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!