Nandita Das

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Nandita Das
Born (1969-11-07) 7 November 1969 (age 45)
Mumbai, India
Nationality Indian
Occupation Actress, director
Years active 1989, 1996–present
Spouse(s) Soumya Sen (2002–2009)
Subodh Maskara (2010–present)
Children Vihaan

Nandita Das (born 7 November 1969) is an Indian film actress and director. As an actress, she is known for her performances in Fire (1996), Earth (1998), Bawandar (2000), Kannathil Muthamittal (2002), Azhagi and Before The Rains (2007). As a director, she is known for her directorial debut Firaaq (2008), which has won a number of national and international awards. She has been awarded the Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the Government of France for her work.[1] Nandita Das was the first Indian to be inducted into their International Women's Forum's hall of fame for her contributions to arts.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Das was born to noted Indian Oriya painter, Jatin Das and a Gujarati Jain mother, Varsha who is a writer.[3] She was born in Mumbai and brought up in Delhi.[4]

She went to Sardar Patel Vidyalaya, Lodhi Estate, in New Delhi. She received her bachelor's degree in Geography from Miranda House (University of Delhi) and Master of Social Work from the Delhi School of Social Work.[5]



Nandita Das started her acting career with the theatre group Jana Natya Manch. She taught at the Rishi Valley School.

She is best known for her performances in Deepa Mehta films Fire, Earth alongside Aamir Khan, Bawander (directed by Jagmohan Mundhra) and Amaar Bhuvan (directed by Mrinal Sen). Das has acted in films in ten different languages: English, Hindi, Bengali, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Marathi, Oriya and Kannada. The movie star Sukanya provided Das' speaking voice in the Tamil classic Kannathil Muthamittal.

Das narrated the children's audiobook series Under the Banyan, and Mahatma Gandhi's autobiography by Charkha Audiobooks The Story of My Experiments with Truth. She has also lent her voice to the children's television series, Wonder Pets as the Bengal Tiger.


In 2008, she completed filming her directorial debut, Firaaq.[6] Firaaq is a work of fiction, based on a thousand true stories and is set a month after the Gujarat riots in 2002. It is an ensemble film that interweaves multiple stories over a 24-hour period, as the characters from different strata of society, grapple with the lingering effects of violence. The film traces the emotional journeys of ordinary people – some who were victims, some perpetrators and some who chose to watch silently. The film's stellar cast includes Naseeruddin Shah, Raghubir Yadav, Paresh Rawal, Deepti Naval, Sanjay Suri, Tisca Chopra, Shahana Goswami and Nawazuddin Siddiqui.

The film won top honours at the Asian Festival of First Films 2008 in Singapore, where it won the awards for "Best Film", "Screenplay / Script", and "Foreign Correspondents Assn. Purple Orchid Award for Best Film".[7][8] The film has also won awards at other international film festivals, including the Special Prize award at the Thessaloniki International Film Festival in Greece, the Special Jury Award at the International Film Festival of Kerala, and the Best Editor award for the film's editor Sreekar Prasad at the Dubai International Film Festival.[9] It was released in India on 20 March 2009.[10] The film also won an award at the Kara Film Festival. Das said that the film "gave a voice to so much that remains silent".[11]

Personal life[edit]

In 2002, Das married Saumya Sen.[12] The couple began Leapfrog, an advertising organisation geared towards making socially conscious ad films.[13] The couple divorced in 2009.[14] After dating Subodh Maskara, an industrialist based out of Mumbai for a couple of months, she married him on 2 January 2010 and moved to Mumbai.[15][16] Das and Maskara had a baby boy named Vihaan on 11 August 2010.[17]


Das gives talks around the world about the impact of her films and the need for powerful social movements in India. She spoke at MIT on 12 April 2007 after a screening of Fire.

