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“Unless we experiment, how are we supposed to push boundaries?”

As actor Konkona Sensharma ventures into short films with A Monsoon Date, she talks to Bhavi Gathani about her character transformation, the response she has received and more

How are the promotions coming along?

The promotions for A Monsoon Date are going very well. Sometimes, since you are taking about the same thing to a lot of people, you need to search for different words since the audience doesn’t want to see the same things. It gets a little overwhelming to do that.

Your short film A Monsoon Date received a lot of praise at the MAMI Film Festival. What was the response like at the South Asian International Film Festivals?

Apparently, the response has been great. We did not attend the South Asian International Film Festival but many who did said the response was great over there. And, yes, the reviews we got for the short film were also amazing. I am glad that people liked the film and the concept.

You are playing a transgender in the film. How did you internalise that character and the challenges your character faces in society?

Well, I actually had a lot of patience with my director Tanuja Chandra and the writer of the film, Gazal Dhaliwal. They really helped me with the character I was playing. They were obviously more familiar with the character than I was. I had done a lot of in-depth sessions with them. During these sessions, we discussed the details about my character, what kind of experience my character would have gone through, what are the challenges she would have faced in this ‘society’, and so on.

I spent a lot of time talking and discussing the concept of the film and the emotions with them, and we also did some research online. The research was about the kind of experiences she might have had in terms of… she may have had surgeries, she may have scars on her body, and she may have gone through counselling and things like that.

Did you do any extra prep for the way your character speaks and her dialogue?

I think Tanuja was happy for me to speak the way I speak. There was no special dialect or anything like that. We kept it very basic and normal. So, speech-wise, there wasn’t anything special we focused on.

Tanuja had said in an interview that short films are the best way to address inequality, which you can’t do in mainstream cinema. What do you think?

I think short films give us a lot of freedom because one doesn’t have to worry about the box office or anything, and moreover one can be experimental too. You can experiment with the form and content, and it is great to enjoy that kind of freedom. Also, online content is not subject to censorship yet so we should make the most of that. It also helps that the short film format is such that one does not have to worry about funding, which is much easier to get than for mainstream cinema. Also, since there is no censorship, one can go all out creatively and present really strong content to viewers. Unless we experiment, how are we supposed to push boundaries?

A Monsoon Date gives out a strong message to viewers. Why do you think this message is so important for society?

I think we don’t really have equality like that in our society, and I think that is very important. Everyone deserves the same respect and equality, who they are allowed to love and how they want to live their lives. So I think it is important to raise awareness.

Tanuja too had said she wanted you to have a fragile quality and vulnerability. What are your insights on this?

The film is very moving. The character I play is so relatable, so vulnerable, that you feel like protecting her. I think it’s a lovely quality to have as she has opened up herself. I think that’s why she wanted to have a certain fragility to the character. However, this is a question best asked of the director.

The film has just released. What has the response been like for you over here?

I have so far got a great response. However, I can’t say much since the film has only just released.

You have worked for 15 years in this industry. How do you look back at your journey?

I don’t really look back on my journey much. What is done is done, for me. I only look ahead and see what is coming next for me. I try to do all kinds of films just to make my own experience interesting.

Is there something that you still want to achieve?

Well, I would like to experiment and do all kinds of different things.

You are choosy about the roles you play. What elements do you consider before finalising a project?

There is no one single answer to that as it depends on a number of things. It depends on the script, how the script is written and what kind of director it is and a lot of other things. For me, the whole thing is quite intuitive. Also, the script has to engage me. For me, the character is interesting when it has to go through a certain transformation or it is strong enough to stand out.

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