25 years of Aparna Sen's sensibility
Actress-director Aparna Sen is ready with her seventh feature film, 15 Park Avenue, which marks 25 years of a filmmaking career driven by the intellectual quotient.
From her directorial debut 36 Chowringhee Lane in 1981, for which she won The Grand Prix at the Manila International Film Festival and the National Award for Best Direction at home, to her latest offering, Sen has neither faded nor been dictated by trends.
The prolific director has given offbeat cinema - in English, Hindi as well as Bengali - a new lease of life with her conviction and creativity, and 15 Park Avenue, releasing this Friday, may prove that yet again.
In the last 25 years she has made thought-provoking films full of deeper meaning. Her presentation of characters on screen always bears her distinctive signature.
A path-breaker in her own right, Sen's works of art include Paroma, released in 1985, about the sexual explorations of a middle-class housewife who falls in love with a photographer much younger to her.
After four years, in 1989, Sen surfaced with another bold film, Sati. Set in the early 19th century, right before the outlawing of the Hindu custom of sati - in which a widow would sacrifice herself on the pyre of her dead husband - it showed how a mute girl is married off to a banyan tree because of a faulty astrological chart.
In 1995, Sen showcased
, a statement on unhappy modern marriages. Five years later she made
Paromitar Ek Din
on the plight of a young woman trapped with an incompatible husband and a spastic child.
And in 2005 she teamed up with her talented daughter Konkona Sen Sharma and actor Rahul Bose to make a hard-hitting film on secularism, the critically acclaimed Mr. & Mrs. Iyer.
Winner of the Padma Shri, one of India's highest civilian honours, and the Satyajit Ray Lifetime Achievement Award, Sen has not only excelled in filmmaking but also shown her talent in the field of acting and won may awards for her flawless performances.
She debuted as an actress in 1961 with noted filmmaker Satyajit Ray's Three Daughters and later worked with directors like Mrinal Sen and James Ivory.
She was also honoured at the Moscow Film Festival with the Best Actress Award for her performance in Mrinal Sen's Mahaprithibi.
This multifaceted filmmaker has served as editor of a popular Bengali women's magazine, Sananda, published by the Ananda Bazar Patrika Group.
Though all her films have the trials and tribulations of women as the central theme, she doesn't like to be labelled a feminist.
If 36 Chowringhee Lane portrayed the dilemma of a lonely and ageing Anglo-Indian woman played by Jennifer Kendall, Shashi Kapoor's wife, Sen's latest film 15 Park Avenue talks about the quandary of a schizophrenia patient and her strange relationship with an older-half-sister.
The film peeps into the lives of two sisters - Anjali (Shabana Azmi) and Meethi (Konkona Sen Sharma) - who live with their widowed mother Rewa (Waheeda Rehman).
Older sister Anjali is a successful professor with a powerful personality. She is the anchor for her family, in particular for her sister Meethi whose progression into schizophrenia is speeded up by traumatic experiences.
Anjali has always dominated the life of her younger sister and zealously warded off Meethi's handsome fiancé Joydeep (Rahul Bose), fearful that he will come to know of her sister's illness.
But Joydeep himself breaks the engagement when Meethi, a journalist by profession, returns from an assignment outside Kolkata where she was raped repeatedly, aggravating her schizophrenia.
Years later, when Meethi and Anjali are holidaying in the hills, they chance upon Joydeep, now happily married and with kids. He is shocked to discover that Meethi does not recognise him, but lives in a world visited by an imaginary husband and children of her own.
Shot in Kolkata and Myanmar, the film boasts of powerful performances by seasoned actors like Shabana Azmi, Waheeda and Soumitra Chatterjee.