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The Rediff Interview
'Firaaq is not a blame game film'
March 19, 2009
After wowing us with her acting, Nandita Das decided to try her hand at direction with Firaaq [Images]. The film, which releases in theatres this Friday, is now getting rave reviews in international film festivals.
Nandita got a chance to discuss the film with her fans during a Rediff chat on Wednesday. For those of you who missed the chat, here's what transpired.
Nandita Das says, Hi, this is Nandita Das here. I am online now, shoot your questions!
nayak asked, hi Nandita,how is life?
Nandita Das answers, Life is only about Firaaq right now and I need you all to champion it.
asad h asked, ma'm, best of luck for firaaq. say something about naseer saab.
Nandita Das answers, I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with wonderful actors like Naseer, Paresh Rawal [Images], Deepti Naval [Images] etc. It is interesting to be on the other side and work on performances of others. On the shoot working with actors was the best thing. I think they will vouch for it!
kingom asked, hello nandita madam you are just a goood actress i have seen your mopvie Earth the best movie best of luck for your future movies
Nandita Das answers, Thanks. I need all the best wishes that I can get. This film has come from a very deep place and means a lot to me. Hope you will all see it and tell me your honest opinions.
prabir asked, what is the role of a movie to change a stagnant society?
Nandita Das answers, A film cannot create a revolution but it can help in stirring the heart and mind in a way that can impact our attitudes and responses. After all what you and I are, are because of various influences that have happened in our lives. Firaaq aims to ask questions that we hesitate to ask. I hope it stirs something in us.
98king98 asked, where are you originally from? what to you think about bollywood movies in west ?
Nandita Das answers, My father is from Orissa, mother from Gujarat, born in Bombay, brought up in Delhi [Images], did films in 10 different languages...so I guess I am true blue Indian! I think Bollywood has a huge audience all around the world but there are other stories that need to be told in ways that may be different from the main stream and they too should get some space. But I believe there are audiences for all kinds of cinema.
98king98 asked, hi there im very big fan of yours.. i really like ur acting skills..and i wish u all the best for ur directioral debut ..
Nandita Das answers, Thanks but directing is a big leap and much more challenging than acting. I am curious to see how people respond to my labour of love.
bala123 asked, Hi Nandita...Please tell us something about Firaaq. From the promos it looked like a serious subject. Would you be making a comedy love story some someday?
Nandita Das answers, Well, it is a serious subject but so is life! I think we are dividing ourselves too much and we need to understand why that is happening. But that doesn't mean I don't laugh or can't do a comedy film. Both can co-exist.
Nafis asked, Hi Nandita, Have u given up the acting? and will work as a full time director... I am waiting for ur movie FIRAQ to be released soon.
Nandita Das answers, Why does it have to be an either or situation? In fact, soon after the release I will be doing a film as an actor. I will also direct but not one after the other as it is very consuming.
viswa asked, hai nandita h r u i saw your telugu film kamli in that picture your acting is excellent
Nandita Das answers, Thanks. Out of 30 films, more than half of my films are in regional languages. I find there is more honesty, less compromise and opportunities to work with different people in such films. I have learnt a lot through many of those experiences.
sreekumar asked, I am a big fan of yours...especially your malayalam movie KANNAKI...i met you once at Sirifort auditorium in Delhi while you were came there to watch a Bengali movie...
Nandita Das answers, See, I told you I was pan-Indian! Whichever corner of India I go, people think I am from there and I love that!
manojk asked, I ALWAYS LOOK FORWARD TO YOUR MOVIES IRRESPECT OF WHICH ACTOR YOU R CAST OPPOSITE TO , CAN YOU TELL US WHICH R YOUR UPCOMING MOVIES?
Nandita Das answers, Unfortunately it is a secret! All I can say that it is a role that you have never seen me in.
manojk asked, I have seen you last in movie called Ramdas pakistani, Have you done any other movie after this???
Nandita Das answers, No. Last two years I have only been working on Firaaq while it has been very stressful it has also been very exciting. And definitely worth it all.
vasanth asked, Hi nanditha, Wonderful acting in the Tamil film "Azhagi". How the Experience in Tamil film industry?
Nandita Das answers, I have done three Tamil films with three completely different directors. While Azhagi was probably the most popular one, I also enjoyed working with Mani Ratnam in the other film. But I get stopped by Tamilians all over the world for Azhagi. Glad you liked it!
vignesh asked, hi nandi wat can we expect from ur debut directional venture?
