Interview: Konkona Sen Sharma on Iti Mrinalini - "Maa (Aparna Sen) had planned it very well indeed"

By Shoma A. Chatterji

Calcutta, August 3, 2011 (Washington Bangla Radio) Konkona Sen Sharma is now the mother of four-month-old Harun, and is on a brief sabbatical from films. At the time of this interview on July 12, 2001, she was looking forward to resume work soon and to the world premiere of her new Bengali feature film Iti Mrinalini directed by her mother Aparna Sen. Iti Mrinalini opened on July 29, 2011 in theaters and on the internet.

Still from Iti Mrinalini (Bengali, 2011)
A still from Iti Mrinalini (Bengali, 2011)

You wished to be a director. So how did you become an actress?

I acted as a small child in some films. But it never made me want to become an actress. Subrata Sen, a political correspondent, was looking for a new face for his first film Ek  Je Aachey Kanya (The Girl). Filmmaker-singer-actor Anjan Dutt suggested my name. Sen saw me perform in a play in Delhi. He suggested a screen test. I did the test and faced the camera. The film was a hit both critically and commercially. I portrayed the role of Ria Samaddar, a complicated young girl with a crush on a much older man was more like playing to the gallery. It was a glamorous role with negative shades.

What kind of preparation did you make for your role in Iti Mrinalini?

If Ma (Aparna Sen) is directing, she has her work charted out to the last detail – script-reading sessions, workshops, rehearsals, and the works. She is really a very hard task master and knows how to extract the best out of her cast and crew.


Video: Aparna Sen's new Bengali movie Iti Mrinalini premiere in Kolkata
© WBRi On-Demand Video Broadcast Service

Were you nervous while you were being directed by your mother?

Not at all. In fact, my comfort level with her is very good. You must remember that I have been directed by her in two films earlier – Mr.& Mrs. Iyer and 15, Park Avenue. So, I know how she works. I have also shared screen space with her for my second film Titli directed by Rituparno Ghosh. If I were nervous in her presence or under her directorial wand, I would not be able to act at all.

You have some intimate scenes with Shaheb Bhattacharya in Iti Mrinalini as the younger Mrinalini. How did you perform the scenes as he is a new boy and very young too?

Ma had planned it very well indeed. She had chalked out the camera movements and the choreography of the shots and scenes were so professionally handled that the scenes were okay, no big deal really. Actors get over the initial hesitation soon. That said, I must admit that it is not a pleasant experience at all doing intimate scenes with someone you do not know really well in front of other people. But actors are used to these things and the sooner they are, the better for the scenes and the film per se.

What exactly is your role in Iti Mrinalini?

I play the young Mrinalini who grows up to become a famous actress. She has a brief relationship with Abhijeet, a young Naxalite but the two worlds they belong to drive them apart. Shaheb Bhattacharya, who plays Abhijeet and I underwent a grueling workshop before the shoot so that we knew the script. My mother is very workshop oriented. My mother’s casting me as her younger self where she plays the older Mrinalini was a conscious choice because of the similarities in our body language, appearance and so on. I was very excited because I got the chance to play what my mother used to in films through the 1970s and 1980s. It looks back at the cinema scenario within Bengali cinema over those two decades.

Are you excited about the fact that the film is having its international premiere?

I learnt of it pretty late but it is very good news about Bengali films pushing the borders of geography, culture and language to enter into the world scenario. It means a wider audience in terms of viewership and not just in terms of international film festivals and prestigious awards.


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