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Birthday special: 10 standout roles of Konkona Sensharma

The talented actress, whose birthday falls on 3 December, has had a versatile filmography since her debut in the Bengali film, Ek Je Aachhe Kanya (2001). 

Photo: Shutterbugs Images

Sonal Pandya

Konkona Sensharma, who turned director this year with A Death In The Gunj, was first seen on the big screen as a four-year-old in the Bengali film Indira (1983). Daughter of actress-turned-filmmaker Aparna Sen and author Mukul Sharma, one could say Konkona is drawn to roles that are off the beaten path. 

A Death In The Gunj review: Konkona makes a promising debut

In the 40-odd films she’s acted in in her career, she has played a wide range of characters from a conservative south Indian wife, an entertainment journalist, a young woman with mental issues to a mother accused of murder. Konkona brings credibility to women she essays, making them relatable for the personal issues that they face. 

A two-time National Award winner by the time she was 27, Konkona has continued to challenge herself with the varied parts she has chosen over the years even with the mainstream missteps like Aaja Nachle (2007) and the festival favourites like Lipstick Under My Burka (2017). Here are some of her best-known roles.

1. Mr. & Mrs. Iyer (2002)

In mother Aparna's second film in English, daughter Konkona emerged as the actress that Indian independent cinema was waiting for. Playing a Tamil Iyer young wife, Meenakshi, the actress stepped into her small world as she is drawn into conflict on her way home on a trip. Meenakshi, travelling with her baby, has to rely on Raja (Rahul Bose), a Muslim photographer who has been asked by her parents to look out for them. As communal tensions grow on the bus ride back, Meenakshi and Raja are forced to spend time together and pretend to be husband and wife, in order to protect him. The brief time together changes them forever. Konkona won her first National Award for best actress for her lead performance. 

2. Amu (2005)

For Shonali Bose’s directorial debut Amu (2005), Konkona played Kajori aka Kaju, a young Indian American who comes to India for a trip to meet relatives. While back in the ‘home’ country, especially the unseemly areas of India’s capital, Kaju is assailed with memories that may or may not be true. With the help of a family friend Kabir, the youngsters piece together a horrific past of their families during the anti-Sikh riots of 1984. Konkona tackled her character’s loss of identity and belonging with sensitivity. Amu was also screened at the Berlin Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival in 2005, and picked up the National Award for best feature film in English. 

3. Page 3 (2005)

In Madhur Bhandarkar’s National Award-winning Page 3, Konkona is Madhavi, an eager journalist who lands a job covering celebrity entertainment for a newspaper. As she learns more about the fast-changing city of Mumbai and its filmi nightlife, Madhavi becomes disillusioned about the events and people she is supposed to be writing about. In a large ensemble cast that included Boman Irani, Sandhya Mridul and Atul Kulkarni, Konkona was the actual heart of the film. 

4. 15 Park Avenue (2006)

With the help of veteran co-stars Shabana Azmi and Waheeda Rehman in 15 Park Avenue (2006), director Aparna was able to pull out another nuanced performance from Konkona. Meethi (Konkona), a woman suffering from schizophrenia, lives with her elder sister Anu (Azmi) and mother (Rehman). A traumatic event in her past forces the former journalist to believe her own family is keeping her from her ‘real’ life — where she resides with her husband and five children at 15 Park Avenue. As the concerned family takes her on a trip to relieve her concerns, her past returns to meet her fears head-on. Konkona played Meethi’s anxieties and insecurities with tangible understanding. 

5. Omkara (2006)

Konkana’s performance in Omkara fetched her another National Award, this time for best supporting actress, in the second film of Vishal Bhardwaj’s adaptation of William Shakespeare’s play. As Indu Tyagi, Konkona was essaying the role of Emilia in the original play. The long-suffering Indu is pulled into the fatal machinations of her jealous husband Langda Tyagi (Saif Ali Khan) who wants more power as Omkara’s (Ajay Devgn) main man. Konkona’s expressive face showed all of Indu’s regrets and her desire for a different kind of life with her husband.

6. Life in a... Metro (2007)

It may be hard to stand out in multi-starrer like Life in a... Metro (2007), but Konkona, along with her charismatic co-star Irrfan Khan, managed to do just that with their storylines in the film. Konkona’s character Shruti is a producer at a radio show and wants to settle down and get married. She meets a potential suitor in Monty (Irrfan Khan), but doesn’t find him sophisticated enough. Eventually, she goes back to him as she discovers it’s never good to judge a book by its cover. Konkona portrayed Shruti as a typical young cosmopolitan woman and went up to pick up the Filmfare trophy for Best Supporting Actress.  

7. Luck By Chance (2009)

For an insider view of the Hindi film industry in Zoya Akhtar’s directorial debut, Luck By Chance, Konkona played aspiring actress Sona Mishra who has waited for years for her big break. Sona has been patient doing small roles and regional films but sees her boyfriend Vikram (Farhan Akhtar, Zoya’s brother), another aspiring actor, rise his way to stardom due to her help. Along the way, she realises some difficult but essential truths about her life and what makes her happy. Though it didn’t do well when it released, the film was critically acclaimed for its portrayal of the industry. 

8. Wake up Sid (2009)

Writer-director Ayan Mukerji made his film debut with the relatable coming-of-age story Wake Up Sid (2009) with Ranbir Kapoor, who would go on to become the filmmaker’s muse. However, one of the reasons of the film’s success — both critical and financial (to an extent) — was the understated performance of Konkona as Aisha, a writer who helps Kapoor’s character Sid find his path in life. Their relationship, which moves from friendship to romance, is depicted quite naturally. Their difference in age is referred to, but never an issue. 

9. Talvar (2015)

Based on real-life events, Meghana Gulzar’s Talvar (2015) looks at the unbelievable circumstances after the double murder of a young girl and the house help one fateful night. Konkona and Neeraj Kabi play the parents of young Shruti who is found murdered in their house. The film is told via different perspectives (like Akira Kurosawa’s 1950 groundbreaking Rashomon) and Konkona’s stoic performance as a grieving mother accused of murder was heartbreaking.

10. Lipstick Under My Burkha (2017)

Around the same time that Konkona was acting in Alankrita Shrivastava’s film on the lives of four women with separate yet similar stories, she was also working on her own foray into direction with A Death In The Gunj. The controversial film, Lipstick Under My Burkha (2017), which ran into censor board trouble in India, was welcomed and applauded at film festivals around the world.

Along with Ratna Pathak Shah, Aahana Kumra and Plabita Borthakur, Konkona played one of the women, whose desires and freedoms hinged on the men in their lives, who tried to live life in their own terms, but were constantly met with resistance. Konkona’s character Shirin masks her frustrations with her husband by keeping herself busy with a job and her children.