Mumbai: Actress Rajshri Deshpande is on every one’s newsfeed after her much talked about role in Netflix’s first original Indian series, ‘Sacred Games’. Her nuanced portrayal of Subhadra, the wife of notorious gangster Ganesh Gaitonde (played by Nawazuddin Sidiqqui) earned her instant applause. And a particular love-making scene which required the actress to go topless has become an overnight sensation.
But what fans may not know is that apart from being an actor, Rajshri is also a developmental activist and runs her own NGO to work with marginalized communities such as farmers, women and transpersons.
“I hate the term activist or social worker. It limits people. I don’t do anything extraordinary or special. I only listen to people and by listening I can feel their pain and I naturally just want to help them,” the actress told News18.
Rajashri got her NGO ‘Nabhangan’ registered six months ago. But her involvement in social work dates back all the way to 2008 when she quit her job in advertising.
“That was the time when I started travelling and reading a lot. I did not have that much money and I liked travelling so I took the bus, the train, I stayed in people’s houses, I met a lot of people. Travelling through rural Maharashtra, I realized that villages suffered from various economic and social distresses that could only be understood at the ground level. Coming from a humble background myself, I decided to start working toward uplifting marginalized sections,” Rajshri said.
Rajshri was born to middle-class parents in the small town of Aurangabad near Pune. Though never wanting, the actress remembers having to curtail some luxuries after the 20th of every month so that her family could maintain, feeding, clothing and educating her and her two sisters. Her parents’s roots in farming also gave her an early insight into the woes of farmers in Maharashtra.
The actress’s first major tryst with social work came during the 2015 droughts when she worked on a water harvesting project in a Maharashtra village. Since then, she has worked for several causes at an independent level such as women’s empowerment, sanitation, and transgender rights.
She believes that change begins at home and that to help people, one does not need to travel to villages.
“Oppressed people are all around us. Your maid, your driver, anyone can be a victim of oppression. I try to listen to all the people that I meet and sure enough I find ways to help them if they need it,” the actress said.
Dismissing the negative publicity she received for her topless scene in the Anurag Kashyap directed original series, the actress said that she was unperturbed by the trolling and that she would rather like to focus on the appreciations she has received.
“If you are doing good work and are known for your work, that’s all that matters. I have always done interesting roles and I will continue to look for meaningful work,” the actress said.
The actor, who has also appeared in Angry Indian Goddesses and S Durga apart from several plays in Hindi and Marathi, said that though the fame she has gained through acting has definitely helped her with her social, popularity was just a consequence of her work. But, the actress said she aims to make the best of it.
“I don’t know how much the show’s publicity will help my NGO or my social work as this sort of work is very individualistic and can only bear fruit if one is truly committed to the cause. But if it does, why would I be complaining?”