To the camera born
Konkona Sen, the promising new face of Mr and Mrs Iyer
Subhash K Jha
With just three films, Konkona Sen is being looked as the most promising new actress in Kolkata.
Her debut in Subrata Sen's Ek Je Aache Kanya (rigorously ripped off from the Hollywood psychothriller Crush) was a resounding success. In her very next film Titli, she was cast by family friend Rituparno Ghosh (Konkona calls him Mama), in an even more challenging role as her own mother, filmmaker Aparna's daughter.
Now in her latest acting pilgrimage, Konkona is all set to be recognised one of India's most accomplished 20-something dramatic actresses in India. Her performance in Aparna Sen's haunting treatise on communal fissures Mr & Mrs Iyer, has fetched Konkona critical praise from all over the world.
Playing a conservative Tamilian Brahmin housewife wasn't easy for the freespirited actress. "My mom made me go to Chennai for two weeks to research for the role. I discovered a lot of interesting details about Tamilian housewives. For instance, they don't wear a mangalsutra, they wear what they call a thaali. I think the most difficult part of playing Mrs Iyer was the baggage. I had to manage a sari, a shawl, bag, high heels and a baby. As soon as I got those things right I immediately became Mrs Iyer.
The whole character and its baggage was alien to me. Imagine carrying all this and trying to look as though I did it every day. And the baby would constantly pull my earrings and smear my bindi. Now, at the end of it I think I am ready to do a Tamil film," laughs the actress who began acting at the of 4.
"It was one of my mother's commercial Bengali films called Indira. They couldn't find a boy to play her son. I also played Shabana Azmi's daughter in my mom's telefilm Picnic."
The highest compliment came from Shabana who, after seeing Mr & Mrs Iyer, complimented Konkona and reminded her of the predicton she had made any years ago that one day Aparna Sen's little girl would become an actress in her right.
Speaking about being directed by her brilliant mother, Konkona says the privilege has its highs and lows. "Because I was an integral part of the unit I was also the person most taken for granted. If things would go wrong, Mom would scream at me. But she would get angry and cool down quickly, so that was okay. If I was scolded, I was also the most pampered one on the sets."
Unlike other star daughters like Twinkle Khanna and Esha Deol , Konkona does not feel burdened by her mother's awesome reputation. "The expectations affect those around me. But I am not pressured into living up to them. I am Aparna Sen's daughter. I accept it completely. The fact that we get along really well is an added incentive."
A young woman of varied interests, including writing (which she inherited from both her parents Aparna Sen and Mukul Sharma, both reputed journalists), Konkona says she is open to acting in films in all languages "from Tamil to Hindi."
But the Indian film in English really interests her. Still, Konkona does not see herself as merely a film actress. "I am working because films that suit my sensibilities are being made more than ever before. I don't think I will be comfortable doing the song-and-dance routine which works so well in Mumbai, and is now being accepted even abroad. I don't think I will be very good at that."
Konkona is also writing a biography of her mother. "I am so scared it will turn out horrible," she laughs nervously. "Writing runs in my blood. My grandfather (Chidanand Dasgupta) and my dad (Mukul Sharma) are both well-known writers."