Konkona Sen Sharma: My life changed post ‘Mr and Mrs Iyer’

Konkana Sen Sharma made her acting debut at the age of three while hanging out on a Bengali film set with her mother Aparna Sen.

By: Press Trust of India | Melbourne | Published: May 10, 2014 12:34 pm
"I was looking for jobs in Delhi after doing Mr and Mrs Iyer," said Konkona Sen Sharma. “I was looking for jobs in Delhi after doing Mr and Mrs Iyer,” said Konkona Sen Sharma.

Actress Konkana Sen Sharma, who made her acting debut at the age of three while hanging out on a Bengali film set with her actor-turned-director mother Aparna Sen, says her relationship with films changed after she did ‘Mr and Mrs Iyer’.
Sharing her Bollywood journey with a packed audience at Australia India Institute’s Satyajit Ray memorial lecture, Sen said the movie that got her the National award for best actress gave her a chance to see all the aspects of acting in films.
“I was not sure about acting, so my mother offered this role and she is very good at tricking me. She said, ‘You help me and be my research assistant’. I went to Chennai to research on Iyers which was great fun and experience,” said Sen, who is also attending the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne.

“I was looking for jobs in Delhi after doing ‘Mr and Mrs Iyer’, and then the film won awards and I won the National award and my life changed. Suddenly people were aware that I was acting. And I realised that this is something that I enjoy. My relationship with acting changed a lot,” the 34-year-old actress said.

Sen, whose resume boasts of a number of Bengali, Hindi and English films, describes herself as the champion of the underdog, and said Bengali films were her real children and Hindi films her step children.

Reminiscing her first debut film ‘Indirah’ as a child artist in 1983, Sen said, “They needed a little boy. They did not have a child so they cut my hair and put me in film. That was the inglorious beginning of my acting career.

“I would love to be a boy in a film. We are really disadvantaged. Women don’t get as many roles as men. They don’t get paid as much as they do either. These are the inequalities that most industries have,” she said.

Even after doing two-three Bengali films, Sen said acting was never on her mind as a career option.

“I saw my mother as an actress and I saw her life as an actor and director. It is a hard life particularly when you make unconventional choices for example when you are following your heart. I really never wanted to be an actor,” she said adding she was planning on to career like journalist or a psychologist.

“I studied English Honours but infact I was so shy that in my first year of college I didn’t audition for any plays. While I was in college got offered a mainstream Bengali film, a copy of Hollywood movie ‘Crush’, which was spectacular bad film… My mother asked take the challenge,” Sen said.

The film received many accolades and Sen said it was whole new experience for her.
She also recalled her relation with late filmmaker Rituparno Ghosh, who had directed her in films like ‘Titli’, ‘Dosar’ but she turned down ‘Shubho Mahurat’.

“Nandita Das did that… Such an idiot for not having done that,” Sen said.

