She waits for her cue patiently, mouths her lines softly, fiddling with the camera on her shoulder. Konkona Sensharma is a no-nonsense journo wearing no make-up, blue jeans, blue kurti and a gamchha slung over her shoulders. On the sets of Goutam Ghose’s Shunnyo Onko in Purulia’s Ayodhya Pahar. The scorching sun, the occasional shower and the gruelling schedule can’t stop Koko from slipping into the Floaters of Raka, a feisty journalist.
On a rain-soaked afternoon at one of the hillocks of Purulia’s Ushooldungri — a scenic hilltop about two hours from Purulia — Aparna Sen’s daughter and mother of one-year-old Haroun sat for a quick chat with t2.
You are back in Calcutta with three films this year: Shesher Kobita, Shunnyo Onko and then Goynar Baksho. So is the plan to do more Bengali films now?
Actually, I don’t plan anything consciously but somehow it just happened. For a long time I was ready to do interesting films in Bengali. What I noticed about myself is that I don’t do Bengali films as such, I only do Ma’s (Aparna Sen) films and both 15 Park Avenue and Mr and Mrs Iyer were English films. Only Iti Mrinalini was a Bangla film.
Of course Ritumama (Rituparno Ghosh) asked me to do Dosar and Sunglass and Sunglass didn’t release, jai hok…. Whenever I was asked whether I wanted to do more Bengali films I would always say I am very ready and open whenever there’s a good script. But for some reason good scripts didn’t come my way or I didn’t have the time; mainly they (good scripts) didn’t come. And then suddenly, aami jani na ekta interview te ei kothata bolechhilam (I had said as much in an interview), whether it happened after that or it was just a happy coincidence that two projects (Shesher Kobita and Shunnyo Onko) came my way, which is great because whenever I come to Calcutta, I get to see Ma. I can get Haroun, my baby, here so it works out very well for me.
You play a journalist in Shunnyo Onko…
I play Raka, a reporter. She is somebody who is very tired of, you know, doing page three. She studied at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. She has been doing page three reporting and she is very disillusioned. This is a sequel to Page 3 (she played a lifestyle reporter in the Madhur Bhandarkar film), in terms of my character (laughs); nah, I’m only joking! She wants to do something which is a little more meaningful, where she needs to think a little more and not just about films, because our country is obsessed with films, so she comes here (in the interiors of Purulia) and bonds with the tribals.
Do directors tend to see a journalist in you?
Well, I have played a reporter in only two films in about 20-22 films that I’ve done.
Wake up Sid too…
Yes, Wake up Sid, but there she wanted to be a writer.
And you eventually land up playing the serious journo…
Sheta na, what can I say? It’s not my fault! It’s a limitation of the directors (laughs)! Because I don’t want to only play very serious, good and earnest girls. I want to play different kinds of characters. Ki korbo etai pai, mukhtai erokom mone hoy (I get such roles only, my face is like that, I guess)! (Laughs)
Priyanshu starred opposite Aparna Sen in Iti Mrinalini. How is it having him as a co-star in Shunnyo Onko?
Priyanshu is such a sweetheart, a good person, very sweet. We had no scenes together in Iti Mrinalini but we did workshops together. We’ve met... a good actor and a very nice person.... Here I don’t have any scenes with Priyanka (Bose who plays Priyanshu’s wife in the film). I know her, she lives in Bombay, we have common friends.
You’ve often said you are keen on working with Goutam Ghose…
Yes, that’s because in West Bengal there are so many respected senior directors and I haven’t yet got the opportunity to work with them. That’s why I expressed that wish. Buddhababu (Dasgupta), Goutam Ghose, the seniors... I want to work with all of them.
A lot of new directors are making different kinds of films in Tollywood today. Don’t you want to be a part of those films?
Yes, lots. There are some very good directors. Of course I would be happy to be a part of their films. Ma mentions Srijit (Mukherji), Tony (Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury), Birsa (Dasgupta).... There are so many directors who are doing good films and I am always open for a good script. But I’m not taking on a lot of work. I don’t want to do that because my baby is still very small and so it’s difficult for me to do very long, extensive outdoors.
Shooting in Shillong (for Suman Mukhopadhyay’s Shesher Kobita) was okay because it’s a hill station. Ma was there okhane baby ke niye, so it was quite comfortable. I took Haroun there because it was a three-week schedule. My sister (Kamalini) was there too, so it was like a family holiday.
The Shunnyo Onko schedule here in Purulia seems so hectic; there are no lunch breaks even!
Yes. You know the terrain (referring to the hillocks and the shooting spot which is about a two-hour drive from Purulia town). Plus, it is hot. Koshto korei kichhuta korte hoy (It is quite taxing) but you know when the work is rewarding, it doesn’t matter. Every day we wake up at the crack of dawn, long hours, lack of sleep…. But shooting is hard work, people think it’s glitz and glamour, but I don't think so. It’s hard work. Yesterday, after pack-up, Oona (Anandi, Goutam Ghose’s daughter, who is assisting her father in Shunnyo Onko) came up to me and said, ‘Mone hochhe juddho, na (Feels like a war)’?! (Laughs)
You’ve lost a lot of weight too, is that for this film?
Well, I thought it would be best if I lost my pregnancy weight quickly so that I could get back to shooting.
You’ve just wrapped up Shesher Kobita in Shillong. How was that experience?
I am very happy doing Shesher Kobita. I hope the film turns out to be very good. I have wanted to do a period film for a very long time. I’ve never done a period film, only a section in Iti Mrinalini was there but that was a small portion of the ’70s. Shesher Kobita is set in the 1930s, I think. And I have never done this kind of a romantic role ever. Labanya is such an iconic character, Amar khub Labanya korar lobh chhilo (I had really wanted to play Labanya)!
Are preparations on for Goynar Baksho?
It will start now. Slowly. We haven’t started shooting yet. I feel uncomfortable talking about it. I would rather talk about it after the film is over.
What films have you signed back in Mumbai?
I have just shot for Ananth Mahadevan’s film titled Gaur Hari Dastaan. Gaur Hari Das was a freedom fighter from Orissa. For a long time he didn’t get a tamrapatra, a government certificate. And then he started getting Alzheimer’s. It’s a true life story. It’s a very sad story. I am playing his wife, I’m 60 years old in the film! I took it as a challenge. I told myself ei toh motherhood has aged me, so I better play Ma charitra (laughs)!
I am also doing Ek Thi Daayan, directed by Kanan Iyer. It’s a Vishal Bhardwaj and Ekta Kapoor production. There is Emraan Hashmi, Huma Quereshi... I can’t say what I play in the film. Ek Thi Daayan is based on a short story written by my dad, Mukul Sharma. He and Vishal wrote the script together. I’ve finished a lot of it. I will start shooting for it immediately after I go to Bombay.
Goutam Ghose shot shunnyo onko in purulia’s ayodhya pahar. t2 was there