We have a problem showing anything different: Konkana Sen Sharma

Debarati Palit Singh
Thursday, 20 July 2017

Says Konkana Sen Sharma as she talks about the conversations Lipstick Under My Burkha is generating, how it should go on, and the need to encourage independent cinema

I had never expected Lipstick Under My Burkha to raise such important and interesting conversations, says Konkona Sensharma. The actress plays one of the leads in the Alankrita Shrivastava directorial, which releases today (July 21).

The film which highlights the dreams and desires of four women from Bhopal will release in 450 screens across India.

Starting a conversation
Konkona, who is busy promoting the film with her co-stars Ratna Pathak Shah, Aahana Kumra and Plabita Borthakur, adds, “We wanted the film to start some kind of conversation but after the entire Censor Board issue, I am surprised, grateful, happy and thankful to the number of people who want to watch it. It’s no more a film but a kind of movement. It’s a great thing that everyone is ready to have a conversation. I think talking to all kind of people will create more awareness and I am amazed with the conversations happening.”

She says that the attention the film is getting makes her realise that there are people who are listening to what she is saying. “It’s a responsibility for me and others to carry on the conversation so that it reaches everyone,” she says.

An honest film
Konkona adds that when she read the script, she knew that Lipstick...was going to be a small film and wasn’t sure about how many people would be interested in it. “Alankrita and I knew each other through common friends and when she sent me the script, I loved it. The film talks with such honesty yet in a mature, gentle, humorous and thought-provoking manner,” she says.

Konkona, whose directorial debut Death in the Gunj received much critical appreciation, says that people living in cities or leading a liberal lifestyle take their freedom for granted. “Most of us have grown up in a progressive surrounding and have seen both the man and woman accomplish a lot in life, although a lot needs to be accomplished. We talk about equality but there are so many traditions which are not equal and we need to question these traditions,” says Konkona, daughter of veteran director and actor Aparna Sen.

Putting women in a box
Have there been moments when men have tried to confine her to a box? 
“As I said, I have been brought up in a liberal and progressive family and have been raised differently, so I am a confident person. Even though I have faced such things at times, they have never affected me,” she says.
She adds that subconsciously we internalise certain things as part of our personality. “Like going hairless women or wearing heels. There’s no denying that we find hairless women desirable but there’s so much of pressure to wax our hair. Why are only smooth and hairless legs desirable?” she questions.

But it must be quite a battle for her dealing with directors and producers in the film industry who keep objectifying women in their films? Konkona says that because of the films she does, she doesn’t come across such people on a regular basis. “But whenever I get the chance, I have these conversations with my contemporaries because it’s my duty to create such awareness,” she says.

Disparity in the industry 
The actress, known for being part of critically acclaimed Mr & Mrs Iyer, Page 3, 15 Park Avenue, Life in a...Metro, Shunyo Awnko, is quite vocal about the disparity between male and female actors in the film industry.

“Here, men get paid so much more than female actresses, which is so unfair and needs to change. If you look at the top management of film production houses and studios — CEOs, finance heads, managing directors, they are all men. There’s hardly any woman, which is so uncomfortable. Therefore, the choice of films, content, distribution is so different,” she says.

Struggle for independent cinema
Though women-centric films are critically acclaimed, they still struggle to find producers and distributors for their films. Konkana says that it’s not about women-centric films only but films that are unconventional. “Films which are different or do not follow norms have a tough time getting producers and distributors. Kalki Koechlin and I were half way through an independent film and the investors backed out. If it had featured a big star — male or female — something like this wouldn’t have happened.

We have a problem with showing anything that is different,” she says.
She further says that the problem also lies with the audience because they do not support independent cinema. 

“We need to create the right environment for good cinema to flourish. I am not saying that all indie films are good and all commercial films are bad but there needs to be a demand for all kind of films. Investors are looking at it as a product, so they need to get their returns. The way out is to control the cost of the film,” she says, adding, “Also, we don’t get government funding. What about experimental cinema? We should make experimental cinema so that we know how creatively advanced we are. We need space for alternative content,” she says before signing off.

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