Aparna Sen, Bengali actor-director was introduced to cinema by Satyajit Ray. The mother of Bollywood actress, Konkana Sensharma, Sen has directed award-winning films such as 36 Chowringhee Lane, Sati, Paroma and Yuganto. Her films, like with many auteurs of Bengal, are a coming to terms with home, womanhood and the family. She talks of her over 50-year-old cinematic journey.
All artistes have a unifying theme running through their work. What’s yours?
Loneliness, feminist issues and the surreal especially have appeared and reappeared through my work. The sea catching fire in,Yuganto; Konkona’s character finding an address that does not exist in, 15 Park Avenue; the dream sequences in, Paroma, the shot of Shabana’s character in the arms of the tree, dead and broken after a thunderstorm in ,Sati, were all leaps into the surreal.
Choosing the subject of one’s first film, like one’s first book, is an important personal decision. Why was, Chowinghee, the first?
I was tired of working in commercial films in Bombay. I decided to write a short story. It was about an Anglo-Indian like many of those we had in school. I had seen their loneliness. My latest film, Goynar Baksho, (The Jewellery Box) also touches on the theme of loneliness.
Does the 2010 film, Iti Mrinalini, also draw from your life as an actress?
Being an actress means you are privy to the life of other actresses. The encounter of Mrinalini with the director is taken from my own life. After I had become a star, I was approached by a director who had dropped me from his film in my initial days.
In Bollywood are things looking up for actresses?
The content of Bollywood films is changing but they revolve around a handful of stars who act in each other’s films. It’s a clique. Actors need one role that capture’s the audience’s imagination. Vidya Balan has got that. The lives of actresses are otherwise very short.
On the occasion of 100 years of cinema, what is the national dimension of your work?
In ‘Mr and Mrs Iyer’, the bus with its various passengers was a mini-India. It showed how despite communal tension, in times of crisis, a person of a different religion can stand beside another out of humanity. History also has a strong presence in, Mrinalini. I was strongly affected of the repercussions of communal tension after the fall of Babri Masjid.
Is there a Bengal school of cinema?
It used to be literature-based. Now a lot are copies of Bollywood, even Tamil films.
Who would you count as your influences?
Life itself. The books you have read, the music you have heard, one’s travels…so many things. Films don’t influence films.