Nobel Laureate Prof Amartya Sen's Daughter Nandana Sen started her career in 1998 with Gautam Ghose's Gudiya.
She then veered towards Hindi cinema and established a reputation for avant-garde acting with films that tackled the dreaded formula in the reverse creating a new profile for the archetypal heroine.
Now Nandana finds herself at the vortex of a controversy after her face was used as the muse for the first calendar-artiste of the country Ravi Raja Varma's bio-pic Rang Rasiya. Nandana explains her artistic stance to Subhash K Jha.
There is a disturbing report that in Ketan Mehta's controversial Rang Rasiya your face has been superimposed on the figures of Hindu goddesses ?
That's true. But it's art work for the film. I actually posed for those paintings. Because Ravi Raja Varma was played by Randeep and I was playing the woman he paints. So naturally the faces he painted had to be mine.
This is so elementary that I wonder why anyone thought of making a fuss about it. See, Randeep Hooda is playing Ravi Raja Varma and I play his muse Sugandha. He paints me as Laxmi, Saraswati, Draupadi, Sita, Menaka and Urvashi.
I don't understand what the fuss is. When you see the faces on the paintings in Rang Rasiya they've to be mine because it's my face that the painter is painting. I wasn't trying to take over the faces of the goddesses in calendar art. It's too blasphemous a thought to consider.
You've also done a nude scene in Rang Rasiya, the first mainstream Indian actress to do so?
Again I can't understand what the fuss is about. Rang Rasiya is about the moral policing of art. It isn't about sexuality at all. The nudity is central to the plot. And I completely believed in my director Ketan Mehta's vision.
The film is very important at a time when I feel our freedom of expression is being threatened in small or big ways, whether it is with M F Husain Saab's work or whether it's the moral police deciding how long our skirts should be in public places.
Did you feel uncomfortable doing the nude sequence, as you had done in an earlier film?
You're talking about Mani Shankar's Tango Charlie? But there I had done a bare-back scene. They cheated and shot more. In Rang Rasiya I did the nude scene with my eyes open, though it was really difficult for me to do it.
I had turned down several international including one with Tim Robbins recently, because they had nude scenes to perform. Bur the nude scene in Rang Rasiya is at the core of the film. It was my family who clinched the matter for me.
When I told them about the nude scene they supported me completely. Otherwise I was very reluctant to do it. Now I'm proud of the fact that I did it. My character Sugandha was the first pinup girl in India.
All the calendar art became available to people because printing came into being at the same time when Sugandha posed for Ravi Varma. People could actually could bring images of goddesses home.
At the same time she got ostracized for what she did. She was truly a trendsetter. And playing her I became a trendsetter by doing our first nude scene.
Do you feel uncomfortable about nudity?
All over the world the greatest directors use actors and actresses in the nude in completely non-gratuitous ways. Strangely we Indians can't seem to go beyond flesh. Ironically Ravi Raja Varma was taken to court for painting a nude.
Today 130 years later the same issue seems to have come up. People want to know why the face of a girl who's seen in the nude should be superimposed on a goddess. So am I and the director Ketan Mehta going to be ostracized in the same way that Ravi Raja Varma and Sugandha were 130 years ago?