On body and soul

Kalyanee Mulay, who was in the city recently, talks about how she fought the stigma associated with nudity while playing the lead character in Nude

Kalyanee Mulay shed her clothes, along with her inhibitions, to portray Yamuna, who becomes a nude art model to support her son’s education in the Marathi film Nude (2018). “It was a psychosomatic experience to say the least. And it took a toll on me — both physically and mentally. Firstly, I had to accept my body in its raw form; only then will I be able to convince others. That’s why I had to do away with the regressive notions,” says Kalyanee, who was in the city to discuss the film as a part of the closing ceremony of Independent Film Festival of Chennai, organised by Thamizh Studio.

Kalyanee was excited and sceptical at the same time, when filmmaker Ravi Jadhav approached her back in 2014, impressed with her play on a similar theme focussing on the female body. “There have been short films and documentaries about nude models, but I couldn’t find a proper feature film about them. In the sense that I was literally clueless about their world,” adds the graduate from National School of Drama.

The premise of the film is about the male gaze and how models in this profession are perceived as objects of desire. For Nude, Ravi interviewed several real-life models in Maharashtra who later became the reference points for Kalyanee and her co-star Chhaya Kadam. In fact, in one of her modelling sessions, Kalyanee says she felt like a “cocoon” because that’s how embarrassed she was.

“A woman who has been a model for over 30 years was at her casual best and said, ‘It’s very hot here. Can you guys switch on the fan?’ Only then did we realise that it was one of the most natural professions.”

Let’s address the elephant in the room: the word nude has a negative connotation in society. What according to Kalyanee defines nudity? “It’s something without any external layer. We need to start looking at things as how they’re in their real form. That’s what art students do; they analyse the anatomical structure, without staring lewdly at the body.”

It’s no secret that actresses have been shamed for taking up subjects that require them to shed their clothes. The recent examples being Radhika Apte and Rajshri Deshpande who came under harsh criticism for intimate scenes in Parched and Sacred Games respectively.

Should an artist be worried about the social implications, if he/she is willing to take up such bold roles? “It didn’t bother me at all. Because, it was something that my work demanded. As long as you don’t demean yourself and compromise on any level, an actor shouldn’t even think about this.”

Nude received mainstream attention after it was dropped from International Film Festival Goa 2017, despite being selected as the opening film. A year after its release, the film changed Kalyanee’s perspective about films, and opened newer doors for her. “It took me the longest time to come out of that zone. I took a three-month sabbatical, after which, I slowly began to realise its impact. A lot of nude models from Maharashtra flocked to the theatres and supported this film.”

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