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Aparna and Konkona: Like mother, like daughter


A look at the mother-daughter dynamic with the cinema of Aparna Sen on her 71st birthday (25 October).

Sonal Pandya

Filmmaker Aparna Sen is one of the few women directors in Indian cinema that dares to make films that feature compelling, strong, even flawed female characters. Each of her films is different from the next. One can't peg her down to a typical genre of filmmaking. Her films have given many actors standout roles in their careers, and her last few films have showcased her own daughter Konkona Sen Sharma, marking it a unique case of mother-daughter filmmaking. Aparna initially began her career as an actor at 15 before expanding to screenwriting and directing from 1981. Konkona is presently known as an actor, but like her mother, also has shown interest in direction. She directed a short film, Naamkaran, in 2006 and her first feature film, A Death in The Gunj, starring Om Puri, Kalki Koechlin, Vikrant Massey and Ranvir Shorey recently premiered at the Jio MAMI 18th Mumbai Film Festival. Here are three top films in which the Sen duo made the silver screen shine.

1. Mr. And Mrs. Iyer (2002)

Aparna's second film in English led her and Konkona to National Award glory. Aparna won the top honours for Best Direction and Screenplay, while Konkona won her first National Award for Best Actress. The widely-lauded film about two different personalities, Meenakshi Iyer played by Konkona and Raja Chowdhury played by Rahul Bose, who are stranded during a journey by communal strife in the area. Aparna cast her daughter in the role despite her misgivings about getting the accent right. Many agreed that she got it right. The film's review in The Hindu stated, “The movie clearly belongs to Konkona Sen Sharma (Aparna's daughter), who as Meenakshi gets so beautifully into the psyche of a Tamil Brahmin that it is hard to say that she is an 'outsider'.”

2. 15 Park Avenue (2006)

Tackling the sensitive subject of schizophrenia and the toll it can take on a family, Aparna made 15 Park Avenue starring Shabana Azmi, Waheeda Rehman, Rahul Bose and Konkana as Mithi. 15 Park Avenue featured three strong female performances and sharing the screen with veteran thespians Azmi and Rehman, Konkona held her own. Any claims of nepotism can be drowned out with reviews like the one in Rediff that declared, “One falls short of adjectives to describe her performance. I guess the biggest compliment would be to say that no one else could have done this role.” The film went on to win the National Award for Best Feature Film in English.

3. Iti Mrinalini (2011)

After adapting author Kunal Basu's short story The Japanese Wife to film, Aparna returned to direction with the Bengali film, Iti Mrinalini, where she worked on the story and screenplay with newcomer Ranjan Ghosh, the first time she had collaborated with someone else on a screenplay. To play the character of Mrinalini, a past-her-prime actor who look back at her life and career as she decides to take her own life. Konkona plays the younger Mrinalini in flashbacks, while Aparna plays Mrinalini in the present. This was one of the few times in Indian cinema where a mother and daughter played the same character in a film. Iti Mrinalini screened in film festivals around the world from Cairo to New York and was critically acclaimed in its release in India. The Indian Express review of the film cited Konkona as delivering 'another award-worthy performance.'