Nandana Sen

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Nandana Sen
Nandana sen 2010(2).jpg
Nandana Sen at the Tagore Literature Awards.
Residence New York, USA
Occupation Actor, activist, writer
Years active 1997-present (Latest release - Rang Rasiya, 2014)
Organization Current Ambassadorship in Operation Smile, UNICEF, RAHI

Nandana Sen (born Nandana Dev Sen in Kolkata) is an international actress, screen writer, children's author and child-rights activist.

Early life[edit]

Sen is the daughter of Nobel Laureate and Bharat Ratna economist Amartya Sen and Padma Shri winner Nabanita Dev Sen, one of the most prominent authors in the contemporary Bengali literature. Nandana Sen's first piece of writing was published when she was a child in the magazine Sandesh, selected by Satyajit Ray.[1] She spent her growing years in various cities across Europe, India and America.


Nandana Sen studied literature at Harvard University, where she was awarded the Detur Prize in her first year for topping her class,[2] and thereafter every year she also won both the John Harvard Scholarship and the Elizabeth Cary Agassiz Award for Academic Achievement of the Highest Distinction. As a Junior, she was elected early into the academic honor society Phi Beta Kappa. Subsequently, Sen studied Film Producing at the Peter Stark Producing Program at the USC Film School. She wrote and directed various short films, including her thesis film “Arranged Marriage” which was shown at multiple film festivals. As an actor, Nandana trained at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute, New York, as well as the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London.

Professional life[edit]

Child Rights[edit]

Along with acting in theatre and films internationally, Nandana also promotes the cause of child protection. Nandana is Smile Ambassador for the global children’s NGO Operation Smile,[3] UNICEF India's National Celebrity for Child Protection and against Gender Based Violence,[4] and Cause Ambassador for RAHI (India's first organization to break the silence about child sexual abuse).[5] She collaborates with the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) as a Child Rights Expert and Juror for Public Hearings.[6] Nandana has been actively fighting to stop the crisis of child trafficking in India,[7][8] both with organizations such as the NCPCR and the Terre des hommes foundation[8][9] as well as addressing this topic in cinema.[10] She has been invited to speak on the cause of child protection in international conferences, including the Global Call to Action Summit for Child Survival and Development organized by USAID [7][11][11] and the International Comprehensive Cleft Care Conference of 2013.[12] Whenever possible, Nandana Sen has combined her commitment to child rights with her acting work,[13] including originating the role of the traumatized protagonist of the play “30 Days in September” (Prithvi Theatre) and the film “Chuppee/ The Silence” on Child Abuse (UNIFEM).[7][14][15][16]


Sen has starred in over 20 feature films from multiple countries and in various languages (see Filmography). Sen’s pathbreaking performance [17][18] as artist Ravi Varma’s muse, in her latest release Rang Rasiya (2014, a historical romance on the religious censorship of art), subsequently won her the prestigious Kalakar Award for Best Actress in 2015: in her acceptance speech, Nandana went on record saying that the award honours “the greater cause of free speech and expression, now under enormous threat everywhere, as shown by the horrifying Charlie Hebdo killings in Paris.” "The need to protect our creative freedom – whether we are actors or journalists, film-makers or novelists – is more urgent now than ever.” [19]

Sen experienced her first taste of cinema while still a student when director Goutam Ghose tapped her to play the lead in his dark and disturbing psychodrama The Doll (Gudia)[20] as one of the targets of a middle-age man's sexual obsession, which premiered at the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festival.

Her first vehicle in Bollywood was the Rani Mukherjee and Amitabh Bachchan starrer Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Black (2005) in which she played the role of Rani’s 17-year-old younger sister. Sen gave a highly proclaimed performance in the role and the film was applauded by both audience and critics,[21][22][23] earning her a nomination for Breakthrough Performance of the Year. Time Magazine (Europe) selected the film as one of the 10 Best Movies of the Year 2005 from across the globe.[24]

After teaming up on a succession of projects with Indian directors including Ram Gopal Varma and Ketan Mehta, Sen signed for one of the principal roles in the jarring, terrorist-themed American drama The War Within (2005) which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival[25][26] and, in the process, both made a name for herself and began to cultivate a reputation for being drawn to offbeat, challenging, and demanding roles, often with a social or political theme.[10]

In the anti-war film Tango Charlie, Sen played the female lead opposite Ajay Devgan (also starring Sanjay Dutt and Bobby Deol) and with Anil Kapoor in My Wife's Murder. Both of these movies did well with critics.[27] Nandana followed this by signing lead roles opposite Salman Khan in the bilingual Hollywood-Bollywood film Marigold,[28] and Vivek Oberoi in Prince, at the same time playing the protagonist in unconventional but acclaimed films such as Strangers[29] and The Forest.

