India's Nandita Das turns director, raises eyebrows again

Tue Mar 31, 2009 3:35am EDT
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By Tony Tharakan

NEW DELHI (Reuters Life!) - After winning accolades for her acting in art house cinema, Nandita Das, a former jury member at Cannes, is drawing attention with her directorial debut as well: a film about one of India's worst religious riots.

Known for playing bold roles in unconventional films, Das took three years to write the script for "Firaaq," which opened in Indian cinemas this month after winning kudos at film festivals worldwide.

Human rights groups say about 2,500 people, mostly Muslims, were hacked, beaten or burned to death in the western Gujarat state after a suspected Muslim mob burned alive 59 Hindu activists and pilgrims inside a train in February 2002.

Das' film, an ensemble project told through the eyes of ordinary people affected by the violence, follows multiple narratives set over a 24-hour period.

The 39-year-old actress spoke to Reuters about the cathartic effect of directing "Firaaq."

Q: Did you plan "Firaaq" to be your directorial debut?

A: "Not really. I did want to direct and was thinking about it for a few years. I didn't think "Firaaq" would be the debut film. This film happened primarily because many of the stories told were kind of inside me and compelled me to direct.

"I think it had to do with everything that was happening around me, my own helplessness, anger, anguish whatever you call it, response to the kind of growing violence, to prejudice, to waking up to newspapers with stories full of violence.   Continued...

<p>Festival jury member and Indian actress Nandita Das poses during red carpet arrivals for Austrian director Michael Haneke's in competition film "Cache" at the 58th Cannes Film Festival May 14, 2005. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler</p>