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Konkona Sen Sharma, whose directorial debut A Death In The Gunj has opened to glowing reviews but limited screens, believes that making and promoting a niche film is not easy. The actor says while both commercial and independent films are important, alternative cinema has a difficult journey from production to the ticket window.
“It is important that all kind of films are made. Mainstream cinema exists in most large industries and then there is the alternative cinema which does not follow the conventions of the mainstream movies. But when your film is small and does not have A-listers, then you have a limited budget and it becomes hard to release your film. Stars are a part of our emotional psyche but audiences should also support a good indie film which may not have a big star,” Konkona told PTI in an interview.
Vikrant Massey, Gulshan Devaiah, Tilottama Shome, Kalki Koechlin, Om Puri, Tanuja, Ranvir Shorey, Arya Sharma and Jim Sarbh feature in the movie and Konkona says most of the actors took a cut to help the film get made. “I am lucky to have got such a fabulous cast and crew. Veterans like Omji added a certain integrity and value to the movie. Vikrant is amazing in the film. I am grateful to all my actors. They are the ones who came forward and did not charge their market rate to help me make this film. They knew that making such movies is not easy.” It was a bit of a struggle for the actor to get the movie financed but she credits her filmmaker mother, Aparna Sen, for pushing her.
“Once the script was ready, I sat on it because I did not think anyone would spend money on it. But my mother told me to shop the film around. I went to some of the bigger studios and they were kind enough to give me a meeting. They said they liked the script but it was not something they were looking to produce,” she recalls. Konkona finally got Honey Trehan and Abhishek Chaubey onboard as producers. Set in McCluskieganj of 1979, the film, about a family vacation that unravels into a tragedy, is inspired by an anecdote that has been a part of her own family.
The actress, who speaks fondly of McCluskieganj, says people often confuse it as McLeodganj but she always knew that the place would play an important role in her story. “This place is so remote and isolated. There is something eerie and haunting about it. It is a place just preserved in time and looks like time has actually forgotten it. In a sense, the film is also about the end of a way of life.” Konkona’s father Mukul Sharma would often narrate the story at family gatherings, so much so that it became a part of her childhood memories. “I heard this story from my father. He is a very good storyteller and he would really evoke the era for me. The incident kept getting bigger and bigger in my head and I kept fictionalising and dramatising these childhood experiences until it became a full-fledged story.” While she is now keen to act in a good movie before taking up direction again, Konkona hopes that her debut film finds its audience. “I hope enough people go and watch it. I hope it reaches its target audience because such films don’t have a big publicity budget. They really depend on word of mouth.”