Five Films That Prove How Phenomenal Actor Nandita Das Is

Nandita Das, who has worked with phenomenal directors like Shyam Benegal and Mrinal Sen was recognized as an actor who broke boundaries.

Sanjana Deshpande
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Actor, writer, director, Nandita Das has added all these feathers to her hat. Although she debuted with Prakshan Jha’s film Parinati; she received popularity after Deepa Mehta’s film Fire, of her Elements trilogy, was released. Born to painter and writer couple Jatin and Varsha Das, Nandita has worked with phenomenal directors like Shyam Benegal and Mrinal Sen. Nandita came out with her first feature film in the year 2008 with her film Firaaq—a film based on the 2002 Gujarat riots and later filmed a feature film on Sadat Hassan Manto titled Manto which was appreciated by critics and audiences alike (2018).

In her 35-year-long career, she’s acted in over 40 feature films in ten different languages including Bengali and English, Das was recognised as an actor who broke boundaries. The actor has received awards at coveted film festivals for her acting and direction. She was awarded Chatrapati V Shantaram Award in 2006 for her performance in Chitra Palekar’s film Maati Maay (Marathi). Apart from making and acting in films, Das has actively partaken in the social work sphere; was the face of a campaign against the discriminatory practices of society based on skin colour.

The writer-director—who is currently filming her latest—has amassed appreciation for her acting and it would be a pleasure to have her back in front of the camera.

Here's our selection of the five best films of Nandita Das.


The Deepa Mehta directorial created an uproar in the Indian society when it first released in 1996. Fire was the first mainstream film that depicted homosexuality as it explored the relationship between sisters-in-law Radha (Shabana Azmi) and Sita (Nandita Das). Das’s Sita is a free-spirited woman who refuses to be subservient. It is believed that the film is loosely based on author Ismat Chughtai’s popular short story Lihaaf (The Quilt) which explores a lesbian relationship. The film started a conversation around the rights of the queer community in India. Although the film faced a backlash after its commercial release, it received accolades at many international film festivals.



Deepa Mehta’s Earth was the second instalment of her Elements trilogy based on author Bapsi Sidhwa’s book Cracking India. The film follows the story of three friends—Shanta, Dil Nawaz and Hassan—and how their relationship cracks as India is partitioned into two nations. Nandita Das was awarded by Filmfare for her performance as Shanta in the film and so was Rahul Khanna for playing Hassan. The film was also nominated for Academy Award in the ‘Best Foreign Film’ category.

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Directed by Indo-American director Jagmohan Mudhra, the film Bawandar follows the story of a rape survivor. Nandita Das essayed the role of Saanvri, the survivor, who continually fights for justice with the corrupt judiciary, unbothered police officials. Her gripping performance as Saanvri in the film was lauded with an award at the Santa Monica Film Festival. The film features Deepti Naval, Raghuvir Yadav, Rahul Khanna and Yashpal Sharma alongside Das. The film was based on an activist from Rajasthan, Bhanwari Devi who is a rape survivor.


Khamosh Adalat Jaari Hai

The Hindi adaptation of playwright Vijay Tendulkar’s play Shantata. Court Chalu Aahe, the film follows a mock trial during a rehearsal of a play that escalates into a gripping drama about gender issues, desire, control and power. Nandita as Leela Benare in the film symbolises the women struggling to get an equal footing in society. Directed by Ritesh Menon, the film also stars Saurabh Shukla, Swanand Kirkire, Rajeev Siddhartha and Pravina Bhagwat Deshpande.

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I Am

The Onir directorial is an anthology film that features four stories discussing social issues like child abuse, gay rights, Kashmiri Pandits and sperm donation and are based on real stories. Nandita Das features in the first film titled Afia. Das’s Afia opts to become a mother through sperm donation after her husband separates from her. When the film was first released, Das was praised by critics for her performance. The film was nominated for many accolades at film festivals and even won a National Award for best film in Hindi.

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