September 14, 2021 8:19:19 am
With Mumbai Diaries 26/11, Konkona Sen Sharma returns to the OTT space once again. The actor was earlier seen in the acclaimed Geeli Pucchi, part of a Netflix anthology Ajeeb Dastaans but Mumbai Diaries marks her first web show. She plays Chitra Das, social services director of a government hospital, in the web show based on the 26/11 terror attacks. Despite a storied career, what attracted Konkona to the web space and how tough was it to recreate the horrific attacks? Konkona answers in an interview with indianexpress.com.
Excerpts from the interview:
Your first web-series. What did it take for you to say yes?
When I first read it, I found it hard-hitting, engaging and wonderfully written script. It was like a thriller almost, because these are events unfolding in real time. In the beginning when I first read it, it took me back to the real events. The show concentrates on the lives of hospital staff and what they go through their personal journeys and challenges of working in a government hospital. I thought it was a very well written show, and here it is, my very first web-series. The show is a tribute to frontline workers in true sense.
Recreating a past attack that rocked our world, how difficult was that?
It is tricky, one have to be very respectful and I knew that would be taken care of as Nikkhil Advani was doing it. It was difficult at that time, recreating a realistic subject like this for many reason. Even when you are playing a character, it is the ups and downs that you are depicting, not such extreme circumstances, there is no piece of reference for something like this. Often there were explosions and we were covered in dust and blood, those kind of things were also there and that was difficult in its own way.
Every time a show or a film is made on a topics linked to terrorism, people blame a particular community, a religion. Do you think your show will have a more sensitive approach to it?
That is a mindset that we have to deal with. There is an awareness that we have to work on. Terrorists have their own religion, and terror can come from any religion. The fanatics are a religion unto themselves and it does not reflect on what religion they say they are.
For Mumbai Diaries, that is not what we have taken. Those are not the issues we are dealing with in this show. There is a line in the trailer which says, “a doctor has to look at a body as a body and not as anything else.” As Nikkhil says that in any part of the word, in an ER or hospital nobody is going to ask what your religion or what your caste is. They are going to ask your blood group and what are your allergies.
Today, we are too focused on religious divides, we really need to come together as a country, be more peaceful, be more tolerant.
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But as I said earlier, 26/11 is a backdrop on our show, it is a tribute to frontline workers. We’ve had many shows on 26/11, but not from the perspective of doctors. Thanks to Covid-19 we have seen what the doctors and medical staff has to go through — the attacks on doctors, the lack of PPE kits, the shortages in government hospitals, the kind of healthcare that is not accessible to everybody, it is only the elite who have access to good healthcare. So these are the challenges we have catered to and told stories of these characters in extraordinary circumstances that they aren’t even trained for.
Q) Why do you think we need a pandemic or a tragedy to understand the plight of frontline workers?
The tragedy is that we should not need a pandemic or a terror attack to appreciate our frontline workers. They are everyday heroes. I guess, first of all they need a lot of government support. It is important to prioritise healthcare for all Indians, not just the elite. As citizens we should be aware of what our first responders go through and we all should try to support them as much as possible.
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You pick stories that you tell and you become one with the character that you portray on screen. After 20 years in cinema, has your motivation to do films changed?
I don’t think it has changed. After being around for more than 20 years and doing 50 odd films, it is not that every film you do will turn out to be a great film. It may turn out the other way around. Out of 50, I think 20 might be good or worth watching. I don’t think my criteria has changed that much, I think I try to do work that speaks to me and appeals to me, that I can find a personal connect with. There are always practical aspects like how much they are going to pay and dates and if they will be able to release the show or film, these issues are definitely also there, but I really need to connect to the story and the character that I am playing. It is also important for me to know who is doing the show, and what are they trying to say through it.
In the last 20 years, has it become easier or difficult to find good stories?
It is always a bit easier and a bit difficult. While I won’t say everything is better now, but earlier I had to play nice roles, play women who were always morally upright, had a lot of integrity and always made good decisions. This is not always realistic, women are not always like that, at least all women are not like that.
Lately I had some interesting roles coming my way and it was nice. Like Dolly in Dolly, Kitty aur woh Chamakte Sitare, which was a very unusual depiction of a woman, a wife. She is stealing from her office, she is cheating on her husband, she is not consistently a good mother. In Ajeeb Daastaans, I played someone from the LGBTQ+ community and I am forever grateful to Neeraj Ghaywan to get that role for me. There is Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi and I have done a film with my mother, which is a very hard-hitting film about a rape, and that’s going to Busan Film Festival. So, I am happy that I’ve got some interesting work on my plate, lets see how it goes.
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