So it was when she landed in Kolkata last Sunday. Armed ecstatically as she was with her 4 Filmfare awards for Firaaq, the city greeted her with open-armed ovation.
"The last film I shot in Kolkata was Paddakhep (Footsteps) with Soumitra Chatterjee," she says from the sets of Onir's Afia. "We're now shooting all over the city."
Nandita is naturally overjoyed with the Filmfare awards for Firaaq. "To be honest I was surprised to find Firaaq's nomination in so many categories. It shows that even the popular space is acknowledging a film like Firaaq that tends to be slotted as a niche film. But getting 4 awards for costume, sound, editing and finally the Critic's Choice Award for the best film of the year! It sure was a surprise."
This was the first time Filmfare award function that Nandita attended. And she's impressed. "I had gone expecting nothing, had come to see the much talked- about spectacle, which is sure was."
Nandita feels Firaaq which was clumsily released would now get a new lease of life. "These awards are a big help to a film that was so badly released and so many people just didn't get to see it. They create a curiosity in people's mind. I met so many people from the fraternity who said the first DVD they were going to get is that of Firaaq!"
The impact of Firaaq has stunned Nandita. "What matters to me is that people see the film as a story I keenly wanted to tell and wanted it to reach the audiences. Thankfully a film's shelf life is much longer than a release. All those who have seen it, friends and strangers have championed the film and I am so grateful for that. I am really thankful to Filmfare and the critics who are known to be difficult to please, for helping spread Firaaq."
Nandita is now looking at directing another film. "Having won about 10 awards each internationally and in India, and getting an overwhelming reaction from those who have seen it, it is time I start my next project. I have begun thinking of a story, although the journey of bringing it to life is long."
In the meanwhile, there's Onir's Afia where she plays a wife desperate to be a mother. Nandita has done her own research on sperm banks before plunging into the part.
"I did a bit of homework on the net and had a long chat with Onir who has done extensive research on the net...But it's more about the space to make your own choice. And that's a universal desire!"
After winning multiple Filmfare awards for her directorial debut, it was a grand homecoming of sorts for Nandita Das in Kolkata which is not really her hometown. Nandita is an Oriya by parentage but because of the number of films she has done in Bengali she's often mistaken for a Bengali.