A Death in the Gunj: A family portrait from behind the scenes

A Death in the Gunj has a new debutante and she’s director Konkona Sen Sharma’s sister. Promila (Lexa) Pradhan tells us how they came to be family!

Written by Anuradha Varma | New Delhi | Published: June 3, 2017 5:40 pm
A Death in the Gunj, A Death in the Gunj movie, Konkona Sen Sharma Promila (sorry, Lexa!) Pradhan found her craziness reflected in writer and columnist Mukul Sharma and his wife Binita Mohanty, also parent and step-parent respectively to filmmaker and actor Konkona Sen Sharma

What makes a father? Someone who, when you tell them that you’d like to change your name to Lexa, inspired by Disney’s gangster princess from The 100, drives you to the court to file an affidavit. Promila (sorry, Lexa!) Pradhan found her craziness reflected in writer and columnist Mukul Sharma and his wife Binita Mohanty, also parent and step-parent respectively to filmmaker and actor Konkona Sen Sharma. They’re now Pro’s parents too, alongside her own biological ones in Sikkim.

Twenty-six-year-old Pro, as she’s known at home, plays a small, but important role in the recently released A Death In The Gunj, which is Konkona’s directorial debut. Like Konkona, she was familiar with the plot, based on a short story by Mukul and inspired by a real life incident. She was surprised, though, when Konkona asked her to play a young girl from a royal family, who is married to Ranvir Shorey’s much older character. Pro, who once participated in Indian Idol, even gets to sing an Assamese number in the film. She was nervous, but it was a lot of fun, though she recalls “feeling grossed out initially playing Ranvir’s wife, since he is (was) sort of my brother-in-law in real life.”

Pro’s life is no less interesting than a film. A series of random choices has led her to where she is, surrounded by what a lot of love and emotional support. “I love it; I feel blessed,” she says. Coming to Delhi at the age of 14, against her parents’ wishes, when the vague idea of working in a call-centre didn’t happen, a common friend from Sikkim suggested she stay with Mukul and Binita at their Gurgaon home. “Binita Mom asked me to finish school, but I was stubborn. I wanted to learn to speak English, besides cooking, which I love. After two years, something happened that made me realise that I needed an education and Momo (Mukul) started home-schooling me. I wasn’t ready to take exams then and I’ve only begun doing that now. I also did a four-year course in graphic and 3D design and freelance with architects and event management companies.” She also honed her cooking skills and has a Facebook page dedicated to her love of cupcakes. As the family contemplates a shift to Goa, she next plans to take up a course in the art of applying make-up. In between long conversations on quantum physics with Mukul, she has also found time to record a Hindi film number, which she now plans to set to video with a friend.

The sheer randomness of her life doesn’t escape Pro, who confesses, “I’m scared of making plans, in case things don’t work out. I have never had a goal. I just go with the flow. Whatever comes to me, I just take it. I don’t want to limit myself.” Her English lessons continue, as she diligently watches the English news on television, read the newspaper in the morning and goes back to re-read books like Catcher in the Rye, the Diary of Anne Frank and her favourite, Calvin & Hobbes. She’s fluent now, but maintains it’s a work in progress.

Pro remembers the moment she realised that she was less a boarder and more a daughter for her new parents, who she earlier addressed as Uncle and Aunty. She remembers going up to Binita and asking, “Can I call you Mom? She said yes.” It was as simple as that. She was around 17-years-old then. There was no need for a legal document or formal adoption, but in a way, they all just adopted each other.

She remains close to her parents in Sikkim, who she speaks to twice a day and visits for a fortnight each year. Her brother and sister, both younger, are married and she has an adorably plump nephew who she calls Buddha.

Pro is also creating ripples in her Sikkim village of Ramabong. Piercing one’s nose, for instance, was restricted to married women, but Pro went ahead and did it anyway. “It marks you as someone’s property and I was determined to break that rule. I don’t care what people think.” Ditto for wearing dresses that are shorter than usual and raise eyebrows. “My mother would insist I accompany her to the temple to pray for good health, but finally, I made her understand that I don’t think like that anymore.”

Wherever life may take her, and whether she goes from being Krishna Kumari as she was called in school to Pro or Lexa, her heart belongs at home with her soul parents. “I can’t imagine life without them,” she signs off.

(The writer is an editorial consultant and co-founder of The Goodwill Project. She tweets @anuvee) Views expressed are personal.

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