Posts Tagged ‘Konkona Sensharma’

The World of Shutu

It’s always difficult to write about a film when it comes back home with you as a very palpable emotion. The conflict is between whether to talk about the film (like a semi-review, talking about the great crew and cast, plot, motifs etc.) or the memories & insights it triggered. Since it’s a quick & short piece written in the middle of a very tight schedule, mainly to excite the reader enough to go and watch the film, I will stay somewhere in between – a bit clumsy but functional.

We all have been Shutu at some point of time in our lives. I know I have been, for many years. Bullied, ridiculed, misunderstood, misfit and still trying to smile lest I should be seen as ‘sissy’. Fitting into this world of men is a constant struggle for men even. It’s a game whose rules we laid on our own and still laid them so tough that now we are having a hard time catching up. Why did we do this to ourselves? Why we continue to do this – trying to check items off a laundry list to pretend that we have grown up (from a male perspective only)? Why do we want to grow up? Due to social pressure or survival mechanism – like preys turning into predator?

Konkona Sen Sharma’s directorial debut A Death In The Gunj takes one to such places – beautiful and uncomfortable – places where innocent nostalgia meets the darkest memories. Set in 1979, it’s about a Bengali family with a severe Raj-era hangover on a quaint holiday in Bihar’s (now Jharkhand’s) McCluskieganj – a place with an equally severe Raj-era hangover. The family has many people and egos, a bunch of well-adjusted, seemingly non-threatening abnormals. And the family has Shutu (Vikrant Massey in a role of a lifetime) – the younger brother broadly seen as a silent-introvert type. The constant clash between the two worlds – one inhabited by the family with its bikes & muttons & drinks & pranks & love-games, and another in which Shutu sits by the window sketching frogs in an old diary – scrapes the paints off both of them. The delicate locking mechanism that had kept them together starts wearing off and the moment of truth, or whatever the grown-up version of that is, comes closer and closer.

The only bridge between the two worlds is Shutu’s teenaged niece Tani – already bored of the games adults play & constantly fascinated by Shutu’s scientific-poetic lonely view of the world. It’s not a coincidence that the bridge is a female ‘cos this is a film deeply aware of its gender politics (and at a couple of places, class politics too). Men behave like boys-behaving-like-men, women behave like women-seen-through-men’s-eyes, as two conflicted souls (Shutu and Tani) clutch at straws while drowning in the waters of such rigid definitions.

As a fat teenaged kid in the 90s, I loved watching cricket and I wasn’t bad at playing it too but nobody would select me in the team. My fatness and my academic bent (the tag of “padhaaku”) were a liability nobody was willing to carry. Even if selected in the team (the last to be picked), I’d not get a chance to bat or bowl. So I’d put all my efforts into fielding well. I’d kill myself to get that throw from the boundary right.

But still, just to show I am cool with this treatment, I would offer to play the umpire. That way, I’d get to be on the field at least, get to hold the ball at the end of every over (just for a few seconds before I toss it to the next bowler), and be treated with respect by both the teams. I’d apply myself to the task & be the most unbiased, observant umpire. Sometimes, I’d get to play a few balls or bowl an over – and I believe that became possible only because of the bridges I made as an umpire. But in the process, I lost something precious too. I lost my courage to openly cry in public. I lost my feminine side, or at least suppressed it for the longest time, to fit into this world of men.

And that’s why, when in one scene Shutu is the last to be picked for a game of kabaddi, his state of mind was so relatable that I felt like crying. I did not, yet again.

Varun Grover

*********************

For those looking for a quick list of reasons to watch (and watch you MUST):

