|the-south-asian.com DECEMBER 2001|
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DECEMBER 2001 Contents
Page 2 of 3
- is she the 'Renaissance Woman'?
Isiodore Domnick Mendis
What she didn't learn from any teacher was art. In fact, painting should have come naturally to this daughter of India's celebrated artist, Jatin Das. " It did," says Nandita, "but I stopped painting when I was in the eighth class in Delhi's Sardar Patel Vidayala. That was because people would say, 'oh, you are Jatin Das' daughter, so when are you going to start painting?' Just because my father is a painter was not reason enough for me to be one."
To their credit, her parents never pressurised Nandita to pursue any particular career. "As a child I learnt dance, a bit of music and, of course, painting. More importantly, since my father is a well known artist I grew up in the company of culturally-oriented people from the field of dance, photography and theatre."
Little wonder then, that after her graduation from Delhi's Miranda House and post graduation from the Delhi School of Social Work, Nandita joined Safdar Hashmi's Janmnatya Manch doing street theatre. It was during those days that she visited Mumbai and happened to meet Deepa Mehta who signed her for Fire. " I accepted the offer as the role was very challenging and the theme very bold."
Even after a dozen odd movies, this half Oriya half Gujarati girl says she takes on only those roles that she knows she'll enjoy doing. And these have included such cinematic milestones as Govind Nihlani’s Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa, Shyam Benegal’s Hari Bhari, Deepa Mehta’s Fire, Earth and the unfinished Water. Besides, she is proving quite a linguist - what with roles in a host of regional films like Azhagi [Tamil], Deveeri [Kannada], Punaradhivasam [Malyalam] and Sapner Sandhane[Bengali]. Apart from Aks, her forthcoming Bollywood ventures include Mahesh Manjrekar’s Pitah opposite Sanjay Dutt as also Lal Salam.
Everything Nandita undertakes is fashioned with intense self- consciousness. All syllables, gestures and inflections are carefully weighed and wrought. Big names don't overwhelm her. Yes, she says, it was exciting to act as the wife of an icon like Amitabh Bachchan in Aks but she adds, "It is just not in my temperament to be overawed by people. Cinema is a collective effort. Mr. Bachchan had his work to do and I had mine."
She didn't blink an eyelid when she was asked to shave off her hair to play Janaki in Water. She has no qualms about her controversial role of Sita in Deepa Mehta's Fire that sparked unrest from the conservative elements.
" In a democratic society everyone has the freedom of expression. Take the issue of Vrindavan widows' in Water. Either you say the widows have been around for a long time so let's not talk about them, Or you say, okay let's try and do something about them by portraying their plight on film," she says.
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