Nandana Sen 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: “I actually posed for those paintings. Because Ravi Raja Varma was played by Randeep and I was playing the woman he paints. He paints me as Laxmi, Saraswati, Draupadi, Sita, Menaka and Urvashi. I don’t understand what the fuss is. It’s too blasphemous a thought to consider”.
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Nandana has done a nude scene in Rang Rasiya, the first mainstream Indian actress to do so. And she is proud of it! “Rang Rasiya is about the moral policing of art. It isn’t about sexuality at all. The nudity is central to the plot. 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,” says Nandana
In Mani Shankar’s Tango Charlie she did a bare-back scene. Did she feel uncomfortable doing the nude sequence? “In Rang Rasiya I did the nude scene with my eyes open, though it was really difficult for me to do it. The nude scene in Rang Rasiya is at the core of the film and I’m proud of the fact that I did it”.
She goes on to reveal her character in Rang Rasiya: “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 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”.
“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 going to be ostracized in the same way,” she asks and signs off.