Konkona Sen Sharma has been a part of both commercial and offbeat films. But even her choice of mainstream movies has been dark and a slice of life — Page 3, Wake Up Sid, Omkara, Life in A Metro, Luck By Chance, Ek Thi Dayaan, Talvar and last year’s Akira, to name a few. While her performance in all of them has remained as varied as one can imagine, she loves staying behind the camera. Konkona is wearing the director’s hat for the first time with her upcoming film A Death In The Gunj, and she calls the experience ‘liberating’.
We sat down to have an exclusive chat with Konkona Sen Sharma, and realised she doesn’t mind keeping away from the arch lights as it gives her a sense of freedom. Here are the excerpts from all that Konkona spoke to indianexpress.com.
From acting to direction, didn’t you miss being in front of the camera?
Not at all! It is so liberating to not being in front of the camera. While I was acting, I used to look at the ADs and all with envy, they used to wipe their sweat off or they have their headphones, whatever it is, they were being their own person, their body is their own. And, when I am on the set as an actor, my body belongs to my character, its not my own. So, it (being a director) was great. I could wear what I wanted and do my hair like I wanted. It was amazing. It was very liberating.
So why did you chose A Death In The Gunj to turn a director?
I wasn’t looking to direct a film but this is a story I have been familiar since I was a kid. My parents used to own a house in McCluskieganj and we would often drive down from Calcutta there for holidays. One would hear a lot of family anecdotes and I would hear these stories. But some stories had that haunting or a chilling quality to them. It is a quiet, remote corner of the world. This is 1979 McCluskieganj. So one of the stories, which I personally found fascinating and chilling stayed with me. And, one day I was thinking for the first time that this could be a movie.
A Death In The Gunj has an ensemble cast including Kalki Koechlin, Ranvir Shorey, Tillotama Shome, Vikrant Massey, Gulshan Devaiah, Jim Sarbh, Om Puri and Tanuja.
How did you manage the actors, considering most of them are her real life friends?
Managing this lot? Oh my God, I had nine of them and I used to run away. Because even after the shoot, they would be hanging and partying and I was just like I have work to do. And, they had so much energy. Many of them knew each other from before and they were like this ruckus band of people. They are like an intimidating lot of people and I would just stay away. That was my strategy.
So were you a tough taskmaster or did you gave your actors liberty to perform?
I was very clear about how I want some things to be. But within that they really owned those parts. I felt like I really knew the characters and then my actors made them their own, such a talented bunch of people.
Why didn’t you think of casting any big name in your film?
It did not occur to me to take a Khan or Kapoor. I don’t think I really need one of them. I wanted to take people whom I thought would fit the bill. Vikrant was one of the first people I knew I wanted as a protagonist. Even Ranvir Shorey, I had him in mind when I was writing and Tillotama also, who is a friend.
And how was it working with late Om Puri, considering it is one of his last films?
I was blessed to have him. It takes you to another level and people take you seriously. ‘Ok so the film has Om ji, it must be something decent’. He made us laugh. He was constantly making fun of me, copying me, how I walked… So its so much more than the film.
And how happy you are that finally your film Lipstick Under My Burkha is releasing?
I am really excited. I never expected that it would run into this kind of a controversy. It is winning people’s hearts all over the world, it won awards and it was so sad that in its own country it couldn’t. Finally it’s got an adult certificate. Though it makes no sense. You are telling an adult what to watch. Its so silly. They (CBFC) should just say that it’s an adult film and just stay out of it.
So why should the audience watch A Death In The Gunj?
I wish people watched all kinds of films because if we don’t support all different kinds of content, we won’t get different kinds of content and we’ll just get that same homogeneous kind of product. It is such a struggle anyway, to make something that may be a little different, or doesn’t have a star.
A Death In The Gunj’s world premiere happened at the Toronto International Film Festival last year. It was also screened at the South Asian International Film Festival in US, the Busan International Film Festival and was chosen as the Opening Film for the Mumbai Film Festival in 2016. Konkona also received the ‘Best India Female Filmmaker 2016 Award’ there. The film is set to release in India on June 2.