It's 2018. Should a female actor who shoots a topless scene be shamed? No. But is she? Of course. Ever since the release of the Netflix India Original series, Sacred Games, Rajshri Deshpande has been on the receiving end of what is the favourite pastime of faceless people behind a keyboard — trolling. Deshpande plays Subhadra, wife of Nawazuddin Siddiqui's character, Ganesh Gaitonde, and since the two are a couple, their physical intimacy too is depicted on screen. She has admitted that taking her blouse off while the camera was rolling was a big deal, but she did it nonetheless.
The scene has now made it to numerous porn sites, and collages of Deshpande are being circulated on social media. In fact, a simple YouTube search for 'Rajshri Deshpande + Sacred Games' throws up a video called 'hot actress with mangalsutra'. It's the first result in the list, by the way.
The actor, who played Lakshmi in Angry Indian Goddesses and the protagonist in S Durga (originally named Sexy Durga), is not surprised at the reactions her work has generated. "Everything goes viral these days, and only for these reasons. It's a phase that'll go away, people will forget. I've moved on," she says. Deshpande, who's been in Rae Bareilly shooting the past few days, hasn't had internet access to watch Sacred Games yet.
She disagrees when we ask if Indians are hypocritical when it comes to sex. "For every hate mail, I'm getting 15-20 appreciative messages. We need to learn to talk to ignore, forgive and forget," she adds. Definitely a 'glass half full' kind of person.
Deshpande is no stranger to trolling though. She's actually faced worse — during S Durga's release, she received death threats and warnings of acid attacks. Ironically, there was no nudity in the film. Back then, she'd filed an FIR. But she doesn't see the point in going to the police because she's being called a porn star, she. "You can't scream on social media all the time. Our society's mindset will not change with a complaint. It's a disease, and you need to work towards it at a ground level, because reel life activism stays only in reel," she says.
And that's not just lip service. She's been adopting villages in interior Maharashtra faster than Angelina Jolie could say Maddox. Over the past five years, Deshpande has implemented rainwater harvesting projects, water irrigation projects, built 200 toilets and worked towards health and sanitation in villages like Pandahri and Mathjalgaon. "It's my responsibility," she says simply. "I was doing this all on my own all these years but I wasn't born with a silver spoon. I need more funds, so I recently registered an NGO called Nabhangan (courtyard of sky). My dream is to build a green school," she says.
In our #Pandhari village Rain water harvesting work has started in full form ... We would like to thank #Navalkishore Sir #auranganadcollector for taking immediate decisions and providing machine for the work. We need you all by our side to keep going forward in this. Do your bit in your own way.. For details, message us or write to us at : firstname.lastname@example.org #maharashtra #farmers #indianfarmers #ngo #villages #nabhanganfoundation #donate #crowdfunding #supportfarmers #nonprofitorganization
Next up, Deshpande will play the iconic writer Ishmat Chugtai in Nandita Das's upcoming directorial, Manto. "People know her as a controversial writer, and as someone who wrote Lihaaf, but she did so much for women's empowerment too," she says.
Image courtesy: Shivaji Sen