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    Sep 6, 2014 at 9:02 am
    KOKO STANDS FOR KONKONA SENSHARMA.BY PRADIP BISWAS, THE INDIAN EXPRESSNEWSPAPERS, INDIAJURY MEMBER INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVALOF INDIAAND FRIBOURG INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL, SWISSCURATOR: ROTTERDAM,PUSAN, FRIBOURG, MOSCOW, TURKEY,IFFK, IFFI, VARNA ETC.Konkona Sen shrama, Koko inshort to me and a few others, her mother Aparna Sen in particular, is first adisciple, like this critic, and a staunch follower of English literature andthen theatre and then world literature. It is the vast domain and rich pasturethat Koko gleams her sustenance from to grow and stay strong where furtherknowledge is the sine qua non. It was in the year 2002 while this critic werving on the Jury of Indian Panoramaand National Awards, IFFI, New Delhi, Koko ran into me at Siri Fort asking about the day'sprogramme and chart of major films worth seeing. As always Koko does not movealone and she told me, with her natural zest, that she had some other friendsand they would like to see the films I would recommend. Since I was busy chatting with my friend filmmakersNabyendu Chatterjee, Girish Kasaravalli, M.S. Sathu and T.V Chandran, on myimmediate reaction I advised Koko to see Girish Kasaravalli's Dweepa, winner of the Golden Lotus,Sumitra Bhave's Vasthupurush and T.VChandran's Dany. However, I do notknow if she really could make it to these Indian films, the best of the lot,but Koko looked positive indicating she would catch up with them.The anecdote I have referred to here ismentioned because I could discover "serious desire" in her eyes forgood films that she seldom misses while in the film festival venue. And it isan indication of her taste and cultural atude she nurtures and translatesinto action. For Koko, the directors like Godard, Angelopoulos, Carlos Saura,Kiarostami and Jafar Panahi, count heavily. Pier Paolo Polini is also herfavourite director and I remembered how myself, Koko, her mother Aparna Sen andSoumitra Chatterjee, the noted actor ran to and fro between two halls ie Nandan and Sisir Mancha during KolkataFilm Festival in 2001. And in the process we rediscovered Polini'srarest film Ill Porcilo (The PigSty), which Mrinal Sen had personally recommended to me years back It isneedless to mention that Koko, among others, was the first to offer reactionthus :"What a metaphorical film, saying a lot of things on fascism andcannibalism in different vein"! I was startled really by her mood ofappreciation; I was pleased to know that she exactly delved into the film andidentified the drift of the metaphor the way it was grafted by the director.For me it was a revelation of a growing girl, yet a student of English literaturebattling her own way to pick things and live by and stand defiant. I knew aboutthe film and read Polini's personal viewpoints about Ill Porcilo which is too elliptical and metaphorical even todaythough carrying a heavy meaning for us.Said Koko: "A good film is the youdon’t forget in life-time". No I was not surprised by her special criticalobservation on art of the film and theatre which she often lands into. Herkeener perception, it seems, has been enhanced by her taste for clic works,revealing art, elegance, social values and humanism in the best manner. How hhe learnt it? Let us hear what she has observed: "I am very much aworkshop kind of person. For my films too, be it Ek Je Aache Kanya or evenMr. & Mrs Iyer, I work-shoppedwith colleagues before getting into the act. I feel rehearsals of yore have nowevolved into workshops which is actually a lot better than going straight intoworkshops which is actually a lot better than going into the act."According to Koko, she did The ChangingRoom, a play, it was all the more meaningful since "the play involveda lot of physical movements and eye contact". She still feels, it is onlybetter if you know your co-actors from weeks instead of doing such project withabsolute strangers. Said she:"Moreever, there's always a thing or two tolearn from your fellow actors. Some of the best people to workshop with RahulBose, Sohag Sen and Nigel Ward. I feel there are some great theatrepersonalities like Ryston Abel, H.Kanhaialal and Rohan Khayyam from who there'sa lot to learn".Koko possesses a quaint penchant forthings having experimental fling to rediscover truth and ideas that stand by usand the society. What this critic finds very interesting in Koko is the"non-conformist" atude, something away from the rut, theconventional escapade found trendy in mainstream culture. She recognizesherself first as an aficionado of theatre and then cinema. Since her actingtalent gets sharpened and honed by her theatre-experience first, she neverboggles to admit it. Said she: "I have always been into theatre. Believeme, some of the good work in theatre happened to me when I was studying at St.Stephens Collegein Delhi. Mycl did put up some great theatre and most of the time I acted in them. Infact, we also put up some public performances. I do remember doing RoystonAbel's Much Ado About Nautankin in Delhi. Much later, when Icame back to Kolkata, I did a play called PinkMary and Asha and …I feel theatretakes a lot out of you but at the end of it there is a sense ofexhilaration".She is so much intelligent in her owncapacity that she easily can discern what is ic or cardboard characterfrom the imaginative, challenging ones. Take her comments for example on li, a film she had acted in directedby Rituparno Ghosh. Said she: "With li'srole I was more at home. I told the director that I was feeling like an as I was hardly acting". On the contrary she liked the sharper variationin the character of Mrs. Iyer in her mother film Mr.