  1. Konkona Sen Sharma’s assured, sensitive debut as a Director. Ace!
  2. Konkona Sen Sharma’s screenplay co-written with Disha Rindani (based on a short story by Mukul Sharma) is full of delightful dialogue & an eerie sense of impending doom.
  3. Rich texture and detailing. Made on a small budget but NEVER looks like it. Sirsha Ray (DOP) and Sidhharth Sirohi (Production Design) bring their A-game to the table.
  4. McCluskieganj’s wild charm has been captured so ethereally that you can smell the air, touch the greenery.
  5. The film has four languages (English, Hindi, Bangla, and Chhota Nagpuri) and all spoken with a natural effortlessness rare to find in Indian cinema.
  6. The brilliant original score and music by Sagar Desai (disclosure: I worked with him in ‘Ankhon Dekhi’) elevates and layers the film with great precision.
  7. One of the best ensemble casts in recent memory – Ranvir Shorey, Kalki  Koechlin, Tilottama Shome, Gulshan Devaiah, Jim Sarbh, Arya Sharma, Tanuja, and Om Puri (one of his last roles and what a delight he is!).
  8. Such well-etched and distinct characters – right from Ranvir Shorey’s Vikram to Kalki’s Mimi to Tilottama’s Bonnie to Gulshan Devaiah’s Nandu – constantly chattering, surprising and layering the film with their brilliant mannerisms.
  9. Vikrant Massey got the kind of role actors crave for and he hits it out of the park. Shutu is beautiful and heartbreaking.
  10. Every department has delivered and the best thing is – the sum is way greater than the parts. Do not miss this film.

With its premiere at the ongoing Toronto International Film Festival, more good news coming in for Konkona Sensharma’s directorial debut, A Death In The Gunj.

The film will open this year’s MAMI Film Festival which will run from October 20th -27th, 2016. The film’s cast includes Vikrant Massey, Ranvir Shorey, Kalki Koechlin, Gulshan Devaiah, Tillotama Shome, Jim Sarbh, Tanuja Mukherjee, Om Puri and Arya Sharma.

Here’s TIFF’s Cameron Bailey on the film –

ADITGHaving made an indelible impact on Indian cinema with her work in front of the camera, renowned actor Konkona Sensharma (Talvar) makes her debut as a writer-director with this tense family drama.

It’s the late 1970s, and just outside the quiet Indian resort town of McCluskiegunj, a family gathers in their country home and prepares to ring in the new year with old friends. On the periphery of the family’s focus hovers the young man Shutu (Vikrant Massey), an innocent attempting to navigate a world that’s unkind to his sensitive nature.

Shutu would rather spend time with his friend’s young daughter than engage with the adults, but he is eventually drawn into the messy realm of mature emotions and desires. Relationships in these close quarters begin to simmer and strain, and Shutu struggles to define his masculinity and sense of self — even as the atmosphere becomes suffused with lust and mystery.

Sensharma was a star of Indian Parallel Cinema, the movement made famous by the likes of Satyajit Ray and Mrinal Sen, and her directorial approach shares a realist sensibility with the work of those directors. Shot on location in Jharkhand State, the film is deeply steeped in a sense of place; Sensharma’s camera captures the natural beauty of the family home’s surroundings as she patiently lets her Chekhovian story build to its dramatic and tragic conclusion.

——

For more stills and trailer of the film, click here.

The early buzz from TIFF is great so far. This review calls it an assured debut. Journalist and film programmer Aseem Chhabra is also quite impressed by the film. See his tweets.

We can’t wait to catch it at MAMI.

Going by this wicked short film directed by Konkona Sensharma, we felt it was just a matter of time till she graduates to features. So here’s the good news – her feature directorial debut, A Death In The Gunj is ready, and the film will have its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.

With this film, Abhishek Chaubey and Honey Trehan have turned producers with their new production banner, MacGuffin Pictures.

The film’s festival trailer is also out. Do have a look.

We don’t have exact synopsis of the film yet, but here’s what TIFF says about the film – Award-winning actor Konkona Sensharma makes her feature debut as a writer-director with this coming-of-age story about a shy young Indian student who quietly and fatefully unravels during a family road trip.

The film’s cast includes Vikrant Massey, Ranvir Shorey, Kalki Koechlin, Gulshan Devaiah, Tillotama Shome, Jim Sarbh, Tanuja Mukherjee, Om Puri and Arya Sharma.

Irrfan

The Toronto International Film Festival has just announced its line-up for 2015. And here’s the good news – two Indian films, Meghna Gulzar’s Talvar and Leena Yadav’s Parched have been selected for World Premiere in ‘Special Presentations’ section.