Nandita Das answers, A soulful film that is disturbing and at the same time uplifting. It is a mirror to our lives and I am sure you will find yourself somewhere in it. It is about the times we are living in. And I am sure you will love the performances, the cinematography, the sound...all the little things that make watching a film an experience. Let me know!
karthik asked, Hi Nandita I am a great fan of you. I am really amazed by your talent. I would like to know what is the driving force behind you?? what inspire you?? thanks
Nandita Das answers, Life itself is such an inspiration. So many wonderful people have touched my life that I feel I must carry on that journey. When you are exposed to realities, there is no way that you can be untouched by it. I do what I believe is right and try and give my life a sense of purpose.
Parth asked, Hi Nandita, to me, you are a fantastic actress we have got. I wish you good luck with your new movie. I have seen Firaaq and certainly it raised some questions. I felt that Hindus were shown as culprits in the movie and Muslims were victims which is not true. Being a Gujarati and a doctor, I served in the hospital in Ahmedabad [Images] during the riots and I observed that the number of casualties for Muslims and Hindus were almost equal. Not denying the fact, that more Muslims died during the riots, you could have shown how common man suffers during this but I felt that only Hindus were portrayed as culprits and Muslims only as victims. And that is the only objection I have with this film. Why the fact is ignored that 58 Hindus were burnt alive in train and the riots came as a retaliation to that. No personal grudge against Muslims or anyone but just as a doctor who took care of injured Muslims and Hindus both during the riots, this question comes to my mind always. Would you please answer it?
Nandita Das answers, No, violence can ever be justified whether it is the 58 who got burnt in the train or close to 3000 after that. But please check your facts as there is enough available on the Net, through documentaries (please see Rakesh Sharma's Final Solution), NDTV archive footage. In fact, this was the first time since the Sikh riots in 1984 we saw television reporters using words like 'Carnage', 'Genocide', 'Pogrom'. I have no other agenda other than saying it as is. While the context is the Gujarat carnage the film is really about relationships in times of fear and violence. Please see it with an open mind and not with a pre-conceived notion, then you will only see it as a human story.
SHONU asked, You should act in movies and may be a comic movie might work who knows.You are a fantastic actor
Nandita Das answers, You are making two assumptions -- one, that I don't want to do comic movies, two, that I am afraid of them! I too would love to do a comedy, but not that defies your basic sensibilities or is regressive. While some think that it is a case of sour grapes, for me, it is a choice the kind of work I do and I think that is the greatest freedom. But hope to do a slice of life comedy...maybe I will write and direct it myself!
viking asked, you can do commercial movie also, and believe me you have great sex appeal
Nandita Das answers, See what I mean?! Why can't people believe and be happy that I am living the life that I want to?
S_K asked, Hi Nandita... Wat makes you different from other actresses.. Y r u not much seen in media or any award functions.. Which character do like always like to act..
Nandita Das answers, Lots of questions! I don't compare myself with anyone so I don't know what makes me different but I can tell you one thing -- that acting is just one of the many things I do. So my life does not revolve around the baggage that comes with being an actor. Also, I live in Delhi, far away from this world! I like doing roles that are real and layered and strong. But more than roles, I get more attracted to stories that have something special.
Ajab asked, Nice answer to Parth..I haev seen Final Solution..it is not that Hindus are teh culprit..the SYSTEM was a culprit for sure...
Nandita Das answers, I agree, Ajab. But my film is not a blame game film. It puts the onus on us as there will always be some people who will have vested interests in playing identity politics. But we are better off, united. Firaaq is a small step towards healing and peace and not towards dividing us further.
yogi asked, Hi Nandita, Firaaq is your first directed film? Now hou you feel? are you satishfied now or you feel acheieved or you feel you will have to do a lot but missed?, tell us your experience?
Nandita Das answers, It's like giving birth to a child and showing it around! One does feel vulnerable, but going by the responses I have got around the world, I feel it has deeply connected with the audiences. It has reaffirmed my faith in the fact that human emotions are universal. So I am not too worried. Also, I am not too wedded to the outcome as I have no control over it. I have just tried to do the best I can.
Polly asked, Well , i beleive dat there very few verstile actress in our bollywood ,and u r one of them
Nandita Das answers, Thanks. I hope you get to see some of my work in other languages too where I have had opportunities to play different characters. The DVD of Maati Maay, a Marathi film is out. It is with English sub-titles.
masterblaster asked, Hi Nandita, you are quite attractive inspite of being dark in colour. Are u into any fitness / health program or something like that?