& Mrs Iyer.According to her "Mrs. Iyer's role was more of a challenge for itssubles and its formal alienness from me - of speaking English with a Tamilaccent, holding a baby, wearing a sari, a shwal and high heels, apart fromhailing from a different culture altogether and I had to do a lot of researchfor the role".And lo! She won the National award forthe "Best actress" in the same film, affirming her strength and trustreposed in her. Mr & Mrs Iyer is,therefore, a water-shade for Koko as it gave her not only the nationalrecognition but drew for her the international attention too. Said she:"The character of Mrs. Iyer offered me scope for a great deal ofpreparation. I went to Chennai and sta with some people from one of thestrongholds of Mylapore Brahmins and the Tamil families and studied womenthere, how they live and talk, what they wear and so on." It is said shehad also taped some important conversations by the Tamiliansss and then arranged a workshop with Rahul Bose and otheractors. She is rather foursquare in matters of personal perception. Without it,she believes, not much really progresses. Said she: "In films, one has tomaintain the ideny of the character, as a continuity, often during irregularstretches of shooting period, and also the verisimilitude of reality despitethe fact the person you are talking to is often not there beyond the visualframe."Like her mother Aparna Sen, Koko iswell-clued to "feminist causes" and subaltern issues of women, verymuch active in our society, often ruled by patriarchy. In this respect, she homewhat postmodern sensibility and which is good, Not as a polemic, Koko, inher very usual way, as an avid reader of modern literature, likes to debate onmodern and post-modern issue that have stirred up so much heat and controversyin the recent times. In fact, she is not so much vocal about it but at the sametime she is not radically pive either. As Linda Hutcheon, postmodern scholar,prescribes that "postmodern art openly investigates the criticalpossibilities open to art, without denying that its critique is inevitably inthe name of its own contradictory ideology". However, she does not reallydisagree with us when we say postmodernism paradoxically manages to legitimizeculture even as it subverts it. It is this doubtless-ness that avoids thedanger Frederic Jameson sees in the subverting or deconstructing impulperating alone; that is the danger of illusion of critical distance. In filmsto day, we cannot fob off impact of "postmodernism" by any degree oflogic. About modern art of cinema, it is the function of irony in"postmodern discourse" that prevents any possible critical urge toignore or trivialize historical-political questions. As a particular way ofstyle into meaning, she believes, we, as receivers of postmodern art, we areall implicated in the legitimization of our culture.Koko has a different take on"theatre and films". Says she: "For me, whether theatre orfilms, it has to be exciting enough to do it. Which is why I do so much lesswork. In fact, of the new films Imaandar,Ammu and Raat Akeli Hain that I am doing may not be the conventionalheroine but they are certainly important roles with well-etched out characters.I would like to see more that go on a singing binge. Of late, I have watchedquite a few plays at Off-Broadway. I intend watching a few more". On herdirector-mother, she has deep faith and respect the way she structures herfilms and deconstructs it. She has already acknowledged how meticulously hermother tries to express her ideas, prepare her own screenplay and how she can"penetrate into the characters". According to Koko, she has seen manytimes all the films "directed by her" (Aparna Sen)" and thinkseach of her films is marked by a "deep understanding of woman's personalexperiences" and her gradual transformation from the microcosm tomacrocosm.Konkona Sensharma is now doing a filmwith the director of Chandni BarMadhur Bhanadarkar called Page-3where she is enlivening a character of a journalist, discovering how shallowand hypocritical the people she has to deal with around her in reality. On thefilm she has remarked: "The Page-3 cultureis very accessible to a person like me, unlike the Iyer culture. I havn't done that much research; so far it's justbeen going around Mumbai, getting to know local trains, going to newspaperoffices and meeting the people who work there".EMAIL: cinepradip@gmailEmail: pradip_express@yahoo.co