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Acting on impulse

Konkona Sen Sharma is always facing the test between being liked and being good. And she never fails to come across as the finest performer of her generation, says Soma Basu

Konkona and Ranvir are married and live with their son, Munna, in the heart of Brooklyn. She falls in love with another married man and leaves her sheltered life to follow her heart within the realm of values that she holds sacred. We are talking about an eight-minute film, How can it be?, a segment of the movie 8 by LDM production (France) which brought together eight filmmakers ~ Gael Garcia Bernal (Iceland), Jane Campion (Australia), Jan Kounen (Peru), Mira Nair (New York), Gaspar Noe (Burkina Faso), Gus Van Sant (San Francisco), Abederrahmane Sissako (Ethiopia) and Wim Wenders (Germany) ~ to share their vision on the challenges of the Millennium Development Goals. 8 is not a commissioned film but one that is independent of all institutions. Each director was given carte blanche. Konkona plays the role of Zainab and Ranvir becomes Arif in the film on gender equality which is based on a true story. All the eight movies can be watched on the website for free.
One wonders why there is such a hullabaloo over Konkona appearing in a play, I would rather ask, what is so unusual about it? No, The Blue Mug staged recently in Kolkata was not her debut effort. After all, it is theatre that had touched her the most in her formative years. Though there was nothing much to do in The Blue Mug in which she plays the role of a neurologist, it was a treat watching her on stage because of the respect she has earned with films like Mr and Mrs Iyer, Page 3, 15 Park Avenue, Dosar, Life in a… Metro, Luck by Chance, Wake up Sid and her next effort, Iti Mrinalini, to name a few.
Drawing inspiration from neurologist Oliver Sacks’ book The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat, the play was all about memories of four different characters, each based on the respective actors’ real-life reminiscences. While the four characters recount their memories, a neurologist, played by Konkana, and her patient Ranvir suffering from memory loss intersperse at different stages. The play also featured Vinay Pathak, Rajat Kapoor, Sheeba Chaddha and Munish Bharadwaj.
Making her debut as a child artiste in the film Indira (1983), Konkona started her career as an adult with the Bengali thriller Ek Je Aachhe Kanya (2000). Since then she has worked with some of the best directors in the industry: Rituporno Ghosh, Aparna Sen, Vishal Bharadwaj, Madhur Bhandarkar and Anurag Basu. Having bagged two National Awards for her acting prowess, Konkona shows that she is beyond competition. “When Konkona comes in front of the camera, there is an explosion. Such is her screen presence,” says Aparna Sen and we all agree that the comment is not out of the ace director’s motherly love but Konkona’s talent.
She first gained attention with the English film Mr. and Mrs. Iyer (2002), which was directed by Aparna Sen, and received the National Film Award for Best Actress for her performance. Since then she has starred in a number of films, most of which have showered her with critical praise rather than commercial success. She won two consecutive Filmfare Best Supporting Actress Awards for her performances in Omkara and Life in a… Metro respectively. Her performance in the former won her a second National Award under the Best Supporting Actress category.
Konkona talks about theatre, movies and beyond…

You have come back to stage after a long time?
In school we could take part in theatre competitions organised by the British Council. After the degree exams, I was closely involved with the Odeon Theatre Festival and also got exposed to commercial theatre. But after I started acting in films theatre just took a backseat. Ranvir and I were the most recent members to join the play. I had not done a play for a long time (four to five years) and I wanted to do it for a while. So, when I saw Atul and Sheeba in Delhi, I wanted to join them. I am glad that Atul offered me a role in the play. I have been working with the team from July last year. I have a great rapport with the rest of the cast and have really enjoyed working with them.

There is this conception that if you are from theatre it is easier to adjust to the film industry.
I don’t think so. Both are different mediums and one can’t prepare you for the other.

And about being a star child?
No matter whose son or daughter you are, you have to prove yourself in the industry. You may find easy entry because of their parents’ names but if people don’t like your performance you cannot carry on.

You are lending your voice to one of the songs in Sunglass? Why is its release getting delayed and what is the movie about?
No. I don’t know why people are saying this. This is something I would call irresponsible journalism! And regarding the delay in releasing Sunglass… (sighs) these sort of movies, I mean which are different, do get delayed.
It is the story of a woman who has this interesting pair of sunglasses. Whenever she wears them, she can read what other people are thinking. It is actually very funny because she reacts even when the other person is just thinking. You will have to watch it to believe it. I had real fun doing it. (The Hindi version of Sunglass is expected to release by the end of August or early September)

You are acting with Govinda in Aparna Sen’s next movie Goynar Baksho and Madhavan in a movie on recession?
About Goynar baksho nothing has been finalised. And there were plans of a movie on recession but it was cancelled and Iti Mrinalini substituted it.

How it is with you and Aparna Sen playing the same character in Iti Mrinalini?
It is always fun working with Ma. And especially Iti Mrinalini is a period film ~ from ’70s and ’80s… my mother’s era. So, she could tell a lot about it. Iti Mrinalini is a bilingual film. I play my mother’s younger version, an actor, which is her reality. We have worked hard on the look of the character. Also, Ma is quite a tough director. But she is also affectionate and warm. She has lots of energy. She’s extremely creative and totally committed to her work. And she looks forward to the same commitment from the actor.

Out of all the characters you have played so far, which is your favourite?
Among all the characters I have played so far Mithi in 15 Park Avenue is my favourite. I believed in the character. It was an original idea and very few people take risks to work on such a subject. It was indeed a rare opportunity.

Aparna Sen’s movie The Japanese Wife released on 9 April.
It’s a wonderful movie. If you have a heart, you would like the film. Initially, I wasn’t sure whether Rahul would be able to transform himself into Snehamoy. I think this is Rahul’s best film. This is a very poignant, sweet and sad love story. It’s very unusual. We don’t usually get to see such a film.

Soma Basu

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