The British television series Sharpe increased her notability. The episode ‘Sharpe’s Peril’ featured Sen in a pivotal role.[30] In 2007, Sen signed on to portray a young rebellious woman fleeing from law authorities in director Shamim Sarif's lesbian-themed period drama The World Unseen. In 2010, Nandana starred in the Bengali super-hit Autograph,[31] for which she was awarded the TeleCine Award for Best Actress and the Reliance BIG Bangla Rising Star Award.


Sen, whose professional choices have included a tenure as a literary editor at Houghton Mifflin Company, is also a screenwriter,[32] a maker of short films,[33] and a published writer in multiple genres, including poetry,[34][35] narrative non-fiction,[36][37][38] and Op Eds.[39][40][41][42] Her first original screenplay to be made into a film was Forever, funded by Telefilm Canada.[43] She was commissioned by Divani Films to adapt R.K. Narayan’s novel Waiting For the Mahatma into a film script, and by Big Bang Company to write an original script focusing on a father-daughter relationship. Sen is collaborating on a script about the history of the kiss in Indian cinema, with Italian filmmaker Franco La Cecla.[44] Sen frequently contributes articles to newspapers and journals, and has also translated a book of poems by her mother Nabaneeta Dev Sen, titled Make Up Your Mind (iUniverse, 2013). Represented by Sophie Hicks Agency,[45] Sen's first children’s book in verse, called Kiss This Kangaroo![2] will be published by Otter-Barry Books, followed by "Mambi and the Forest Fire"[46] and “Love Book” in 2016.[47] Sen is also writing a book on three generations of rule-defying Bengali women, tentatively titled “Shamlessly Female”,[1] which grew from an essay she published with the same title.[47]

Personal life[edit]

Nandana Sen tied the knot in the month of June 2013, she is married to John Makinson, Chairman of Penguin Random House.[48]

She also dated an Indian film producer, Madhu Mantena, for few years.


Year of Release Film Country Role Language Notes
1997 The Doll / Gudia India Rosemary Braganza / Urvashi Hindi credited as Nandana Dev Sen
1999 Branchie Italy Italian
Forever Canada Nadia English Short feature
2000 Seducing Maarya Canada Maarya English
2002 Bokshu, The Myth US/India English
2004 The Miracle: A Silent Love Story India
2005 The War Within USA Duri Choudhury English
My Wife's Murder India Reena Wadhwa Hindi
Tango Charlie India Shyamoli Hindi
Black India Sara McNally Hindi
2006 The Silence / Chuppee India Short feature
2007 The World Unseen UK Rehmat English
Strangers UK/ India Preeti English / Hindi
Marigold USA Jaanvi English / Hindi
2008 Sharpe's Peril UK Maharani Padmini English bbTV Movie
2009 Kaler Rakhal India Bengali
Perfect Mismatch USA Neha English
2010 Autograph India Srinandita Bengali
Prince India Serena Hindi
Jhootha hi sahi India Suhana Malik Hindi
2012 The Forest India Radha English / Hindi
2014 Rang Rasiya India Sugandha Hindi


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ a b Amartya Sen's daughter Nandana meticulously handles her passion from movies to non-profit work - Economic Times
  3. ^ Operation Smile India - News & Press - News
  4. ^ UNICEF India - Our partners - Celebrities Supporting UNICEF’s Work in India
  5. ^ RAHI - Recovering and Healing from Incest
  6. ^ TWF India-“Child abuse a neglected crisis in India”
  7. ^ a b c
  8. ^ a b ‘State ranks second in child trafficking’ - The Hindu
  9. ^ Nandana Sen to fight against child trafficking - The Times of India
  10. ^ a b Nandana the maneater
  11. ^ a b
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ The Doll | Variety
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^ "Movie Review : Black". Retrieved 2013-08-25. 
  25. ^ The War Within | Variety
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^ Marigold | Variety
  29. ^
  30. ^ Sean Bean And Nandana Sen Cross Sharpe Swords In Orcha! - Planet Bollywood News
  31. ^ Autograph - Prosenjit Chatterjee, Nandana Sen - Bengali Movie (2010) - Shree Venkatesh Films Production - Cinergy Pictures
  32. ^
  33. ^ short films
  34. ^ Most Read : Nandana Sen's Blog : nandana.sen - Times Of India Blog
  35. ^
  36. ^ Mother of all stories
  37. ^ Nandana shocked at Durga ma in bikini top! - Times Of India
  38. ^ When another umbrella flew off exposing my first almost-kiss by Nandana Sen's Blog : Nandana Sen's blog-The Times Of India
  39. ^ Pass By On The Sidewalk, Without Looking | Nandana Sen
  40. ^ ‘Gender sensitivity is a matter of life and death... all of us are accountable’ - Indian Express
  41. ^ Post 26/11, actress Nandana Sen finds herself in a reflective mood
  42. ^ Of missing girls and missing the point
  43. ^ Forever – Divani Films
  44. ^
  45. ^
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  47. ^ a b
  48. ^