I am not a Bollywood star, never wanted to be, never worked towards it, says actress Nandita Das. â€œThereâ€™s no particular method to how I choose movies,â€ Das told Himalayan News Service in an interview. â€œI just choose the scripts that I like.
â€œIn order to be successful in Bollywood, you must be available for a certain number of commercial films, which obviously Iâ€™m not looking at. â€œI will not do a film unless I really like the story.â€ Which is why, said Das, she sees herself increasingly as a communicator rather than an actress. â€œActing is just one of the methods in which Iâ€™m able to say the things that I want to say.â€
After soaring to fame with films like Deepa Mehtaâ€™s â€œEarthâ€ and â€œFireâ€, Das, daughter of famous painter Jatin Das, has done little work in the last couple of years. That, she said, was because she was only willing to accept roles that made her think. â€œI think the whole structure of my work is not geared towards attaining any degree of superstardom or commercial success. If one aspired for that, one would move to Mumbai, and so on and so forth,â€ said Das. She said she regularly rejects a lot of routine stuff that comes her way but is, at present, considering two scripts.
â€œBut I have chosen to continue to live in Delhi and do just the sort of work that I want to do,â€ said the woman who has a Masterâ€™s in social work, did a lot of street theatre and once taught at the Rishi Valley School started by philosopher J. Krishnamurti. â€œSometimes the script just doesnâ€™t work with me. At times, the script seems nice but then you meet the director and you realise that they just wonâ€™t be able to deliver a certain subject properly.â€
Then, because she has been so choosy, and stays largely away from tinsel town limelight, her star value diminishes as do chances of getting great work. â€œOf course many directors would feel that if they are able to get an actor who is more commercially viable, then why take someone who isnâ€™t that commercially viable? I completely understand that feeling.â€
Das is now involved with a whole host of social work and communication organisations, including her husbandâ€™s Leap Frog company. Together she and her husband have been in the forefront of promoting India-Pakistan peace through social and cultural interactions, popularly called â€˜people-to-people contactâ€™.
As part of this process, the duo have started taking street children from India to Pakistan and vice-versa for friendly matches that they hope would build more bonhomie between the neighbours who have fought three wars. â€œI try to work mostly with the smaller social work groups. They are the ones who need maximum support,â€ said Das. â€œA lot of times great work by great people is completely ignored because they are not reported in the media. So people donâ€™t come to know about them. â€œI am fortunate that I meet such people every day in the course of my work and thatâ€™s what keeps me going. I am working on womenâ€™s issues, childrenâ€™s issues, peace initiatives â€” thereâ€™s so much to be done.
â€œI see myself just as a small part of a big picture where lots of people are working together to attain the same humane goals.â€