Laxmi of Angry Indian Goddesses, Durga of S Durga, Subhadra of Sacred Games and Ismat of Manto. Actress Rajshri Deshpande is glad people know her on-screen characters more than they know her.
Walking into a room with an audience and hearing murmurs of “Who is she? Oh, she was in Sacred Games” didn’t come as a disappointment to Deshpande at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa last month.
“I am glad that the kind of roles I am doing, nobody recognises me… That’s the success of my characters. That’s what we need to do. We need to create more and more characters from all over the place, where we [actors] are mixed with people. Let’s be one colour,” Deshpande told the panel.
In a tete-a-tete with IANS, a news agency, Deshpande said she is glad people are writing more characters for women.
“More normal characters,” she corrected herself, adding that what makes her feel happier is that topics which people were scared to discuss about are coming out in the open.
“Earlier there used to be such characters. Our cinema was never always about stars. Our cinema was also about Smita Patil and Shabana Azmi, and that’s the reason I believe cinema is cinema. I don’t remember only growing up watching the stars. I saw films like Bhumika and Mandi,” added Deshpande, who comes from a village around Aurangabad.
Her fond memories are of watching socially relevant cinema which was proudly shown by national broadcaster Doordarshan.
“We have grown up watching Bharat Ek Khoj, not Star Wars,” she quipped, adding that Indian cinema just needs a bit of revival at this point.
“We have become a cinema which is about who is wearing what, who goes to which gym, who did what with whom, who married whom and where, who wore what at the wedding… We are more worried about that, and are forgetting the real cinema.”
Nevertheless, she is glad roles with “substance and content” are coming her way. Her upcoming projects include Shonali Bose’s Priyanka Chopra-starrer The Sky Is Pink and psychological horror drama Nirvana Inn with Adil Hussain and Sandhya Mridul.
Deshpande comes from a humble background. She was born to a farmer, and is one of three sisters.
“I have come from that different and difficult background where a girl child is a no-no,” she said, recounting how one of her sisters had once told her, “You will go nowhere”.
What do they say now?
“They don’t know where I am. They don’t know, because a tier-II city won’t still have an Angry Indian Goddesses in the theatre. So what do I do is still a sort of mystery to them. My sisters have seen it, but they feel I should be written about more, my photograph should come in the papers more, I should be seen on TV… They feel why don’t I do a serial… But what to tell them,” Deshpande said, breaking into a laugh.