Nandana the maneater
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Self-confessed “wild child” Nandana Sen has upped her wildness quotient in Ashvin Kumar’s eco-thriller The Forest where she switches between playing a man-eating leopard and a loving wife. The Bong belle tells t2 about her silk-and-steel persona, writing books and preparing for her next Tolly outing after Autograph

You play a man-eating leopard in The Forest! And it’s a dual role? Please explain…

Yes, I play a ruthless man-eating leopard in the movie, who takes turns morphing into a loving wife and a seductive ex-girlfriend (laughs). Jokes apart, Radha is tough on the outside yet very tender inside — sharp-tongued but soft-hearted, confident yet fragile, all silk and steel. She doesn’t blink an eye to pick up a gun and shoot to save her man. And as a maneater, she’s, well, just insatiable (laughs).

How did you connect with the director, Ashvin Kumar?

We met accidentally in the Marriott lobby as I was walking in for another meeting, and he was walking out with a common friend. I was leaving for New York in a couple of days, so he sent me the script. We had a prolonged and very engaging inter-continental dialogue and he convinced me to accept the role while I was still in New York! Because both of us come from a strong theatre background, Ashvin and I were always on the same wavelength and loved working together. He’s a very talented director — and an excellent singer too!

How was the experience of camping in the Jim Corbett National Park and shooting in a real forest?

More beautiful than you can ever imagine! I’ve always been a bit of a wild child — I’ve spent a large part of my life biking along the red earth of Santiniketan and hiking in the White Mountains in the US. I love waking up to the cacophony of birds, breathing in huge gulps of air that smell of chlorophyll, walking barefoot on sticky dewy grass, getting drenched in fresh, fragrant rain. I must say I miss all this in Bombay, but thanks to The Forest, I lived for two months in one of the most gorgeous places I’ve ever been to. Every day we spent three magical hours going in (and out) of the forest. I felt so superbly blessed when my car got stopped on the road by a stray elephant who took her time to leave. And even when my food got snatched by monkeys — I went hungry, but it was such a fun and Darwinian moment! And when I saw a python slither past dangerously close.

I’ve always been in utter awe of the beauty and nobility of animals. One of my unfulfilled ambitions — or should I say unrealistic fantasy? (smiles) — was to be a vet.

Is a Bengali film in the offing?

Yes, there are two that I love. One is a haunting love story based on mistaken identity, and the other, a very engaging thriller that revolves around a cause I’m actively involved with in my child rights work, the fight against human trafficking.

You are also writing a book. What prompted it and what is it about? What stage is it in?

Yes, I’ve been very busy with my writing lately. I finished a really fun children’s book called Love Book, and am working on a much more grown-up book called Shamelessly Female, about three generations of rule-defying women. I wrote an article about this once and it caught a leading book publisher’s eye who then asked me to expand it into a book. In New York, I also completed a film script I’m very excited about, and I am now halfway into another. And I’m translating Ma’s (Nabaneeta Dev Sen) poems, which has been a very beautiful and introspective journey for me.

What are your other upcoming releases and film projects?

My next two releases in India will be the period romance Rang Rasiya (Ketan Mehta) and the political satire Zindabad (Anubhav Sinha). Films I’m shooting next are two international projects, Indian Kiss and Bloom, and two Indian films, Remember to Forget and Shrishti. The four are totally different from each other — in genre, language, and audience — and I’m very excited about all of them.

What kind of films or roles are you looking for now?

As you know, I have an eccentric taste in the films I choose to work in. I completely believe cinema has the power to change the world, by changing our vision. Most of the films I’ve done, here and abroad, not only have a strong aesthetic sensibility but also an inherent socio-political consciousness, even when they are commercial — for instance, Rang Rasiya is a politically charged historical romance exploring censorship of art, and The Forest is an eco-thrilller with an important message to conserve our wildlife and natural resources. And it’s not a coincidence that The War Within (USA) or Tango Charlie(India) or The World Unseen (South Africa) all have anti-war themes. Some may work better than others, but I’m always willing to take that risk when the topic is something I believe in deeply.

My taste has always been a little peculiar, and my approach to selecting roles is unconventional. I am drawn to characters who aren’t necessarily perfect but are intense, human and believable — yet unpredictable, not stereotypical in any way.

I need to be absolutely passionate about the role to be able to say yes. I’ve often been told by well-wishers in the industry that neither my ‘yes’ nor my ‘no’ (why I accept certain roles and decline others) makes any sense (laughs)! And I do appreciate their caring frankness — from their perspective, I’m sure they are right.

Source: Telegraph India

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