LIFE

Still in search of her true calling

'There is so much more that I want to do. I want to do lesser films... '

'There is so much more that I want to do. I want to do lesser films... '  

Her powerful performance in memorable films notwithstanding, Nandita Das says that films were just something that came her way. It definitely is not the road she plans to travel for long. ANJALI MALHOTRA finds out what this sensitive actress has up her sleeve...

YOU MAY easily miss her if she's walking down the road. And if you do recognise this dusky beauty and ask for an autograph, she is likely to be embarrassed. But if you touch upon a topic that's close to her heart, the full stop may take a while to come. And if provoked, you're playing with "fire''.

The world may see this talented young lady as a successful silver screen star but ironically enough, that's not where Nandita Das wants to be. Instead of practised replies of how "acting was a childhood dream'' and "I watched all films that I could'' that most stars give, Nandita, with refreshing frankness, owns up that films were just something that came her way. And while she may be here for the moment, it's not a road she plans to travel for long.

"I don't think that acting is my true calling. This was more of a default stream. As a child, I never watched films or even much of television. Especially commercial cinema. Even when I got into this profession, for a long time when while filling out a form, I used to pause on the question of profession! Today, I am more comfortable writing "actress'' because that's what I am doing for the moment. But there was a time when I used to hesitate,'' reveals this actress who has to her credit a number of powerful films such as "Fire'', "Bawandar'', "Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa'' and "Earth''.

And while Nandita has plenty to offer in the coming months -- she is also working on Deepa Mehta's latest venture -- today, this successful actress is dabbling with other options. "There is a sense of disillusionment within me. As an actress, I feel frustrated. There is so much more that I want to do. I want to do lesser films,'' she admits.

But ask Nandita what she defines as her "true calling'' and the answer is an honest, "I still haven't figured it out. There are so many things I want to do''. The social tag attached to her image - which has to an extent also earned her the reputation of being a "serious'' actress - is something, Nandita acknowledges, that is close to her heart. "I am passionate about issues that relate to gender equality, communalism and children. And I want to work in this field but I don't think I can call myself a social activist because I do so little as compared to other people,'' says this pass-out of Masters in Social Work from Delhi University.

With a laugh she adds, "There was a time when I was really into social work. Especially during college days when I did a lot of work in villages. I used to laugh at people who used to be invited for inaugurations and talks. And today, I am invited for them!'' Something, Nandita admits, she was "troubled'' with in the beginning. "There was a constant tension within me because I had stood on the other side and laughed at people. But I feel less troubled when I think that I can use my "actress label'' for a reason. I can say the same thing from a different platform. I realised that everyone has a role to pay and for the time being, this is mine,'' she says. But that platform would never be politics, she laughs.

While Bollywood might not give her up so easily - a fair number of projects continue to come her way - interestingly, Nandita is giving a shot at getting behind the camera. "It is the director who is the captain of the ship. After all, films are all about a vision. The director's vision. An actor is at the mercy of far too many things and that frustrates me,'' says Nandita. And so, blending her social tag and her interest in directing, Nandita and her husband, Saumya Sen - a creative director - have set-up "Leapfrog'' which has to its credit a 90-second public service advertisement by the Centre for Science and Environment on rainwater harvesting.

"It's like a marriage of thoughts. I am interested in social issues and Saumya is the creative guy. So it's a perfect team. We give equal importance to direction, form, content,'' says Nandita with a smile.

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