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|June 9, 2000||
'I can act too'
Shoma A Chatterji
Konkona Sen, or, Koko in short, has just stepped into the world of fantasies and dreams -- cinema. The Bengali media is flush with photo-sessions, interviews and reports of the entry of this 21-year-old from St Stephens College, Delhi, into Bengali cinema in a film called Ek Je Chhilo Kanya (Once There Was A Daughter).
She is in the lead role opposite an actor, who, incidentally, also played the romantic lead opposite her mother. The actor, Sabyasachi Chakravarty, was cast opposite Konkona's mother in at least two films, Shet Patharer Thala and Sandhya Tara. "I guess this is the first time in Bengali cinema that both mother and daughter have been romantically cast opposite the same actor," says Konkona, smiling.
Her mother is none other than the charismatic and beautiful actress-director-editor, Aparna Sen. Konkona, in her final year in English Honours, is the younger daughter of Aparna Sen. Her father, Mukul Sharma, is a journalist. While she has film historian and scholar, Chidananda Dasgupta, for her grandfather from her mother's side.
Therefore, it was but natural for her to toy with several career options. Though she has now opted for films, it is a decision she is still not sure about. This is rather strange when one takes into account the fact that, before the release of her debut film, Konkona has been picked by wizkid Rituparno Ghosh for his next film, Titli.
"I still wish to assist my mother in her next directorial venture. I want to become a journalist, blend gender with cinema and write. I can act too. But I don't exactly know where I stand as of this minute," says Konkona, in her neat little niche-of-a-room in Calcutta's Alipur Park, where her mother resides. Konkona has come for the shoot until college reopens.
Technically speaking, Ek Je Chhilo Kanya is not Konkona's debut film. "I did the role of a little boy when I was just three-and-a-half in Dinen Gupta's film ,Indira. I don't remember much of what I did, except that it was great fun. Then, when I was a little bigger, Ma took me in her telefilm, Picnic. This was followed by the role of the pregnant, teenage stepmother in Dadabhai's (Chidananda Dasgupta) Amodini. I was 16 then and liked the medium."
"Just Words was a blend of two very short films in which I performed. The film was an experiment by a youngster from the US called Moinak Biswas. It was released at Nandan a year ago and that was the end of it. Then I heard that Anjan Dutta suggested my name to Subrata Sen, who is making his directorial debut with Ek Je Chhilo Kanya."
Speaking about her debut film, she says, "Subrata is a political correspondent with The Statesman in Delhi. He had seen me perform in a play there and thought I'd fit the role of an 18-year-old girl obsessed with an older man. He came over to my house and read the script. This happened six months before the shooting began. When I said I liked it, he suggested a screen test. I cleared the test and that's how it all happened."
She prepared for her role through a workshop with her mother's friend, noted theatre personality Sohag Sen. "Ma was there for the workshop too. It was a brief workshop but it helped a great deal, though in an unusual way. You see the girl I play, Ria Samaddar, is very different from the person I really am. Ria is aggressive, manipulative and lacks sophistication. Her reactions are juvenile, not at all like how I react to a particular situation or incident.
"Before the workshop, after having read the script, I felt a strong antagonism towards the character I was portraying. I couldn't accept the 'reality' that this girl was trying to seduce a man old enough to be her father. I was averse to the character of the girl, Ria. I realised my attitude would pose a problem. But the workshop rid me of this prejudice. It helped me distance myself from the character and take an objective stance. I started looking at the character with better understanding and felt empathetic towards her."
In reply to the question on whether her mother influenced her to take on the assignment, Konkona insists it was an independent decision. "Ma heard the script before I did and found it interesting. But she said I was an adult and it was for me to accept or reject the assignment. When Subrata read it to me in Delhi, I felt -- oh, this girl is so different! I thought it would be challenging to take on a character that is diametrically opposite to who I am in real life. This clinched it."
Konkona is positive about being Aparna Sen's daughter. "I don't feel pressurised about comparisons that may arise between our respective performances. In fact, I think it's great that people are expecting a lot from me. The very idea that being my mother's daughter and debuting in films would lead to comparisons did not occur to me at all. It is the media that put this into my head. But I like it. I really do."
How does she react to her mother as an actress? "I haven't seen too many of her films including her debut film, Satyajit Ray's Samapti. In any case, I haven't seen any outstanding performance of hers that I can offhand comment on. But, as a director, she is just great. She helped a great deal by being on the sets every day of the shoot. Without inhibiting the director or interfering with his work, she managed to interact with me between takes but without dictating things to me."
Among directors, Konkona ticks off international legends like Bergman and Truffaut. She does not care much for Uttam Kumar, emphasising the generation gap in audience taste over the years. "I used to like Woody Allen and Alfred Hitchcock too, but feel that some of their films are rather dated."
Konkona is now in the US for her summer vacation until she returns to Delhi and until Rituparno asks her dates for Titli. Does she feel she would have captured so much of the limelight had she not been who she is -- Aparna Sen's daughter? "Absolutely not," she says, and we end on that emphatic note.
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