HER FILM Sexy Durga, an erotic so­cial satire, di­rected by Sanal Ku­mar Sasid­ha­ran, just won at the Rot­ter­dam Film Fes­ti­val, and Ra­jshri Deshpande is on a high. The film ex­plores the threat of vi­o­lence faced by a young cou­ple when they elope in the dead of the night, and Ra­jshri plays the lead Durga in it. The con­tro­ver­sial movie ti­tle refers to the fe­male char­ac­ter and re­flects the col­lec­tive at­ti­tude of the men who pick her up, thus ex­pos­ing the mind set of our so­ci­ety. Speaking on the is­sue, Deshpande, who was last seen in the highly-ac­claimed film, An­gry In­dian God­desses, says, “The word ‘sexy’ in the ti­tle is to com­ment on how men wor­ship women in the form of god­desses on the one hand but bru­talise them on the other. The girl’s name in the film is Durga. But that is sec­ondary. We have tried to show­case the men­tal­ity of the so­ci­ety we live in. Women’s safety and every­thing re­lated to that is rel­e­vant here and that’s what the con­cern should be. It’s quite sad how peo­ple have blown it out of pro­por­tion. There are death threats that have been given, I’ve been called names—in the mid­dle of all this, the main mes­sage is be­ing ig­nored.” It took a lot of ef­fort on Ra­jshri’s part to por­tray the tit­u­lar role, and win­ning The Hivos Tiger Award at the In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val of Rot­ter­dam has truly been over­whelm­ing for her. “I’m glad that Rot­ter­dam has given us this hon­our. Recog­ni­tion only makes you feel like all the hard work has paid off.” But she feels that a lot of work and clean­ing up needs to be done. “At the same time, I sure am glad about how men are open and are com­ing forth to bring th­ese is­sues to light. An­gry In­dian God­desses was made by a man, Sexy Durga is made by a man and it might be a slow change, but the change is def­i­nitely com­ing.” The dar­ing ac­tress is also in­volved in a lot of so­cial work and has adopted a vil­lage in Ma­ha­rash­tra called Pandhri Pim­pal­gaon. She has con­ducted a rain-wa­ter har­vest­ing project there, thus bring­ing back to life the dead river Bem­bla, and solv­ing the prob­lems of the vil­lagers. She also works for an NGO that not only res­cues, but re­ha­bil­i­tates and repa­tri­ates girls from hu­man traf­fick­ing. Help­ing so many peo­ple brings a com­pletely dif­fer­ent joy. Even if I see some­one who needs help on the streets, I will do the best I can to help them. And the world needs more of that. Hu­man con­nec­tion.” Well said, Ra­jshri!

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