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Now playing juror

Nandita Das talks about her role as a jury member of the Cannes Film Festival in an interview

VERSATILE Actress Nandita Das

Social crusader, theatre artiste, director, writer and orator, acclaimed actor Nandita Das' many facets underscore her versatility. One of the few Indians ever to be a juror at the prestigious 10-day 58th Cannes Film Festival, to be held in France from today, Das speaks about her expectations from the festival, her views on commercial Indian cinema and her projects.

Do you feel proud to be chosen as a juror for the Cannes Film Festival?

It's a thrilling moment for me! I feel honoured but at the same time I'm surprised too. The feeling has taken a while to sink in. The other day, Christian Jeune, Director of the film festival, called me to give me the good news! Following that, Gilles Jacob, president of the film festival, sent me a formal letter confirming the same.

As a judge, what qualities would you be looking for in a good film?

Although film appreciation is subjective, the festival will probably give us guidelines based on which the films will be judged. But certain criteria will always hold true - originality of thought, subject, brilliance of form, technical proficiency, special significance to today's world/history of cinema/human predicament and a cinematic experience that would stir one's heart and mind.

What, in your view, stands in the way of Indian films from winning honours like the Oscars?

While Indian films, the Bollywood ones in particular, are becoming increasingly popular among the Indian Diaspora and beyond, it is probably time we explored the full range of cinema, in its form and content. I think we should ask ourselves whether our films are good enough for screening at such international platforms. There are some films that show great sensitivity and artistic expression and are overlooked, or are unable to go through the process that is required for submission and acceptance. But we know it is not lack of money, talent or stories that stop us from producing masterpieces nowadays.

What are you looking forward to at the festival considering it has a great deal to do with glitz and glamour?

Of course, Cannes is going to be full of glitz but my focus will be to take my responsibility as a juror seriously. And not get affected by other trappings and baggage that come naturally with all the media attention. I look forward to interacting with accomplished actors and filmmakers and hope to be exposed to different perspectives from which a film is judged. In essence, I think Cannes will provide a stupendous learning experience for me.

Who are your favourite Indian and foreign directors?

I don't really believe in favourites as it unfairly excludes many people from one's ambit. And there's always more than one filmmaker who is worthy of admiration.

As there are so many genres, time periods, countries and subjects that have been explored, it would not be fair to narrow it down to a few names.

You've acted in 25 films in eight languages, and bagged national awards for Bawandar (Jagmohan Mundhra) and Aamar Bhuwan (Mrinal Sen). What parameters do you follow when it comes to accepting a role? Is money also a criterion?

My decision to do selective films, not just in Hindi, but also in `regional' languages, not living in the film city (Delhi, not Mumbai), not living a life of an actress, etc., were often seen as wrong choices, even by many of my well-wishers. I have instinctively moved towards projects that I could relate to. My choices have always been influenced by my artistic inclination and social commitment, although some of them have not turned out the way I had imagined or wanted them to be. But I was happy that I had at least made those choices for honest reasons. What I look for is a good script, a director who can translate it into an interesting cinematic experience and a role that's challenging and relatable. Often, all these things don't come together as there are many factors involved in filmmaking. All said and done, it is a gamble. But, the only thing I can confidently say is that the criteria for choosing a film have not been based on any reason other than the one I mentioned. We all need money, but it is a relative need and there is really no end to wanting.

How do you de-stress?

There's no real winding up or unwinding for me! However, the little time that I get to myself, I enjoy listening to music, spending time with my family and friends and reading. Reading scripts has taken up more time than having the luxury of reading books.


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