Actress-turned-social activist Nandana Sen tells Sangeeta Yadav that portraying a Devadasi of the 19th century in Rang Rasiya was a difficult task but a wonderful experience. The Bengali beauty explains why nudity is a complex issue in Bollywood and why it has been blown out of proportion
Rang Rasiya is not a run-of-the-mill movie. Was it a challenge to portray Sugandha in the film?
It was a lovely challenge. The role was intense but wonderful. Sugandha is utterly fearless, yet palpably fragile, she has the innocence of a child, but also the determination and courage of a woman in love. Her journey mirrors that of the archetypal Indian women she inspired Ravi Varma to paint — Sita, Draupadi, Shakuntala, Damayanti. She goes through similar trials and ordeals, humiliation and heartbreak.
How did you prepare?
I had to read up on the mythological stories in India and also had to go through every artwork of painter Ravi Varma to understand Sugandha’s body language. Portraying a devadasi living in the 19th century was not easy. Nor was it a cakewalk to wear the Navyari saris everywhere, it involved a lot of work but I loved it.
The script demanded bold scenes. Were you comfortable?
Nudity is a complex issue that needs careful consideration and responsible treatment by all artists. It was not an easy decision for me. I discussed it at length with my family and Ketan Mehta was extremely sensitive to all my concerns.
What prompted you to pledge for donating your eyes?
I pledged my eyes a few years ago. No gift is more precious than the gift of sight. I feel very lucky to enjoy everything I have in my life and it is a blessing for me to make is possible, even after I pass away, for another human being to live a healthy life. I’ve known Aanand Mahendruu for years, and his passion and dedication to this cause is inspiring. I urge everyone to come forward and support the awe-inspiring mission of the Mahindru Foundation by donating your eyes.
How did social activism happen?
I’ve found it significant that ‘actor’ and ‘activist’ share their root verb and the two roles complement each other. To ‘act’ is, essentially, to ‘do’ and to engage or compel others to ‘act’ as well. In my life the two roles are often powerfully connected. My non-profit work deeply informs the choices I’ve made in cinema because I’ve absolute faith in the transformative power of film. Be it as an Ambassador for RAHI, Operation Smile for children with cleft, National Celebrity for UNICEF and a host of others. I have always wanted to give back to the society. I was delighted to see Mardaani a film like that can certainly bring a change in society.
(The article was published in The Pioneer Newspaper- http://www.dailypioneer.com/sunday-edition/sunday-pioneer/backpack/playing-sugandha-has-been-a-lovely-challenge.html