Monday, October 22, 2007

Making 'Sen'se

Konkona Sen Sharma talks to Sandhya Iyer about her shift towards commercial cinema and what ails it among other things

At a time, when the industry is severely lacking in natural, authentic performers, Konkona Sen Sharma comes as a refreshing exception. Not only has this actress come to be associated with quality cinema, she has also in some measure successfully broken the ‘heroine’ stereotype in Hindi films.
Whether it’s Mr And Mr Iyer, Mixed Doubles, Page 3, Omkara or the recent Metro Konkana has emerged as a fine, thinking performer, if not an entirely exciting actress, in the way Shabana Azmi or Smita Patil were in the 80s. However, she’s also every bit Aparna Sen’s daughter, when you consider her intellectual bent of mind and her disappointment over how very few filmmakers in Hindi films give a thought to what they are making.

After Omkara, which was her first big mainstream film, she’s upbeat about her next, Laaga Chunari Mein Daag, where she plays Rani Mukherjee’s younger sister. Konkona was a last minute replacement for Vidya Balan but the former says she was delighted to bag the part. “I wanted to work so badly with Pradeep Sarkar after Parineeta(a film which I loved, except for the last scene). He gave me a script narration and I thought it was a great role. It’s about a small town girl, who follows her sister to Mumbai, gets acquainted with a whole new life... by the end of it, she evidently comes into her own. Pradeep is actually one director who knows how to make a good film. Everything from plot to script is well thought of …you can tell. He treats his film with a lot of love…so it was an easy choice for me,” says the 29 year-old.After working in a lot of small and medium budget films, a banner like Yash Raj offered a whole new world to the actress. “I am completely spoilt now. Whether it was the production values, make-up, costume, everything was so well-organised,” she says.

She’s not particularly effusive about her co-star Rani (rumour has it, that the actress was quite reclusive all through the shooting of the film) though she maintains, “I told her on the first day we met that I love her as an actress. As for chemistry, well, I think it’s part of our job as actors to look convincing. Doesn’t mean we have behave like sisters and love each other off screen.”

Konkona, who could have continued ruling the roost with alternative films, with meaty parts to boot, seems to have taken a fancy to mainstream Hindi cinema. In the process, does she feel she has been relegated to character roles? “I know what you mean. I accept any role, which excites me as an actress. I know commercial, mainstream cinema is driven by the star system, but for me as an actress, it doesn’t make a difference as long as I get to do what I like. I have not accepted any peripheral roles, all the ones I have done have been substantial. I consider Omkara very memorable, so it was worth it. Again, in Laaga…, I have a lot to do.,” she says.So the inclination towards commercial cinema isn’t with any intention of gaining more visibility as an actress? “Not at all. Right from the beginning of my career, I have had no such aspirations. I have only chosen films which I want to do,” she says firmly.

While Lagaa…is an understandable choice, Aaja Nachle, from its first appearance, looks far too conventional. You wonder aloud only to have her dismisses off the suggestion, “ Not at all, you will be very surprised. Yes, it has fabulous dance sequences and yes, it Madhuri’s (Dixit) comeback film but its sensibility is not at all like a typical mainstream film.”

While her roles in Metro and Page 3 portrayed the life of city-bred women quite realistically---a rarity in our cinema where the heroine’s role is defined only within a specific parameter, does she feel there’s anything changing here really? “I’m not so concerned about projecting the modern woman of today in a film but it concerns me that filmmakers don't think too deeply about anything. Whether it is the script, dialogue, direction or costume, there is absolutely no thought given. When I see some films becoming huge hits and I won’t take names and offend them, I ask myself, ‘how is this even a film!?’ Even if they have to show a house, it is just one large one, without any thought behind it. This kind of generic portrayal puts me off. No one bothers enough about fleshing out their characters, scripts and plot.”

While Laaga...will hopefully find an audience, surely she would have it mind that heroine-centric themes don’t appeal much to the boxoffice. Even a Chak De India, with its woman-oriented subject, needed the strong presence of a male superstar. “ Yes, that is a problem. But I feel Laaga..will appeal. It’s a very emotional film with a fantastic pace. I’m sure the women will love it. I think mainstream cinema is evolving, as the audiences evolve. Both are parallel to each other’s growth and depend on each other,” she says.

Konkona is certainly a break from the regular breed of actresses for whom doing a 'different' character implies slipping out of their jeans into designer saris. More strength to the likes of Miss Sen!


Anonymous Arun said...

Thanks Sandy for publishing my favourite actress's interview.

Thanks again!!

PS: We had a chat about Konkana @ NG Shout Box :-)

October 25, 2007 at 9:46 AM  
Anonymous Arun said...

I saw your Top 10, which is that 2nd movie(Katha)?

Malayalam movie?

October 25, 2007 at 9:48 AM  
Anonymous sandy said...

Yes Arun, I remember you...
Katha is a Hindi film by Sai Paranjpe, starring Naseeruddin Shah, Dipti naval and Farook Sheikh. You must certainly catch this movie, one of the best satires ever made!

October 25, 2007 at 9:58 PM  

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