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It is difficult to categorise this actress and now-director for her career spans over a decade of mainstream,parallel,regional and international cinema...

January 30, 2009 10:37:36 pm

Dipti Nagpaul-D’Souza catches up with three women directors who debut over the next one month

Nandita Das (40)
Firaaq,February 27
It is difficult to categorise this actress and now-director for her career spans over a decade of mainstream,parallel,regional and international cinema. Nandita Das’ work received recognition early in her acting career through Deepa Mehta’s films Fire and Earth. Unfortunately,the controversies surrounding the two films typecast her in Bollywood but opened doors to ‘sensible’ cinema. With over 30 films in 10 languages to her credit,Das has steadily worked her way up in the industry,gradually distancing herself from commercial cinema.

Her directorial debut,Firaaq,has already won her the Best Film and Best Screenplay awards at the Asian Festival of First Films.

Das’ instinct for various art forms probably finds roots in her lineage — the actress is the daughter of celebrated Oriya painter Jatin Das and writer Varsha Das.

Flipside Das who has always maintained a low profile chooses to look at her life optimistically. “When one works in a team of hundred-odd people,many different factors are at play; there are also things that can go wrong. But in retrospect,they have all been experiences that have helped me grow both as a human being and a performer,” she confesses.

Upside The sultry actress describes her filmmaking journey as a catharsis. “The pleasure of having the opportunity to tell my story in my own way is definitely satisfying. The journey of making Firaaq has pushed my boundaries like never before.” And though she accepts that travelling with the film to festivals was amazing,it’s the India release she is looking forward to. “I’ve made Firaaq primarily for people here,who will most understand the context and the nuances.”

Industry-speak Das’ co-star in the controversial Fire,Shabana Azmi had once described her as one of the most promising actors in the industry. Her opinion doesn’t seem to have changed though Das’ scope of work has. “Nandita’s awards speak for her credentials. I’m sure she brings to her film the expertise she has brought to her roles in the past,” says Azmi.

Zoya Akhtar (35)
Luck by Chance,January 30

One of the most promising debut directors,she belongs to the illustrious Akhtar family of Bollywood. Zoya started her career in the industry in 1996 as the second assistant director to Kaizad Gustad in his film Bombay Boys. She has since worked closely with eminent directors like Mira Nair,Dev Benegal,mother Honey Irani and brother Farhan Akhtar in various capacities but as key crew member.

Zoya’s debut film,Luck by Chance,which releases today,boasts of an A-lister cast,including her brother Farhan Akhtar and Konkona Sen Sharma in the lead and a number of industry bigwigs doing cameos.

Flipside Zoya wrote Luck by Chance nearly seven years ago and the film was to have begun filming after Farhan’s Dil Chahta Hai released. But the project was delayed due to operational problems and she went into depression.

Upside The reticent director,meanwhile,wrote Kismet Talkies and started work on the film. But her heart was still in Luck by Chance. “Though I started work on Kismet,I just could not go ahead till I’d finished my incomplete project. I think the hiatus also gave me space to rework and update my script. I am really excited now that the film is finally releasing.”

Industry-speak Director Anurag Kashyap,who is doing a cameo in Luck by Chance as a writer,at the risk of sounding partial towards his friend,explains,“What makes Zoya rock”. “This may sound cliché but Zoya is very talented. Her clarity about what she wants from an actor and from the scene is commendable. Other smaller qualities like attention to detail only help give the film that edge over others.”

Madhureeta Anand (35)
Her name may not ring a bell for those who equate the Indian film industry with Bollywood but Madhureeta Anand’s is a well-known name in the circles of Indian documentary filmmakers. Her profile boasts of award-winning documentary film on the Kumbh Mela,In Search of Salvation,and other documentary films for reputed production houses like the BBC,National Geographic and Discovery. The seasoned director,who is now preparing for her debut into the world of glitz with Mere Khwabon Mein Jo Aaye,decided this course in her career during what many would term a mid-life crisis. “My work in the past has taught me a lot but I think I have finally discovered myself,” she smiles.

Anand looks at commercial filmmaking as an extension of her work in the past as she feels the lines between documentaries and fiction are blurring. “Often,commercial films like Slumdog Millionaire draw from facts and documentaries are reconstruction of facts. Cinema these days offers a great opportunity to present these two on a grand scale,” she explains.

Flipside There was a period in the director’s career two years ago when she experienced a wave of unhappiness. “I can’t explain what made me feel that way but to get over it,I started writing in the night alongside my work,which I did during the daytime. That’s when I discovered an imaginary friend Jai,who now forms the theme of my debut film.”

Upside The turning point in her career may have started on a low but has led her to where Anand feels she belongs. “Nothing compares to what I felt when I saw what was on paper transform into film. That euphoria is still with me.”

Industry-speak The director knew no one in Mumbai when she first came here with the script. But over the period of making her film,Anand has made friends in the industry. Her lead actor Randeep Hooda,in particular,has a lot to say about her: “Madhureeta’s strength lies as much in scriptwriting as in direction. She envisioned the film very well and though it evolved during the making,most of the thought process on my looks,costumes and nuances of every character was by her.”

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