She also speaks to campaign for child survival, against AIDS, and violence against women.[18] She was appointed as the chairperson of the Children's Film Society of India in 2009.[19]

Nandita Das wears many hats and her fiery passion to make a difference are evident in the choices she has made in her life and work. She has acted in over 30 feature films in ten different languages with many eminent directors like Mrinal Sen, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Shyam Benegal, Deepa Mehta, Mani Ratnam and others. Firaaq, her directorial debut feature film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2008, and has travelled to over 50 festivals, winning much appreciation from critics and audiences and has won over 10 international awards and 10 within the country. She was a member of the main jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 2005, among other reputed international film festivals. She has done her Masters in Social Work from the University of Delhi and continues to advocate issues of social justice and human rights. She is a passionate volunteer and served as a Guest of honour in prestigious iVolunteer Awards 2012, held in Mumbai.[20]

Recently the French government bestowed the award of Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters, a very prestigious civil award on her. In 2011 Nandita Das was the first Indian to be inducted into the Hall of Fame of the International Women's Forum, Washington DC.

Until recently she was the Chairperson of the Children's Film Society, India.

In 2013, she gave her support to the Dark is Beautiful campaign to draw attention to the unjust effects of skin colour bias in India and celebrate the beauty and diversity of all skin tones.[21]

"Even in the [Indian film] industry when a makeup man or a cinematographer would come and say can you lighten your skin a little, especially when you are playing the middle class educated character," she said in an interview in September 2014.[22]

She spoke at Tufts University on 30 October 2014 on gender in society and cinema.

Awards and honours[edit]

2000 45th Filmfare Awards
2001 Santa Monica Film Festival
  • Won – Best Actress – Bawander
2002 Cairo International Film Festival
  • Won – Best Actress – Amaar Bhuvan
2002 Tamil Nadu State Film Awards
2005 Cannes Film Festival
2006 Nandi Awards
2008 Asian Festival of First Films
  • Won – Best Film – Firaaq
  • Won – Best Screenplay – Firaaq
  • Won – Foreign Correspondents Association Purple Orchid Award for Best Film – Firaaq
2008 Government of France
2009 International Film Festival of Kerala
  • Won – Special Jury Award – Firaaq
2009 Thessaloniki International Film Festival
  • Won – Special Prize (Everyday Life: Transcendence or Reconciliation Award) – Firaaq
  • Nominated – Golden Alexander – Firaaq
2010 Filmfare Awards
2013 2nd South Indian International Movie Awards



Year Title Role Language Notes
1989 Parinati Hindi
1996 Fire Sita English
1998 1947 Earth Shanta, the Ayah Hindi Won, Filmfare Award for Best Female Debut
Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa Nandini Mitra Hindi
Janmadinam Sarasu Malayalam
Biswaprakash Anjali Oriya
1999 Deveeri Deveeri (Akka) Kannada
Rockford Lily Vegas English
Punaradhivasam Malayalam
2000 Hari-Bhari Afsana Hindi
Saanjh Urdu Pakistani film
Bawandar Sanwari Rajasthani Won, Best Actress at Santa Monica Film Festival.
2001 Aks Supriya Verma Hindi
Daughters of the Century Charu Hindi
2002 Aamaar Bhuvan Sakina Bengali Won, Best Actress at Cairo Film Festival.
Won, Zee Cine Award for Best Actress
Kannaki Kannaki Malayalam
Pitaah Paro Hindi
Azhagi Dhanalakshmi Tamil
Kannathil Muthamittal Shyama Tamil Tamil Nadu State Film Award Special Prize
Lal Salaam Rupi(alias Chandrakka) Hindi
2003 Ek Alag Mausam Aparna Verma Hindi
Bas Yun Hi Veda Hindi
Supari Mamta Sikri Urdu
Shubho Mahurat Mallika Sen Bengali
Kagaar: Life on the Edge Aditi Hindi
Ek Din 24 Ghante Sameera Dutta Hindi
2004 Vishwa Thulasi Sita Tamil
2005 Fleeting Beauty Indian woman English
2006 Maati Maay Chandi Marathi
Podokkhep Megha Bengali
Kamli Kamli Telugu Won, Nandi Award for Best Actress (Telugu)
2007 Before the Rains Sajani English
Provoked Radha Dalal English
Naalu Pennungal Kamakshi Malayalam
Paani: A Drop of Life Mira Ben Hindi Short film
2008 Before the Rains Sajani English, Malayalam
Ramchand Pakistani Champa Urdu Pakistani film
2011 I Am Afia Hindi
2012 Neerparavai Esther Tamil Nominated—SIIMA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Nominated—Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress – Tamil


