In her quest to do only strong, powerful subjects on-screen, Nandita Das, in her 25 years in the film industry, has not even done an average of two films a year. Yet she holds to her credit films in 10 different languages and each has been true to her beliefs. And while she, like many other character actors, admits that getting those roles has not been easy, her career graph, she notes, also reflects her reluctance to make acting a full-time profession. “I don’t see acting or directing as a career. These are just interests that I have, which is why I’ve only done films I’ve believed in, and been able to say no to those that I don’t fit in with. What my being unambitious does is that I fear nothing. I am not in the game, so I don’t have to abide by any rules,” she explains.
The right scripts, she adds, continue to be few and far between. “Realistically speaking, while earlier I would perhaps take up two out of 20 scripts that came my way, today that is two out 40. The problem is that filmmakers continue to play safe when making films. They don’t push boundaries and when they do, they prefer a more marketable star for the film. I can understand that. But that cannot guarantee success,” says Nandita.
Three years after her last big-screen outing Firaaq, which was a film she directed, Nandita returns to acting with director Onirban’s I Am. “I play Aafia, a single woman who wants to be a mother, but without a man in her life. She makes a personal choice to opt for a sperm donor. I Am Aafia explores whether we have that space in society to make such personal choices,” explains Nandita.
The story of I Am Aafia, though, was not meant to be what it eventually turned out to be. “When Onir first came to me, Aafia was an NGO activist and her story was about NGOs, funds misappropriation, etc. I was apprehensive about the role because it seemed I was being typecast. And even though I committed to the film, much later, when Onir was ready to begin work on Aafia, he came back to me with the new story,” she adds.
At the time Nandita herself was five months pregnant. Did her physical state prompt the filmmaker to change the script? “I believe not. Onir’s a very sincere filmmaker. He must have felt that the new story was a better fit in the scheme of things,” says Nandita.
This film is the only project Nandita has for the year. While there are scripts that she’s perusing, she’s not committed to anything. Not even the film Sold that’s based on trafficking. “I have not signed the film, but I am hoping to be able to do it. The film goes on the floors at the end of the year. Right now, though, I am enjoying motherhood and I don’t want to do a lot of work that will have me conflicted as to whether I am doing a good job with the work, and if I am devoting enough time to my son. Until my next film, my social work, talks and, of course, my son Vihaan will keep me busy,” she says. TOI