What is a saleable face, asks actress Rajshri Deshpande

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By HT

NEW DELHI, Aug. 14 -- With the film industry exploring newer avenues in terms of content, it has opened doors for a new set of actors, who might have otherwise found it hard to bag the right roles. Rajshri Deshpande is one such actor. 

She made her mark with Angry Indian Goddesses (2015) and Sexy Durga (aka S Durga, 2017), the controversial Malayalam film that toured 50 festivals. She was also recently seen in a hit web series directed by Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane.

However, total acceptance in this industry is still some time away for actors like her, she feels. "I'm glad that platforms are opening for actors like me or Pankaj Tripathi... I also think that this is the best time to be a part of the film industry. But at the same time, I feel that the change is happening at a slow pace," says Rajshri, who has done small roles in the films Talaash (2012) and Kick (2014), and also dabbled in television with Kuch Toh Log Kahenge and 24. 

She adds, "I still feel that people are stuck with box-office numbers, the number of followers a female actor has on Instagram, her high cheekbones and flat stomach... I think it's okay if you don't have a flat stomach and if you are a normal-looking Indian woman as now there are roles, but still the number [of roles] isn't enough." 

Also, the terms mainstream cinema and off-beat cinema are mystifying to Rajshri. She talks about a recent incident: two filmmakers had approached her - one from the commercial genre, and the other an independent director. But, the commercial film director finally couldn't cast her, as his producer wanted a saleable face. 

A baffled Rajshri says, "In every film, I look different... so how can you decide if I have a saleable face or not? I want to look like the character." 

The interesting thing is that she is, in fact, a saleable face. "The independent filmmaker said that if I agreed to do the film, he'd get funding, because I'm a big name in the festival circuit," says Rajshri, smiling.

One of her festival hits is Manto, directed by Nandita Das, with Nawazuddin Siddiqui in the lead. In the film, Rajshri had to put on a lot of weight to play writer Ismat Chughtai. But her apprehensions over the weight gain disappeared when Chugtai's grandson, Ashish Sawhny, looked at her picture and said that she looked exactly like the writer.