Lucky to have my mom Aparna Sen as mentor, says Konkana Sen

Exclusive Interview: Konkana discusses her unique role, co-stars, and OTT.

Hyderabad: Konkana Sen has received rave reviews for her role in the web series Killer Soup. In an exclusive interview with Deccan Chronicle, the actor talks about the influence of her mother (Aparna Sen) on her life and career.

You've been getting a lot of appreciation for your role in Killer Soup. Did you think it would be a big hit?

I was so excited to do such a crazy, interesting role with Abhishek Chaubey and Manoj Bajpayee and nothing mattered beyond that. People are relating to Swathi and I have got a lot of love. I'm so happy that something that I connected and related to is connecting with a wider audience. As a creative person and an artist, that's the biggest thing.

What kind of preparation went into playing Swathi Shetty, this is very different from all the characters you have played so far.

I think the main thing for me was to be on top of the plot because it's full of unexpected twists and turns. It's so unpredictable. It's so unusual because, with a crime thriller, one has to be on top of the plot—you must know what's happening with everyone. It was a challenge to keep all that in mind because we were never shooting it in sequence. Especially keeping up with Manoj Bajpayee, who's a living legend. He's such an amazing actor, an amazing human being. But we were very lucky because we had a very good crew—the director and the three writers fleshed out the characters, and wrote it in great detail, which helped.

Talking about co-actors, how was it working with Nasser?

I had never worked with Nasser before. We were shooting in Kerala for three months. Nasser sir was the most gentle, unassuming, calm, and beautiful soul. He used to teach me one or two poems for my son. He's so interested in his gardening, in his plans, in his rocks and pebbles. Sayaji Shinde has done so much good work and has an NGO where he is planting trees. I also got to bond with some wonderful actors like Vaishali, Anula, and Kani Kusruti—all such talented, amazing people from theatre and films, hailing from the South. I never had a chance to interact with this kind of world before. And we even played a lot of games on the sets. Whenever it rained, we had to wait. So when the crew would be stressed, all the actors used to be together playing Dumb Charades and Mono Deal. So that was a lovely experience with lovely people.

Tell us about your OTT experience. How different is it from the movies?

Acting-wise, it isn't. You still have to learn your lines, prepare your scenes, and get ready. You have to go in front of the camera and act. But because of the episodic nature of the show, one gets a chance to delve into the characterization because it's a show that is spread over several episodes. Whereas in a film, it's much tighter and it has a limited amount of time and space.

While you have worked in independent films as well as mainstream films, there seems to be a general perception that independent films have given you relatively meatier roles and recognition. Do you agree with this? Why do you think there is this perception about you?

It's not always in our control. It's not like I decided on the film. You have to see which producers and directors approach you. In that sense, a project chooses the actors. I've been really lucky because several films of mine connected to audiences. Be it Page 3, Wake Up Sid, Omkara, Life in a Metro—I've done all kinds of films, it's not like one has given me more than the other. They are all different kinds of projects with different kinds of experiences, drawing different kinds of audiences. Till today, I get so much love for Wake Up Sid. People talk to me about Page 3, so I am lucky like that. There have been some other films like Mr & Mrs Iyer. Some of my Bengali films like Dosar, and 15 Park Avenue, some of the lesser viewed films are very meaningful for me and have their own following and audience, who love that kind of cinema.

You started with Bangla films and subsequently started working in Hindi films. How did you land the role of Madhavi Sharma on Page 3?

I never really wanted to become an actor. I had done a few films because I came from a film family. My mother had cast me in a film, but I always thought I would go and get a proper job in advertising, journalism, or publishing. But because of Mr & Mrs Iyer, the way it connected with people, it reached a lot of people. After I won a National award for Mr & Mrs Iyer, I got a lot of media attention. And Madhur Bhandarkar, who had just finished Chandni Bar with Tabu which I had loved, approached me to do Page 3. I was very happy that such an interesting film came my way. And Page 3 was a big hit at that time. And with that, I got a lot of interesting roles. I got to come to Mumbai and got to know the city better as I was there for a long time working. Then slowly I started doing more films and told myself, I'm an actor now, I guess.

Meenakshi Iyer, Madhavi Sharma, Aisha Banerjee, Noori or Bharti Mandal. Which one of these is closest to your heart and the one you relate to most?

I think the closest to my heart is Meethi from 15 Park Avenue. I played a schizophrenic and my mother directed that film. We have known someone in the family closely who had schizophrenia. It's almost like I was in preparation for that my whole life. The film has a small, but loyal following. Most families have a member dealing with mental health issues, but it's just not talked about. There are many different ways that schizophrenia presents itself. When people tell me they have watched that film or we have a family member like this or we know someone like this, there's an instant bond. I have an understanding of that world, and what it is to have a family member like that. It is a great privilege to be able to connect with people like that.

What is it like to be directed by an actor-mother?

I've been so extraordinarily privileged. Mr & Mrs. Iyer was like a training ground, a film school where I learned a lot from my mother—be it how to approach a character, the detailed look tests we did, the accent, dialect coaching that I underwent, all the workshops, all the script rehearsals, and I was barely 22 when we were shooting it. So wearing a sari, and constantly holding a baby are not things I was used to. But we did very extensive preparation, which was hugely helpful. Also just watching my mother as a single mother living on her terms, successful, accomplished, and successfully doing things, so capable, whether she's acting, dubbing, or the editor of a women's magazine. Watching a working mother like that has been a wonderful template for a young woman growing up to learn everything is possible and can be done. What an example!

How did you foray into this direction?

I never wanted to be a director, either. During the early part of my career, I was busy continuously. I never really got time to reflect, pause and think. When I had my child, it was a natural kind of pause because I was getting less work. So I had more time. There was a little bit of fear about whether I would get work again, which I did. But it was a pause and it was a slow start for me to get back into the groove of things for people to again start offering me work. In my leisure time, I had that time to develop the story of ‘Death in the Gunj’ because it was a story that was very close to my heart. I was obsessed with that character so I could give myself that time creatively to sit with it and develop it. It was very liberating because I could write whatever I wanted. And I forgot about it for a while. Then my mother would keep saying, Go out with the script, try to get funding. Then I send it to producers. Everybody said It was very nice, but nobody was giving me money to make the film. And then, Honey Trehan and Abhishek allowed me to make the film. So it happened very organically.

Do you discuss work with your mom, Aparna Sen?

Yes. In fact, during my first film, I would call her every day with a list of questions. I was making a film about McCluskieganj in the 1970s and where would I get that information from? So I had to reach out to family members, people who lived at that time and have gone through those experiences. Then I would ask my mother about editing, lenses. I'm just extraordinarily lucky to have a mentor like that!

Have you watched South movies? Anything you recently watched and liked?

I watch very few films because somehow I don't get the time. I watched Angamaly Diaries, Kumbalangi, and Great Indian Kitchen only recently and loved them. I have a big list of South films I want to watch.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle )
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