By Devansh Patel, Bollywood Hungama News Network
As with all long-running businesses, the selling of films has become ever-more sophisticated over the years. Audiences are now broken down into clear demographics and movies are conceived and pruned to target them. Perhaps the biggest market to have been recognized and tapped by major studios in recent times is the tweenie girl market, females who are still child like but moving quickly towards maturity. That is exactly what the requirement was for this beautiful actor's role in the film Rang Rasiya, where she plays a muse to India's celebrated and controversial painter Raja Ravi Varma, the role portrayed by Randeep Hooda. We hear that many female actors were auditioned but there was one clear winner - Nandana Sen. Deliberately steering herself away from no-brain blockbusters and for the most part sticking to prestigious literary adaptations, she constantly sought to challenge herself as a professional by doing selected Bollywood films, broadways and plays. Harrow Observer UK and Bollywood Hungama's London correspondent Devansh Patel met the voluptuous Nandana last year in London's Courthouse Hotel on the eve of her film Rang Rasiya's first official screening at the London Film Festival. We order two cups of hot black coffee and off we go on a Sen-sational chat tour.
From Black to being all colourful...What sort of 'rang' you intend to fill this time around?
Most of the work I've done so far has not been in India. But yes, people do remember me for my role in Black. After Black, I've done about eight to ten films all over the world that would not be termed as Bollywood. Having said that, Rang Rasiya (Colours of Passion) is my favourite film because it's an extremely important and a daring film. It's relevant universally too because it's a courtesan ship of art. I hope people understand after watching Rang Rasiya, how important it is to preserve our freedom, and freedom is colourful, isn't it?
Ketan Mehta is much more than just Mirch Masala. Isn't it?
Yes he is. I am very proud of the fact that Ketan is the director of this film and that the film is been shown to the world audience at the London Film Festival. Ketan has waited for this for a long, long time. He is one director whom you want to work with in this industry due to his sheer talent and ability of portraying a film with a universal appeal. Ketan and I have wanted to work together for a long time now and the story of Rang Rasiya was instantly believable. Ditto with my character. I fell in love with it. I can't imagine any other director having made a muse out of me in a way Ketan did (laughs).
Did you sync well with Randeep?
Randeep and I have known each other for a long time now. We moved to Mumbai at the same time a few years ago. It was a bit strange but I loved the fact that we are doing this film together. As a couple, we've worked very well in the film.
You seem to be short for words, Nandana?
I am not short of words. I've said what I wanted to say (laughs).
Your father, the great Laureate Amartya Sen attended the London premiere. You must be on cloud nine?
I always am because he has been to all my screenings. Both my parents are extremely supportive of my work as an actor. Both however, expected me to be an academician like them because I was intelligent in studies. But when I took over acting, they were surprised. In a way, pleasantly surprised. They've gone out of their way to lend their support on the American Broadway, at Cannes, etc. Rang Rasiya is a brave film with bold scenes and my parents have been supportive in that too.
I also hear that you were supposed to work with Ketan Mehta way before Rang Rasiya. What was that all about?
Actually, we were supposed to work together in The Rising even before the film was titled. When we met for the first time, the Aamir starrer was called Kartoos. At the time the film went on the floor, I was in New York and the dates didn't work out. When I came to Mumbai city, Ketan and Deepa Mehta were the only two people I knew personally. So it was a really fulfilling experience.
Controversies seem to follow Ketan Mehta with each of his films.
I don't think it makes sense to think about controversies before a controversy actually happens. There is no controversy about the film yet. The film is very courageous and sometimes when you choose to make a statement that is so bold and brave, the world will obviously react to it. Now how the world reacts to it is to be seen. I am not afraid. All I can say is that there is no fear in me about what the response to the film may be. I wouldn't want any moment in the film to be different from what it is.
So you play a 'Devdasi' in the film, am I right?
(laughs) You're right. I play a nineteenth century 'devdasi' in Rang Rasiya, who was sold into a life of being a 'devdasi' when she was just fourteen. This is a girl who was adored all her life for the beauty she possessed but had never experienced love or even thought she was designed to give pleasure. She understands the meaning of beauty only after she meets Raja Ravi Varma and the world that he opens up to her changes her completely. She is a seductress and yet a child. What's really special about my character is that it's a perfect combination of sensuality and innocence in her. She has a really strong quest for love which defines everything what she does.
Plus you play a real character. Was it difficult?
No it wasn't. Physically to get that body into my body and to create and own that physicality was amazing. I had to rely very heavily on Raja Ravi Varma's paintings because he painted such specific and sensual gestures in all his women. All the beautiful movements like the way a woman played with her hands, the way she looked through the curtains, the way she looked through the eye lashes, etc was used by me in my scenes. I also wore a Navwari saree in my house and to theatres which is long like a dhoti only to get used to it physically. I really loved the fact that she had a nose ring, chain around her waist, anklets, etc. I did gain a good five to six kilos for the film because I had to be fleshy. Playing Sugandha also gave me a chance to rediscover classic characters like Sita, Draupadi, etc.
Will Rang Rasiya appeal to all the Bollywood going audiences?
I truly believe that Rang Rasiya will appeal to every person in the world who has ever believed in freedom. It's a powerful film. Our freedom of expression is extremely under threat, especially in our India. Rang Rasiya will take that threat away from the audiences.
What's Nandana Sen doing next?
I've been shooting in South Africa for quite sometime for a Tips film with Vivek Oberoi. I've been knocking men out with my kicks and punches but in between I did romance Vivek (laughs). This film doesn't have a title. I am also in middle of an Anubhav Sinha film called Zindabad which is a political satire. I play this young reporter who is an idealist and wants to change the world. How the government can collapse or revive at anytime depending on the business transactions that are happening between the political parties is what the story of the film is. Shabana Azmi plays my boss and there is Kulbhushan Kharbanda too. I'm also doing a Bengali film about a young Indian student from Germany who is making a film about Indian Folk culture. I'm just going back again to Cape Town to shoot a UTV film titled Season's Greetings. There is Tabu and Shreyas Talpade with Sohail Khan in the film.
Any message for your fans?
All that I want to say is that every day should be lived with the fullest of freedom.