Starring Irrfan Khan, Konkona Sensharma, Neeraj Kabi, Atul Kumar, Gajraj Rao, Sohum Shah and Tabu in a special appearance, the film is a gritty investigative drama about the Noida double murder case. With Gulzar’s lyrics, Vishal Bhardwaj’s music & screenplay, and cinematography by Pankaj Kumar (Haider, Ship Of Theseus), the thriller is a fictional dramatization of true life events revolving around Aarushi Talwar murder case investigation.

Leena Yadav’s Parched has Tannishtha Chatterjee in the lead role. The official page has one line description – In a rural Indian village, four ordinary women begin to throw off the traditions that hold them in servitude, in this inspirational drama.

(Disclosure – One of our editors is closely associated with Talvar)

The National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) has announced the nine scripts selected for the second edition of the National Script Lab to be running from October 2014 – March 2015.

The first screenwriting workshop will be held from October 1217, 2014 at the Courtyard Marriott, Chakan, Pune, followed by two more workshops and 1 to 1 consultation sessions over the next six months.

Marten Rabarts- Senior Consultant, Training and Development, NFDC; Olivia Stewart- Producer of The House of Mirth, Brassed Off, and script consultant on The Lunchbox and  Rajat Kapoor, writer-director of the much acclaimed Ankhon Dekhi will mentor these scriptwriters one-to-one during intensive residential workshops over the coming six months

Also as part of the National Script Lab program, the screenwriters will be able to attend NFDC’s Film Bazaar 2014 (Nov 2024) to network and introduce their upcoming projects to both the Indian and international film fraternity attending the market.

This year the Script Lab has a special focus on Youth and Children’s stories which feature strongly in the following line up.

 The Selected Writers and Scripts are:

1. Konkona Sensharma – Death In the Gunj

The acclaimed actress and the winner of two National Awards has acted in more than 40 films in Hindi, Bengali and English language.  She co-wrote and directed a short called ‘Naamkaran’ (The Christening) and anticipates this script will be her first feature as writer director, following in a family tradition established by her mother the renowned Film-maker and Actress Aparna Sen.

 2. Ranjeet Bahadur – Oddball

The editor of Rajkumar Hirani’s 3 Idiots, Sudhir Mishra’s Chameli and Ruchi Narain’s  Kal  Ranjeet has done his Post Graduation in film at Satyajit Ray Film & TV Institute, Kolkata, and now turns his attention to writing his first feature.

3. Vicky Barmecha – Naadaan

Vicky has spent the past 2.5 years working as assistant director and postproduction supervisor on Anurag Kashyap’s upcoming Bombay Velvet. He is the older brother of the Udaan actor Rajat Barmecha.

 4. Neha Sharma – Under the Skin

Neha, followed up her filmmaking studies in Capetown, South Africa with the screenwriting programme at FTII Pune. Neha has written dialogues for the TV show Ladies Special and is in active development of several feature films and documentaries. She has honed her craft as an assistant director on films such as The Dirty Picture , Agent Vinod and many others.

 5. Piyush C Panjvani – Idgah

A  Film & Television studies  grad from St. Xaviers IOC Mumbai, Piyush is a multi award winning director/producer of Ad films , shooting around the world for such mega brands as Pepsi and Samsung among others. He is currently developing a documentary on Himalayan shepherds, and will base his debut feature film on a story by Shri Mumchi Prechan.

 6. Abhaya Simha – Bhamini

Based in Bangalore, FTII graduate Abhaya has written and directed three feature films in Kannada and one in Malyalam. His      first feature film, Gubbachigalu won the National Award In 2008 for the Best Children’s Film.

 7. Rigzin Kalon – Neki Kar Kala Kala

The writer-director-producer has worked on shorts, TV , documentaries and feature films, including Ngonsum  a feature set in Ladakh based on short stories by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Rigzin lives between Mumbai and his native Ladakh, where he is an active figure in the development of this regions emerging cinema scene.

 8. Ruchika Lalwani – A story of Two

Is the writer of Walkaway, an independent American film with Bollywood flair made and released in the USA where she studied Film in New York. Ruchika’s student short film, I’m Afraid I am Hitler was screened and awarded at many international film festivals.

