'It was an honour to direct Nandita Das'
It has been a great success for the National Award winning film maker Seenu Ramasamy to persuade Nandita Das who has kept away from films after the birth of her son, to act in his new film Neer Paravi (Sea Birds).
Seenu Ramasamy, who apprenticed under Balu Mahendra, won three national awards for his Themerku Paruvakaatru (Best regional film, best actress for Saranya Ponvannan and best lyrics).
In this interview, the director talks about Neer Paravai and why Nandita Das was perfect for the role.
Your film Neer Paravai is about the fishing community in Tamil Nadu. What made you think of Nandita Das for a leading role in the film?
Yes, my film is about the fishing community in Tamil Nadu. The film talks about the lives they lead, the problems they face, and the issues they have to deal with etc.
There is this strong woman in the film who speaks about these issues loudly, and I wanted a dusky, strong actress who could deliver them.
The only face that came to my mind was that of Nandita Das. She is an extremely talented, nationally known actress and I have been her fan.
Recently I have seen her films with Santosh Sivan and Adoor Gopalakrishnan.
Image: Seenu Ramasamy and Nandita Das
'It was difficult to get in touch with her'
How did you get in touch with her?
The problem was how to contact her. From the PRO, Nikil Murugan, I got her email id and sent her a mail about my film, about the role, about the dialogues etc.
Did she respond?
No, there was no response from her to my first mail. So, I sent another mail with the synopsis of the film. I also mentioned that my last film Themerku Paruvakaatru had won three national awards.
So, that did the trick?
I think so. Then, it seems, she enquired about me with Ravi K Chandran. Although I don't know him personally, he said such wonderful things about me and my film that Nandita Das replied to my mail and agreed to meet me in Bangalore. I must thank Ravi K Chandran for helping me in this endeavour.
Image: Nandita Das
'I consider directing her as one of the high points in my career'
How did the meeting in Bangalore go?
In my simple English, I narrated the entire script to her. It took me two-and-a-half hours! She immediately agreed to be a part of the film.
What is her role in the film?
She plays Esther, a 45-year-old orthodox Christian lady, a fisher woman. She has a 17 year old son.
What is special about this character is, though she is extremely god fearing, she is very modern in her outlook and fights for the rights of the community.
I am glad I have a nationally known actress like Nandita Das essaying the role because then the issues will be noticed nationally.
How was the experience of directing Nandita Das?
It was an unforgettable experience. I feel honoured. It is remarkable on her part to agree to act in a film by a regional director. I consider it my good fortune that I was able to direct such a wonderful actress. She knows how to place herself in a frame and that's amazing.
She was extremely obedient and was full of questions on the sets. She would listen to you and then do only what you wanted.
As the story is about the fishing community, the film was shot on the sea shore. It was extremely hot but like a true dedicated artiste, Nandita showed no discomfort about the weather.
She came with her small son Vihan and he was there throughout the shooting. We finished her portions in six-seven days.
I used to call her Vihan's mother and not Nandita.
I consider directing Nandita Das one of the high points in my career as a director.
Image: Nandita Das