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November 8, 2001

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"I can't see myself running around trees"

Sharvani Pandit

Nandita Das in Bawandar Nandita Das says with a touch of glee that Bollywood could be trusted to mould even Hollywood with 'songs, dances, crying mothers and emotional sons.'

"Our films will always be ours because even when we copy Hollywood we still have our Diwalis and karva chauths," said Das, who was in Delhi to promote her latest film Bawandar.

She pointed out how well Aamir Khan's Lagaan, which will represent India at the Oscars and won the popular audience award at a Swiss film festival, had been received abroad.

"Indian films have completely taken over Europe," said Das, known for starring in controversial works like Fire and Earth and who has been the toast of festivals like in Cannes and Toronto.

Nandita Das Her latest film is based on the 1992 gang rape of Bhanwari Devi, a social worker from the northern Indian state of Rajasthan. Das won the best actress award for her portrayal of the role at the Santa Monica Film Festival in the US.

About Bawandar, which releases in India on November 30, Das said: "It was never meant to be a bio-pic. It was inspired by Bhanwari Devi, but was a means to present the wrongs that still prevail in Indian society."

Said Das, who plays Sanwari in the film that also stars Deepti Naval and Raghuvir Yadav: "I only met Bhanwari after the gang rape scene which really disturbed me.

"I did not want to meet her earlier as this film was not just about her but thousands of women who still suffer untold atrocities at the hands of men."

Das said she was extremely privileged as she had led a free life, but pointed out that tragedy touched women even in urban areas.

Nandit Das in Bawandar "There are reports of dowry deaths, wife-beating, marital rape... It all boils down to how free we actually are to make choices, and I admire Sanwari because she chose to fight back despite being raped by upper caste men for preventing child marriages."

Das said she was apprehensive initially about working with director Jagmohan Mundhra as she had seen his erotic thriller Monsoon.

"I did not like Monsoon and told him I did not want to do his film. I only said yes when he told me about the research he did, the money he had to pay to bring the ghastly facts to light.

"I do a film to share something, the traveller in me wants to be different people. But I tend to get attracted to serious characters," said Das, who dislikes categorisation of films into commercial and artistic ones.

Das tried her hand at mainstream commercial flicks with the box-office disaster, Aks, where she played Amitabh Bachchan's wife. But she's not one to give in so easily and will also soon be seen in Mahesh Manjrekar's Pitaah with Sunjay Dutt.

"I play a wife with three children in Pitaah. And no, my character does not dance and sing. I can't see myself running around trees, there's a certain amount of frivolousness attached to it."

Nandita Das But Das is quick to add that director David Dhawan and actor Govinda, who are better known for their ribald humour and raunchy films, have approached her.

"David is a wonderful person. Govinda asked me to do a film and if it happens it will be a film that to an extent incorporates my sensibilities."

Das will be seen next in regional works by film-makers Rituparno Ghosh, Mrinal Sen, Mani Ratnam and Jairaj.

Indo-Asian News Service

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