 9. Sudhakar Reddy Yakkanti – Paperweight

An FTII Pune graduate in Cinematography, Sudhakar wrote, directed and shot the short film Ek Aakas, winnning the Special Jury, National Award and in 2010 his documentary short film Duel of Angels  was awarded at the prestigious IDFA in Amsterdam. He also shot Umesh Kulkarnis Deool which won Three National Awards, among a long list of other features as  a cinematographer.

(via press release)

(stills from Satyanweshi)

In a completely shocking news, filmmaker Rituparno Ghosh died of heart attack today morning. He was working on his latest film Satyanweshi – a Byomkesh Bakshi story starring filmmaker Sujoy Ghosh.

Easily one of the best filmmakers in the country, nobody explored the intimate space between two people like Ghosh did. All those film fanatics who are mad about world cinema, i hope they do get time to watch Ghosh’s films. His entire filmography is worth watching. Embedding the video of one of my favourite film – Titli – a terrific coming of age film. And easily the best desi film in that genre. It stars Mithun Chakraborty, Aparna Sen, Konkona SenSharma, and is with English subs. Do watch.

RIP Mister Ghosh.

(Pics courtesy – The Telegraph)

Last week i watched Kannan Iyer’s Ek Thi Daayan. It’s co-produced and co-written by Vishal Bhardwaj. And last night i watched Aparna Sen’s Goynar Baksho. And i could not stop myself from comparing the two. Apart from Konkona Sensharma’s spectacular acting, there are few more common factors between the two. Both the films are based on literary work. Ek Thi Daayan is based on a short story written by Konkona’s father Mukul Sharma. (You can read the story here) Goynar Baksho is based on Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay’s story titled “Rashmonir Sonadana”. So in a way one is Mommy’s film and the other one is Daddy’s. Though both are in supernatural space, in terms of what they deliver, the difference is huge.

Ek Thi Daayan is a strange film. Because it’s two films in one. Though it plays around with all the common elements of horror films in first half, it sets up a great mood, is deliciously ambiguous, and keeps you totally hooked. Konkona and the kids keep you engaged in their mouse and cat game. The 2nd half is drastically different – almost a Vikram Bhatt film. Everything is on the face, new rules are set, it’s silly, becomes unintentionally hilarious and has a strange closure. What is Kalki’s character doing in the film? She is just to misguide us? Is it all about who is the witch out of the two? It all boils down to one spoiler? There have been many rumours floating around about the film’s climax being changed by its producer, and once you watch the film you realise that all those rumours must have been true. There can’t be no other reason for the second half to be so disappointing.

Now, about the end. A wise man once said that you must ask yourself 3 Questions – 1. what’s the film about? 2. What’s the film *really* about? 3. What’s the film *really, really* about? If you know the answers, you are on right track. And the answers to these three questions tells you the difference between these two films – Ek Thi Daayan and Goynar Baksho – why one works and why the other doesn’t. Let’s see.

(SPOILER ALERT)

Magician Bobo can hear voices. Because he has a back story. Because his sister was mysteriously killed by his step-mom/witch. Interval. Bobo has a GF/wife. He also has a kid. A new stranger who might be a witch. BOOM! She is not the witch. The GF/wife is the witch. But why is Konkona suddenly back, and from where? What’s the sudden funda of pisach? And all that choti-wali ladayee? Why kill all ambiguity? Was there a way out in the same set-up? i think so. It was all there, just needed to be perfectly tied up like Konkona’s hair braid.

For me, the answer would have been Bobo’s adopted kid, Zubin. Going by the trend of orphan kids who get superpowers, he perfectly fits the demography too. We don’t know about his real parents. Aha, that’s where the magic and mystic happens. If you see the second trailer here (at 01:05), you will know that there was more to Zubin for sure. See the screenshot – Zubin talking to a doll (or Misha?) when Bobo spots him. This scene was not there in the film.

