Bollywood Star Nandita Das, The 'Thinking Man's Actress'08:41
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Bollywood actress and director, Nandita Das, has made a career out of taking on roles that challenge convention. (Courtesy: Vangelis Rassias)
Bollywood actress and director, Nandita Das, has made a career out of taking on roles that challenge convention. (Courtesy: Vangelis Rassias)

Award-winning Indian film actress and director Nandita Das isn't your typical Bollywood star. The website RS Bollywood calls her the "thinking man's actress" because she takes on controversial roles and issues, including playing the part of a newly married woman who realizes she's a lesbian.

In her directorial debut, "Firaaq," Das portrayed the 2002 religious violence in Gujarat, India. More than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed during the violence.The head of the state government is accused of allowing the widespread attacks on Muslims. The violence started after a train carrying mainly Hindu pilgrims was attacked and set on fire, killing nearly 60 people. An Indian court recently ruled that a Muslim mob attacked the train, and 31 people were convicted.

In "Firaq," made in 2008, Das focuses on one day in the life of ten people affected by the violence, which Das calls a "massacre."

Among the stories that unfold: a Muslim man trying to flee with his Hindu wife; an auto rickshaw driver who seeks revenge after his home is burnt down during the violence; and, a small boy, who loses his family in the riots.

Das told Here & Now's Sacha Pfeiffer that she's showing this film in the U.S. because the topic is still relevant.

"I think  these stories need to be told. Sadly, things haven't improved. Of course on the surface there's much more peace and calm. But people don't feel safe," she said.

Audio Extras: More from Nandita Das

  • YouTube: You can view the entire film, "Firaaq," below (click cc on YouTube panel to enable English closed captioning)

Guest:

  • Nandita Das, actress and director

This segment aired on October 26, 2011.

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