The wonder that is Indian filmmaker and actress Nandita Das first appeared on my radar through her performance in the film ‘Fire’ by Deepa Mehta. The story of two women trapped in respectively loveless marriages with brothers, who discover within each other the companion they crave, it was a film that created as much sizzle on as it did off the screen. It was passed uncut by India’s censor board which then gave into (sort of, then retracted it) religious zealots who started to burn down cinemas and attack audiences to protest its release.
Fast forward twenty years and Das once again flirted with controversy with her feature directorial debut ‘Firaaq’, an unsentimental account of the impact of the Gujarat riots on the Indian Muslim population. The film left such an impact on me, I could hardly think about anything else for weeks after viewing it. I remember researching articles about the riots and I craved to go back to Ahmedabad, which I’d visited the year before I watched the film, to revisit the city with Das’ haunting vision in mind.
These days, the beautiful, smart, and wonderfully strong Das is working on a film about Saadat Hasan Manto, an Indian-Pakistani writer and playwright who once wrote this hauntingly true phrase “If you cannot bear my stories, it is because we live in unbearable times.” Prophetic, wasn’t he.Read More