Konkona Sen Sharma: Stories are made of fact, fiction and memory

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Konkona SensharmaStorytelling is a craft that has to be honed bit by bit. When we read a story that captures our imagination we can visualise it in our head. We create an image of the protagonist. Visuals have a way of becoming rigid and freezing. So very often when I see a movie that is based on a book that I have read, I am often disappointed.  What I seen the movie does not match the images in my head. Does anyone ever get to create movies that matches their imagination?  If you are Konkona Sen Sharma, you do get to turn a story into a movie.

I caught up with her after watching the film A Death In The Gunj. The debut film always has a special place for every director. In a freewheeling conversation I talked to her about how the story grew in her mind, how she crafts characters, her attention to details etcKonkona Sensharma

Fact, fiction and memory = Stories

I heard these stories from the time I was seven or eight years old. My parents used to drive down to McCluskiegunj (Gunj for short). In the late seventies, they used to make almost 2-3 trips a year to the Gunj. I have heard those stories again and again. So the place grew bigger and bigger in my mind. It is so isolated and maybe that is why it has so much atmosphere. When a loved one tells you a story, it gets imbued with emotion.

A Death … was born out of a combination of fact, fiction and memory. Dad’s stories always have a hook. This is no different. When my house in Mumbai was getting done up, I went and stayed with him for some time. That is when the story really grew when I heard him narrate it again and again.

On crafting characters

The characters effortlesslKonkona Sensharmay move in and out of Bengali, Hindi and English. I find myself speaking many languages on any given day. Om Puri plays Col. Bakshi an Army officer who has married a Bengali lady Anupama (Tanuja). Nandu must have followed his dad around on all these postings. He must have studied in Kendriya Vidyalayas and may not have spent as much time in Kolkata. His Bengali is not as good as his wife Bonnie’s. So the family switches between multiple languages. It is quite common to see this in many families in India.

All the characters are composite. There are little bits and pieces of many people I know that has gone into crafting the charcters. But of all the characters, I feel the most like Shutu – though I was never bullied as much. Ranvir Shorey’s character Vikram who bullies Shutu incessantly is good intentioned but callous. Sometimes we are all guilty of doing that.

Attention to details

Konkona SensharmaWhen you are writing the screenplay, you can convey many nuances about the characters. For example, the contrast between the two sisters Col Bakshi’s wife Anupama and her sister ie Shutu’s mother is brought out at many levels. Shutu’s mother remains off screen. She lives in Bardhaman (a small town about a hundred kilometers from Kolkata). And she possibly is not very well off. She writes an Inland letter to her sister.

Tanuja, who plays, Col Bakshi’s wife is using customized stationery. She tucks in Rs200 into the letter. The handwriting in Tanuja’s letter belongs to Sirsha Ray, the Cinematographer of the film. His handwriting is so beautiful that I had to get him to write that letter! The handwriting in the letter Shutu’s mother send belongs to an aunt of mine Dolon.

Here’s more power to the new storyteller of Indian cinema. I will never forget that line stories are made of fact, fiction and memory.


Photos courtesy Konkona

Read my review of A Death In The Gunj

Join me on Twitter @AbhijitBhaduri

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Comments

  1. Pradeep Joshi says:

    Wonderful description of the ” process” .. one has to be a great storyteller to bring out such work. Your interview brings out details that make watching this movie ” a must”. I always liked Konkana’s acting ..she brings life to the characters and it appears that she is ” her”.. be it Mr and Mrs Iyer or page3 or many others she acted in. Even a great actor can’t bring out such performances unless s/he is naturally sensitive and believer him/herself.

  2. Best of Konkona Sen Sharma:. Nice

  3. This article is both informative and entertaining to anyone who really understands what is being said here. Very interesting info, I blog and I was just explaining recently on how to use storytelling to sell products.

  4. I have an eCommerce store but sales have been far between. So, I employed a method. I created a blog and use storytelling to attract potential buyers, then send them to my store. Great article.

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