is. I enjoy doing different things, whether it is Karadi Tales or a music video. I am still exploring. I hope to find it some day," she says with a smile.

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