In the recently-released 22-minute film, A Monsoon Date, actor and filmmaker Konkona Sensharma plays a transwoman looking for love. One rainy day in Mumbai, her character struggles to make it to a date and reveal the truth about herself. The short film (streaming on Eros) marks her return to the screen after almost three years. During a free-wheeling conversation, Sensharma talks about why she believes in telling stories about the queer community. Excerpts:
What made you pick the role of a transgender woman in the short film A Monsoon Date?
In A Monsoon Date, I got to work with two amazing women — director Tanuja Chandra and writer Gazal Dhaliwal. (Moreover), we don’t see the representation of this section of society (LGBTQ+) in movies. This film is about searching for love and seeking acceptance in love. It is also about the losses we experience along the way. That’s such a universal concept. Regardless of age, caste, gender or sexual orientation, this is something everyone experiences. In movies, we see that happening only to certain people — young, straight, fair and thin people. It’s as if only they can fall in love. One of the basic human impulses is to share ideas and experiences. In that sense, this story reached out to me. I believe, representation is very important.
How did you relate to this story?
This movie gave me an odd sort of courage. I felt that if this person can be courageous in her quest for love, why are the rest of us such cowards? Many of us are scared of rejection and putting ourselves out there. This happens all the time. I see this in myself, and family and friends. The usual refrain is ‘I don’t want to say anything’ or ‘let him message first’.
You have often spoken about how different kinds of stories need to come out. Do you see that happening now?
I have been working in the Mumbai film industry for 15 years and I am often asked this question. Let people find their answer to this. Every year, there are a few good films. But the bulk of movies is not very progressive. Who am I to comment on that? If people want to watch something different, they can seek out that content. Those choices should be available to them.
You seem to have a connection with the Mumbai monsoon. In Wake Up Sid (2009), too, you have scenes in the rain.
It’s awful to shoot in the rain. You are soaking wet through to your underclothes and your hair becomes frizzy. So, it’s the worst experience. It would be most comfortable to shoot in an air-conditioned studio. But what is most comfortable does not necessarily translate into being interesting. Sometimes, in order to push boundaries, you have to step out of your comfort zone.
As a director-actor, are you more selective about your projects today?
All my life I have been told that I’m picky. I don’t think that’s the case. First, it is not like I get a lot of offers. I’m 40 years old and I’m publicly saying that because it’s very important for women to not be scared to say their age. It’s okay for men to age. But it’s not the same for women. In my own way, I am trying to say that it’s okay. I’m fortunate to get interesting roles, often from women (directors) and that’s wonderful. I try to choose what’s most interesting from what I’m offered. Also, what I am and the impression that I may give through my work are not the same thing.
How do you view the expansion of digital media?
For the last decade or so, I have been watching some fantastic international television shows. There is some fabulous web content or the shows that we consume online such as Mad Men, The Killing, Breaking Bad, The Office, The Night Of and The Wire. Of late, some shows are made in India also, although I have not yet come across anything that has blown my mind. However, there is a lot of potential.
Have you been offered any web show you found interesting?
Of late, I have only been offered web-series, either to act in or to direct. Some of them are very interesting and I am seriously considering them. I might direct something and act in something else. The way we consume media has been changing since 1960s-70s. There was radio, then came television, VHS, DVDs and others. Eventually, films are not going to be financially feasible, unless you have a lot of money. Basically, it is important to share certain experiences and express genuine ideas. If we are doing a good job of it through web content, then that’s great.
You have two feature films coming up.
That’s right, and both of them are made by women directors. The last three projects I have worked on are with Tanuja Chandra, Alankrita Shrivastava (Lipstick Under My Burkha in 2016 and the upcoming Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare) and Seema Pahwa (Pind Daan). In fact, I would like to call them just ‘directors’. We refer to them as ‘woman directors’ only to draw attention to them since they are few in number.
Tell us more about your upcoming film Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare.
Alankrita writes very interesting stories about women and she is constantly showing you things on screen that you have not seen earlier. There is a huge gap between the lived life of women and what’s shown in movies. She is filling that gap. There are scenes in Dolly Kitty... that I don’t normally get to see or do. I had a great experience working with her on Lipstick Under My Burkha. In Dolly Kitty..., I also collaborate with Bhumi Pednekar. I recently watched Pind Daan, which is currently in post-production. I cried and laughed while watching it. This is Seema Pahwa’s directorial debut, which she has written as well. So, I’m excited about this movie.
Are we ready to move away from stereotypical depictions of women that we see on screen?
Some people are, while some are not. It depends so much on each individual themselves, whether they are happy to consume the content that’s provided to them. Or, (do they) want to evolve further and raise their voice to say that other kinds of content should also be included. I can’t speak for everyone.