Maverick Spirit Award - Nandita Das

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Film Info
Type of Film/Event:Event


To attend Maverick Spirit Award  - Nandita Das, please purchase a ticket to the Opening Night Film, Manto on March 5th at 7:15pm, CAL Theatre. 

With more than forty films (encompassing ten languages) in her rich and lengthy resumé, Nandita Das could rightfully claim the status of bona fide Indian and Global film star and bask in the warm glow of klieg lights and the heady aura of celebrity. She could, as her Hindi name translates into English, just be “Happy.” But, despite her glamorous looks and storied career, Das has always used her talent and status to pursue a higher ground, to strive toward making the world a better place through art.

Born in Mumbai, but raised mostly in Delhi, Nandita Das has always possessed an overriding passion for creativity and social consciousness. The daughter of artist father, Jatin, and writer mother, Varsha, Das showed early on she had the same genetic and social awareness makeup. Following her early education at the prestigious Sardar Patel Vidyalaya school, Das went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in Geography from Delhi University’s Miranda House and a Social Work Masters from Delhi’s School of Social Work.

Das cut her acting teeth with the theater group Jana Natya Manch and was soon making films. During her cinema career, Das has received consistently high praise for her prolific body of work. Performances in Deepa Mehta’s Fire, and Earth, Jagmohan Munhra’s Bawander, and Naalu Pennugal (directed by Adoor Gopalakrishnan) brought widespread acclaim. With her acting career firmly established, Das eventually sought to expand her creative horizons and venture behind the camera. In 2008, she made her directorial debut with Firaaq, based on the 2002 Gujarat riots that exploded following the mob induced arson of a train carrying Hindu pilgrims, which resulted in 59 deaths. Occurring over a period of 24 hours, Das’s film uses multiple characters and story lines to delve into the tragic aftermath of the tumult. Deftly integrating the various elements of her collage, Das plunges us into a hellish environment of post-riot everyday life, evoking the horror of religious fanaticism gone amok; artistically telling universal truths through seemingly mundane detail.

The powerhouses Traces of Sandalwood and Sandstorm were also hits at Cinequest and around-the-world. And now Das has delivered another powerful work in Manto, based on the life and work of Urdu writer and provocateur Sadaat Hasan Manto. Taking episodes of Manto’s brilliant, but troubled career (including six obscenity trials), and intercutting them with cinematic interpretations of some of Manto’s short stories, Das creates a dream-like universe that is both irresistible and terrible. She beautifully captures Manto’s sensibility toward the down-trodden and displaced and echoes his credo, “Either everyone’s life matters or no one’s does.” Though only her second directorial effort, there’s no doubt Das is in firm command of her powers.

Besides receiving numerous awards for her acting, Das has been repeatedly recognized for both her art and her world community activism. She has twice served as a jury member for the Cannes International Film Festival and in 2008, was awarded the Chevalier de Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters) by the government of France. She became the first Indian woman inducted into the International Hall of Fame of the International Women’s Forum, cited for her “sustained contributions to the arts and to the world as one of the most gripping cinema arts leaders of our time…” She was also a Yale World Fellow in 2014.

She continues to be adamant of art’s capacity to change the world for the better and for those who would characterize her efforts as a frivolous pursuit, she has this sensible and heartfelt rejoinder, “Art-sensitive, powerful art, can trigger conversations, challenge prejudices, tell inconvenient truths, and spark new ideas.”
-- P.D. Crane