KONKONA SEN SHARMA
Interview By: ANKITA R. KANABAR
One of the finest actresses we have today, who made arthouse films popular, at a time when they weren’t so popular. Konkona Sen Sharma continues to be gutsy in her choices which comes from her passion towards cinema and interesting stories. The extremely articulate actor-turned-director speaks to us about her latest short film – ‘A Monsoon Date’ where she plays a trans-gender person, amidst more. Excerpts:
Ghazal Dhaliwal (writer) was mentioning that you shot the film in two days, and it was possible with an efficient, well prepared actor like you. So what was your prep like?
It had nothing to do with me I feel. It was a short film and that was the schedule made. But, she’s been kind to say so. The best part of the film was to meet Tanuja Chandra and Ghazal because they’re such wonderful, talented, amazing women. Ghazal herself is a transgender person, her story is so inspirational and I love the fact that she tells it and she tells it with so much pride. It’s so wonderful to have this story amongst us. Not too many people talk about this stuff , it’s under the carpet and it’s so empowering for so many people, who hear her interviews or see her talk about it. I feel she had a handle on the subject and she handled it with a lot of authenticity because it comes from self-knowledge as well. I had a lot of sessions with her separately, apart from my workshops with Tanuja, to understand what my character would have been through – to be born as a boy and then to become a woman. Because that’s not a journey which is familiar to me. That she really helped me with. So, that happened mainly through conversations and imagining what it would have been like. But the thing is, we’re all people and this film is about love, longing for love and the loss we encounter along the way. Most films are about love, but we only see a particular kind of person falling in love and their story being portrayed. Usually, these people who are shown, are young, heterosexual, thin, fair. Usually, we don’t see transgender people, or fair people, or very dark people falling in love – which is the same but we just don’t see that process in our movies. The thing is, love is such a universal thing that it doesn’t matter if you’re male or female or rich or poor or gay or straight. It’s such a basic human impulse so it doesn’t matter whether you’re transgender or not but, it gave me a whole different perspective. Most of us are so scared to put ourselves out there – will we be accepted, will we be rejected? Or will we be loved for who we are! Imagine, I’m scared and then you think about this transgender person and what she’s seeking. Will she be accepted as a woman? I just found that so brave, so liberating for me. We are so scared in our own world, but then you also come across this reality.
At this point, is it easier to pick a role like this, because of your widened horizon through experiences and various roles which makes you feel these different perspectives?
I think it’s both. It’s also the person that I am which also attracts these roles and I think these roles in turn, especially if they’re handled sensitively. I’ve played a schizophrenic and many more – so they do widen your horizon a lot but not just films, it’s books! Books enable you to inhabit another person’s world and mind with ease and that has really helped me. It’s really healthy to get out of your own head and imagine yourself in another person’s world. It gives you a different perspective, freedom and compassion.
Do you really look back or kind of introspect on your journey or choices?
I don’t because that’s kind of done! I really go by the flow on things. I never planned to be an actor or a director. So, I don’t really look back because I have a certain image also which is really removed from who I am as a person. It’s nothing to do with me. There are certain labels which are used which are irrelevant to who I am. People see me with a certain amount of integrity which I don’t think I have. So, I just really look ahead. I don’t introspect a lot on these things.
What is it that’s a drastic change from the image you have?
I’m told that I’m very simple, which I don’t think I am. I’m quite complex. I’m told that I have a lot of integrity which I don’t think I can really match up to, all the time. I’m told that I’m morally upright but I feel like my world is
fairly, morally ambiguous. Those are some of the ways I’m different. People can think of me whatever they want, that doesn’t matter to me and I’m not exactly like what they think of me.
I thought that in many ways, ‘Wake Up Sid’ became what it was, because of you. So, when such significant characters are written for you, and given to you, is that the most satisfying?
The credit for that, definitely goes to Ayan because he wrote a character like that. And it’s actually frightening. I feel like I can’t do it before most films. ‘Omkara’ was one case in point. I was like, no I can’t do it. The other one was ‘Pind daan’. I was thinking of excuses to get out of it, because I’m scared I won’t be able to do it.
So, then, what is it that is creatively satisfying for you?
That’s an interesting question. Also, I don’t think I’m looking for satisfaction. I’m thinking now as we speak that I don’t think I’m necessarily looking for satisfaction but I find myself very often pushing boundaries. I find it very satisfying when I can be immersed in something. I love it when I’m so immersed in a film set that I forget everything else. It’s just the people who are around me. Even right now, that’s something I take pleasure in – that’s living in the moment right now. Right now, it’s just this conversation that I’m immersed in right now. Luckily I don’t have a crisis to deal with, otherwise that also happens. But it’s great when those things happen. When you’re on a film set, you’re completely immersed in the atmosphere, you’re in tune to what’s happening, you’ve adjusted to the rhythm of the set. I really enjoy that.
How much have you enjoyed being a director?
When you inhabit a character as an actor, you lend them your body. There’s no external instrument, it’s your own body! It’s not even your own completely when you’re being a character. It’s very liberating to be a director because you can just wipe your sweat if you need to, or wear another layer if you’re feeling cold – you can use your body as your own whereas, you’re in hair-make-up, wardrobe as an actor.
You seem happy in your zone though – with the kind of cinema you do!
I’m extremely proud and happy to be slotted into art-house and indie – that’s me! In my whole career of the last fifteen years, I’ve mainly not done mainstream films. I’ve done all kinds of films so I never had the burden which a mainstream actor would have, hence I could experiment and do the work I wanted. What’s interesting is, ‘Wake Up Sid’ is a commercial film for me, but it’s one of Dharma’s more arthouse films compared to their other films. One person’s arthouse is another person’s commercial.
What are the kind of stories you’re usually drawn towards?
I like intimate stories, more than epic stories of war, fantasies. Sometimes they’re done well, but I’m more interested in small, intimate stories of people and people who are going through some kind of change or transition.