Not just an actress, but an activist too, Rajshri Deshpande works for the farmers and the people from the LGBTQ community
From Sacred Games to Fame Game, actress Rajshri Deshpande never fails to win our hearts with her performances. Well appreciated for playing the role of a homosexual police inspector in ‘Fame Game’ is not only an actress but an activist too. She hails from a humble background and having been raised in a family of farmers herself, Rajshri feels for the woes of rural units and is passionate about making villages self-reliant. Other than acting, Rajshri dedicates her time extensively to humanitarian causes. In 2014, after the Nepal earthquake, she worked with an international NGO in one of the villages.
In 2015, she adopted a drought-prone village in the Marathwada region of Maharashtra called Pandhari and single-handedly executed a rainwater harvesting project, built toilets, health care facilities and community motivation camps. Encouraged by success and social participation, she adopted one more village in the region. In 2018, she created the Nabhangan Foundation to broaden her efforts toward sustainable village development and the team just finished building an eco-sensitive school in the same village with facilities like art, craft, library, sports and science for the village kids. During Covid Pandemic Team Nabhangan worked with more than 30 villages and now the whole team is replicating the Pandhari village model of holistic approach and working with all those villages to make them self-reliant. In a conversation with Firstpost, Rajshri talks about the preparation for her role in ‘Fame Game’ where she played the character of a homosexual cop, her journey in the entertainment industry, her work with farmers and more. Excerpts:
Tell us on the preparation for your role in ‘Fame Game’ and what is the research that went behind it?
Along with being an actor I am a social activist too, and have founded an NGO ” Nabhangan Foundation ” five years back, through which I work closely with LGBTQ Community, especially in Mumbai. I know what kind of difficulties, mental trauma they go through especially for acceptance from society, including their families and friends. They face a lot of difficulties in their day-to-day life including earning their livelihood. As I have worked with LGBT community and their families, it was an honour for me to portray them on screen, which was of course very challenging as I had to break the stereotype and create a new world of imagination for my audience, where all my people from LGBT community can live with respect and honour.
When I played the role of Shobha Trivedi, I was asked as to how I embodied her and how I prepared myself for playing a bold character. But I choose to respectfully differ on the perspective here. Honestly, I don’t understand why we label certain characters as bold just because they haven’t been represented enough in mainstream media. Acceptance does not always have to be loud to raise a point. Sometimes to stand out we just need to blend in and fix the binaries of the ‘normal’ that exists in society. That I feel is the key to reclaiming what has been denied to certain communities and creating more equal and safe spaces for every single person.
Changing attitudes towards the people from the LGBTQ community and how cinema can help in accepting them?
In the last ten years, the LGBTQ community has at least been recognised as third gender. Laws and regulations are being formed. I think cinema can do wonders. After Fame Game was released, a lot of people from the LGBTQ community sent messages saying, for the first time, the issue of the LGBTQ community is being handled with honour and dignity instead of demeaning their images. I just hope filmmakers create more such content which portrays the LGBTQ community in a sensitive way rather than misrepresenting them.
On being an activist.
I have been working for many causes for the past many years. I was in Nepal after the earthquake. But then I realised I had to work on sustainable solutions. Because if you are moving around different areas, you are not in charge of the situation and the place. I decided to work on drought because I have grown up seeing farming and want to find a solution to it. I have grown up in Maharashtra where drought is very common. Apart from everything, I feel action is very important. I feel one should work on the ground on the social cause rather than just lecture on it. To date, I have worked in three schools, thirty villages and eight rivers. After working in ‘Sacred Games’, I was working in two villages for almost two years. But after that, the pandemic started. Fortunately, I got to work during the pandemic as well. I have done two independent films and one of them is called ‘My Dog Is Sick’ and I have done two psycho thrillers. I am happy with the way things are moving because now I am getting to play very different characters which are challenging. My journey has been a little difficult because coming from a middle-class family and not knowing anybody in the industry made my job difficult. But the only thing that kept me going was the craft and my love for it. Every single day, I work on my craft and I feel as an actor, you are never on a holiday.