Year Title Language Notes
2008 Firaaq Hindi
Urdu &
Won, Best Film and Best Screenplay at Asian Festival of First Films.
Won, Purple Orchid Award for Best Film at Asian Festival of First Films.
Won, Special Jury Award at International Film Festival of Kerala.
Won, Special Prize at International Thessaloniki Film Festival.
Won, Filmfare Special Award.
Nominated, Golden Alexander at International Thessaloniki Film Festival


  1. ^ "My work has been less visible in India – India Buzz-Entertainment". The Times of India. 23 April 2008. 
  2. ^ "Game for Fame -Nandita Das is first Indian to be inducted into the International Women's Forum Hall of Fame". India Today. 5 November 2011. 
  3. ^ "The Painter's Daughter". Retrieved 30 December 2009. 
  4. ^ "I am still searching for a place to call home". Retrieved 13 August 2013. 
  5. ^ Mendis, Isidore Domnick (23 June 2003). "Independent stardom". Hindu Business Line. Retrieved 20 June 2009. 
  6. ^ Saltz, Rachel (4 June 2009). "The Variety of Life, Real and Imagined, in Movie-Mad India". New York Times. Retrieved 20 June 2009. 
  7. ^ Patrick Frater (10 December 2008). "'Firaaq' scoops Asian fest honors: Indian film picks up multiple awards". Variety. Retrieved 11 December 2008. 
  8. ^ Firaaq wins best film award at Asian Festival of 1st Films. Indiantelevision. 11 December 2008. Retrieved 11 December 2008. 
  9. ^ "PPC's FIRAAQ wins five International Awards". Bollywood Trade News Network. 22 January 2009. Retrieved 1 February 2009. 
  10. ^ Toonsters. "Firaaq :: A Nandita Das Film:: Official Website ::". Retrieved 10 July 2012. 
  11. ^ Nandita Das talks about her directorial debut Firaaq. Radio Sargam. 26 January 2009. 
  12. ^ "Nandita, Saumya remain friends". OneIndia. 2 August 2006. Retrieved 20 June 2009. 
  13. ^ "Her own person". The Hindu (Chennai, India). 19 December 2004. Retrieved 20 June 2009. 
  14. ^ Anand, Utkarsh (24 May 2009). "Actor Nandita Das files for divorce". Yahoo! India News. Retrieved 20 June 2009. [dead link]
  15. ^ "Nandita Das is dating again". 21 November 2009. Retrieved 30 December 2009. 
  16. ^ Jha, Subhash K (6 January 2010). "Nandita Das marries, moves to Mumbai by SUBHASH K JHA". The Times of India. 
  17. ^ Lalwani, Vickey (12 August 2010). "It's a baby boy for Nandita!". Times of India. Retrieved 13 August 2010. 
  18. ^ Gautam, Savitha (27 September 2004). "Ms. Sense". The Hindu (Chennai, India). Retrieved 20 June 2009. 
  19. ^ "Profile of Chairperson". CFSI website. [dead link]
  20. ^ "iVolunteer Awards Celebrates Volunteering by Recognizing Volunteers". Retrieved 15 April 2013. 
  21. ^ India's unfair obsession with fair skin – "The Guardian". 14 August 2013. 
  22. ^ Even within independent cinema there is a kind of populist independent cinema: Nandita Das – "The American Bazaar". 30 September 2014. 

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