The film just used him for the choti-kaato act. Given a choice, i would have gone with Zubin getting some of the supernatural powers to hear/see daayans, something that connect Bobo and Zubin, and then a closure for Bobo’s story with him coming to terms with Misha’s (his sister) death in some way. I believe it was also there in the script – if the lift is going down, it’s going to hell. Can Bobo take the lift up to heaven for Misha? As for Lisa (Kalki’s character), isn’t she going to be step-mother for Zubin? When it plays around on the funda of sauteli maa acchi ho toh sakti hai par hoti nahi, isn’t Zubin in same scenario as Bobo? Aha, the loop.

(SPOILER OVER)

ETD2

And if there’s something more funnier than Vikram Bhatt style kaat-choti-kaat act, it was the disclaimer in the beginning of the film. Easy to understand that neither the makers nor the Censor Board is guilty of that. It’s because of the times we live in, where the fringe groups are always looking for such occasions to raise their voice and get attention. This is where Aparna Sen’s Goynar Baksho hits the ball straight out of the boundary.

On the surface it’s a story about three generations of women and their relationship with Goynar baksho (jewellery box). But Aparna manages to pack in so much, that it’s unbelievable. And treated it in a humourous tone, this one should work for all. In a memorable and heart breaking sequence in the film, Pishima (aunt in bengali, father’s sister), a child widow who has died and become ghost, asks Konkona Sen (new daughter-in-law) what sex feels like? Does she enjoy cuddling? In today’s times of offending sensibilities, this might be counted as quite sacrilegious. But this is where the bravery and the brilliance of the film lies – it packs everything with humour.

Pishima got married at 12 and was widow at 13. Forget love, relationship, or any such pleasure, widows were not even allowed to have good food. All she got was boiled veggies, all she wore was white sarees. It reminded me of someone i know closely. Married at young age, she had a son just after marriage, and then her husband died soon. She returned back to her parents and brothers. Since then it was been a life of white sarees, religious stuff and only vegetarian food. It’s actually quite a common sight in bengali families, mostly in rural areas – the eldest daughter who is married at young age and if she becomes widow, she comes back to her parents and stays with them for the rest of her life.

Moushumi Chatterjee plays the role of Pishima, an authoritative voice in the house. Because she owns those expensive jewels, nobody wants to be in her bad books. But the fun begins once she dies and becomes a ghost. Interestingly, only Konkona’s character of Somlata (new daughter-in-law) can see her. She is new in the house, she is scared and to make things worse, she even stammers. With a hookah in her hand and more abuses that you can count, initially Pishima starts bullying Konkona to protect her jewellery box, and then slowly they develop a bond. Pishima is bitter, sarcastic and is always cursing everyone around, but all done with dollops of humour in her Faridpur accent. Her dead character is the life of the film.

Goynar Baksho

In another sequence she gets emotional as she talks about how the men in the house always had all the pleasures, and all she got was this jewellary box. The (pishima) ghost played brilliantly by Moushmi Chatterjee, instigates Konkona’s character to go out, fight for her rights, to pursue her passion and enjoy everything that’s forbidden. Who talks about heaven and hell? As a ghost she knows it better than everyone. Enjoy till you can and then your body will perish one day.

Konkona’s character of Somlata represents the second generation. She is on the other extreme compared to her Ek Thi Daayan role. Set in a completely rural background, instead of scaring others, in this film she is always scared. And like in almost every other film of hers, she is so convincing that you would think she has a twin sister who acted in ETD. She is undoubtedly the best actress of our generation. The last 15mins of the film feels bit odd but you get what the filmmaker is trying to do – the third generation. You can also see the limitation of budget and resources, but this one is a must watch.

The film has released with subtitles in Mumbai and other cities. Though the subtitles might not be able to translate the fun of Faridpur accent but do watch it. Bollywood desperately needs some funny ghosts. And Vikram Bhatt needs to put his tacky ghosts in his closet for sometime.

So in two weeks we had two supernatural stories – one with mysterious witches and the other with loveable ghost. Both with three leading ladies. For whatever reason, one remains a half-baked affair, the other manages to pack a punch. One doesn’t say anything new, the other takes a strong stand on so many issues without making a big fuss about it. And it all comes from the same family. I guess in the end it’s all about the *choices* – we are the stories we tell.

@CilemaSnob

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