Konkona Sen Sharma is known for her versatility – be it as an actor or as a filmmaker. She brings her ideas and characters to life in a way that they almost feel real. In an exclusive session on FC Front Row, she spoke about Neeraj Ghaywan’s highly-acclaimed Geeli Pucchi, the preparation she requires for the roles she chooses, and more.
Sneha Menon Desai: Can you talk to me about creating Bharti in Geeli Pucchi, and that scene right at the end? Her expression when she’s sipping out of that steel cup is sheer perfection. How did you go about it?
Konkona Sen Sharma: I was very excited to get this script to begin with. I love Neeraj Ghaywan’s work and I wanted to work with him. When I read the script itself, I found it so powerful. It was talking about so many things, but also it was a beautifully-crafted revenge story, and everything leads up to that last scene. Everything is just working its way to reach that point. To be very honest, the last scene had so many dialogues that I was worried only about them. All I could think about was, ‘I have so many dialogues to learn,’ so I was concentrating a lot on that. But for me, the most important thing was this little twist that the film had: that this character used patriarchy to deal with the casteism she faced. That, in itself, was such an unusual and fantastic thing that I hadn’t come across earlier.
SMD: How do you approach your characters? Do you approach them inside-out or outside-in? For instance, did the walk or posture of Bharti come to you first, or did Konkona get to know her core first?
KSS: I am quite adaptable. Different directors have different ways of working. So if you have one fixed way of working, then sometimes it might clash with the project that you are currently working on. So, it’s not like I have one fixed method as such.
Overall, if I had to see, I think outside-in helps, because right in the beginning, how do you get to the inside? So a nice approach is to work from outside to inside, and I remember that happened with Mr. and Mrs. Iyer. I remember, whenever I used to put on the yellow sari, those heels and the bag (and the baby was my adorable niece), I would be like, ‘Ok, now I am Mrs. Iyer.’ It was the same for Bharti. We did the look test — and I find look tests to be very useful for getting into the part. It is useful for everyone: for the director, cinematographer, for the costumes, etc. But it’s very useful for me as an actor, because I have to feel comfortable in those clothes. I was also very deeply influenced by Erika Linder’s performance in a film called Below Her Mouth. It was a lesbian love story and Erika Linder is such a fantastic actor. I just adore her. Her character and performance left a deep impact on me.
SMD: You refer to yourself as an intuitive actor quite often. I want to know a little about what that actually means.
KSS: Intuitive as opposed to a lack of formal training, I guess. I try to relate to my character. I have said this before, and I often feel that we, as individuals, have everything inside us. All these emotions and feelings are there. At different times, different things come to the surface. So whether it’s Bharti or any of the characters I’ve played before, I feel like I have those people inside me anyway. Maybe it’s not being tapped, maybe it has not come out, but those things are already inside me. So, I’ve tried to find a way to relate.
SMD: For someone who has been around for 20 years, what is the ground reality for women in the film industry today? Are scripts actually getting better for them?
KSS: I think there are still a lot of not great scripts for women. But occasionally you do get something like Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare, in which I personally loved my character. I loved Dolly because it was such an unusual character for me to play. I hadn’t played somebody who didn’t necessarily lead a very morally upright life. She was lying, stealing, cheating. So, there are a few more of those [scripts]. In that sense, I’d say, it has expanded a bit. There’s still the bad, but where there was only the bad, I guess the bucket has increased a little bit to include some good as well. But we’ve such a long way to go that I am very loathed to say that, ‘Yeah, things are better.’ Because I don’t think that overall things are better. I mean, maybe there has been some slight improvement. There have always been some very progressive films from even 10-20 years ago. So maybe it has improved slightly.
SMD: How do you muster the will to keep on bettering your craft 20 years on?
KSS: I’m not looking at it like that. I am also not a very overconfident person. Every time, I’m really nervous before the shoot. don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. I always think, ‘I don’t know why I have convinced them that I’ll be able to do it. Now I have to do it.’ Sometimes, I’m dying inside. But I prep a lot.
What I have started doing now is — and that might help people whose first language is not Hindi — I ask for my dialogues to be recorded in Hindi, and I hear it well in advance, because then woh baith jata hai (it sits in), and then you get the cadence. I know I won’t end up saying it like that because I’ll say it in my way only. But at least I’ll hear it, I’ll keep hearing it, I am used to it. People who are native speakers of the language, they think in that language, they have heard it in their household all around, they’ve watched Hindi movies; so there is a huge advantage there. So that is something I do a lot and I prep a lot. I’m not overconfident. I will keep learning my lines, I will keep rehearsing my lines on set.