Nandita Das answers, In a country where 90 percent of people are dark it is sad that we grow up with such an inferiority complex about it. The fairness creams don't make it any easier for young women who are forced to be obssesed by the colour of their skin instead of working on their personality. It makes me sad as they lose confidence and find themselves inadequate. There is a standardisation of beauty that is being imposed on us and it is my personal battle for all those women who are not fair like the Barbie doll to never use any such products. I don't exercise but lead an active life but for my next project I have begun to follow a regime as it is required for the character.
manishkumar asked, Hi Nandita, What is the secret of your beautiful nature in looks and behaviour.. Do you practice yoga, meditation, pranayam and all? You are really a beauty in black.... I like you very much
Nandita Das answers, Beauty is a relative word. Some find me attractive, some pity me for being dark, some find me like the girl-next-door. Thankfully I have many intresting things to do in life, so I don't spend too much time thinking or doing anything about it, maybe that's the secret!
Kafeel asked, hi Nandita i think u have done great job by directing Firaaq. Wt are your expectations abt this film
Nandita Das answers, For films like Firaaq to be made, one needs the support of the audiences or else financers and producers will stop making such films. I think to have a more rounded life and a holistic perspective one needs to see all kinds of different films. So look forward to your support.
Leeds asked, but dont you think too many directors have been commercializing on human disasters of late??? Making money so to speak on real life violence by translating it into movies on the big screen?
Nandita Das answers, Everything is about the intent. While it is intangible, I think the intent always comes through when you watch a film. An humane story, honestly told is different from someone cashing on human disasters. Films are a reflection of life, or atleast they can be so to tell different stories is I think a good thing. In fact, in such films often the producers don't end up making money! In fact, if they did many more stories that we need to see would come out.
sona asked, Hi Nandita, what are your interests besides movies and theatre?
Nandita Das answers, I love listening to music, travelling to different parts of the country and the world and meeting interesting people. And I love well cooked food!
KamalVed asked, Hi Nandita, Kudos on a great career and latest directorial debut. I almost feel like you are like Aamir Khan [Images], very selective in your work and a carefully charted out career path. Do you think your approach is influencing Bollywood to become more original and less focused on always catering to mass appeal?
Nandita Das answers, Thanks but I am too small a fry to influence or even want to influence Bollywood. In any case the world is larger than Bollywood and far more real! I would want to reach out to people at large and engage in issues that impact our life. A film is only a drop in the ocean but if all of us put our little drops then there is hope.
Aniruddha asked, Hi Nandita, How r u? Best luck for ur new film firaaq. please tell me something about ur new film.
Nandita Das answers, Firaaq is an Urdu word which means both, separation and quest. The film is set a month after the Gujarat carnage that happened in 2002. Often films that critique violence, are full of violence themselves. I decided to stay away from all riot-like visuals and instead focus on fierce and delicate emotions and how people get impacted by the lingering effects of violence. It may sound all heavy but finally for me, a good film is one that engages your heart and mind even without you realising it.
nd007 asked, a lot of "off-topic" arty movies are making money in india currently, how do you see this as a shift - has the audience become more intelligent or they are just bored of regular melodrama?
Nandita Das answers, I don't see a shift but an expansion of space and that is good. Mainstream big films, comedies, hard-hitting stories...there is place for them all.
ghum asked, hi nanditha....apart frm directing Firaaq, r u acting in the film too??
Nandita Das answers, Directing itself is so consuming where you have to multi-task and make decisions at all time but I decided to fully focus on it and not act in the film. Being an actor myself, I was very careful in casting and I have a great ensemble cast -- Naseeruddin Shah [Images], Raghubir Yadav, Paresh Rawal, Deepti Naval, Sanjay Suri, Tisca Chopra, Shahana Goswami, Nowaz (the Elvis of Emotional Atyachar!). Maybe in my next film and that too only if I can do the role but there is a long time for that!
Arun.R.K asked, Nandhita, I know you are a person with social responsibility, so I am asking this to you.. Would you campaign to help indians change their mind set about dark skin and help them come out of fair skin obsession. You are the most apt person for "Black is Beautiful" campaign. Cheers
Nandita Das answers, There are too many causes in our country and there are only some that one can champion more than the others. But if one is aware and sensitive about one's surroundings, then you respond to it appopriately. I do in my small way what I can, but I realise we all need to stretch ourselves and engage more. For now, let's make we vote this time.
Leeds asked, Hi Nandita, please tell us if you would continue to direct films irrespective of "Firaq" performance
Nandita Das answers, Oh absolutely! How a film does in the box office does not always have to do with it's merit. For me, the experience of telling one's own story in one's own way has been very empowering. I will surely direct again but maybe a few months or years later.
Nandita Das says, Tomorrow is my premiere and day after the release...so I better get back to work. It was great chatting with you and sorry to those whose questions I couldn't answer. But c'mon, there were more than a 1000! I hope in a few days we can chat again and you can tell me what you thought of Firaaq. Thanks in advance for your support.