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Balancing reel with real: Sacred Games star Rajshri Deshpande on movies, activism and rural development

Balancing reel with real: Sacred Games star Rajshri Deshpande on movies, activism and rural development
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Anurag singh Bohra | New Delhi

Shot to fame from Netflix Sacred Games, Rajshri Deshpande speaks about her NGO at Marathwada, Nabhangan Foundation, focused at sustainable rural development mixing it up with movies, education and the importance of grass root activism.

Ground Report Interviews

Q. You have been involved with NGO since 2015. According to you how can the youth in urban cities contribute to social issues concerning rural (remote) areas?

Issues are everywhere. It’s not necessary that you’ve to travel to the rural areas and work there. Wherever you feel, there’s something going on and you can make a difference and work on it. I had gone to the drought hit villages as I wanted to work over there at grassroots level since I’m familiar with the area.

Sacred Games star Rajshri Deshpande on movies, activism and rural development

Q. So, what inspired you to work in that particular area?

I had volunteered at shelter homes in Nepal after the earthquake in 2014. But in a way I realized it’s important to work upon the root causes as voluntary work is also dependent on a group. Here, I wanted to start something which has been initiated by me. I belong to Marathwada and since, my father was a farmer so I know what goes through when the drought hits you. That’s why I decided to work in one village to begin with where I can do a holistic development. Five years back, I started a water irrigation project. Now the focus is on sanitation, healthcare and education as well. 

The kind of films I do, be it ‘Angry Indian Goddesses,’ ‘Sexy Durga’ or Manto, these films have travelled globally. Yet they haven’t reached the tier down cities or rural areas. If my films are not reaching there, then let me go and work there at ground level and do something for the people.

Q. You were last seen in the web drama Kanpuriye. What are the other projects you’re working on?

Nobody spoke much about the character I played called Kohinoor in Kanpuriye. It was an important role as no one talks about these orchestra dancers. People don’t understand what kind of life they have or how they’re surviving. Although it was a small part, yet the journey of Kohinoor was so interesting.

I’m doing a web show called ‘Gormint,’ co-starring Amol Palekar and Manav Kaul. ‘Nirvana’ which also features Adil Hussain is another film that was recently premiered at Busan Film festival. I’m also doing an independent venture which has an interesting script and a different character from the ones I have played so far. I’ve finished two more independent film projects. I’m excited about these projects; let’s see how it comes out. After inauguration of my school which is almost complete I’ll start working on a new show. Both ways my life will be balanced between reel and real.

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Q. Among the screen characters you’ve played, which are the ones you’ve felt really close to?

The characters I’ve played are not close to my own life. But while you portray something, you always draw inspiration from your own life. In all of my characters there’s me somewhere, but there are many other women who are a part of that. I only pick up roles which are close to my heart. I think when you’re doing too many things on-screen; you’ll be finished as an actor. We have to revive ourselves. An actor needs to go on a holiday; otherwise it will be mundane and boring. If you look at my work I make sure I’m a different person in each of my films. It’s not just about the physical appearance, even your style has to be different. I may be doing less work but I make sure that I work with good people on good content. I don’t care if it’s commercial or independent cinema, my focus is on giving it my best.

Q.  Do you have any dream roles or a genre that you want to explore?

It’s difficult to pick any one role. There are many women I want to explore. I myself have many women inside me. I would like to play them and tell lovely stories. I’m a very real kind of an actor so I don’t think if I would fit into any of those fantasy roles.

Q. In the light of the #MeToo movement, an intimacy coordinator was appointed in the last season of Game of Thrones to ensure the actors feel comfortable while performing intimate scenes. As an actor how important do you feel it is to have an intimacy coordinator for Indian films or series?

It is important to have an intimacy coordinator or an acting coach who is spiritually driven and has clarity on why intimacy is needed in this scene or storyline. Everyone should understand why it is being portrayed. Intimacy shouldn’t be just there to titillate but because it is important for the script. And as an actor it always helps if you have someone who’s mentally, spiritually and emotionally with you over there. A lot of time it happens after the scene if I start crying and neither me nor the people around have any idea what I am going through. As artists we use all our energy over there as you can see our eyes popping up on screen. Our vulnerability reflects on our face. Sometimes you have to use life experiences while performing important scenes. I feel every director or anyone from the film industry should know what actors go through while enacting emotional or intimate scenes. You have to be human in order to understand the condition otherwise it becomes very difficult.

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Q. How important is it for an artist to take a stand on social and political issues in today’s times?

Whatever is happening across the world matters to you because you’re also part of that world. So we must speak on issues. But when you’re discussing a topic it is important to research and understand things in order to know its root cause. I feel along with speaking up you have to work on it as well. I think everyone should raise questions if they’re bothering them, but also work on them. Unfortunately, if there are ten people standing, while eight are screaming only two are working. So, I would like to have a 50-50 ratio. I would want people to work more on ground level.

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