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Sen isn't a besotted mother

The winner of this year's National award for Best Director Aparna Sen maintains that she wouldn't design a role for her daughter.
PTI | By Subhash K. Jha (Indo-Asian News Service), Mumbai
UPDATED ON JUL 30, 2003 07:37 PM IST

Her film Mr and Mrs Iyer recieved two major National Awards this year - best director for Aparna Sen herself and Best Actress for Konkana Sen, her daughter. Now Sen wants to make a film with two main protagonists - both from Mumbai film industry – and is considering Ajay Devgan and Saif Ali Khan for the same. The internationally acclaimed director of 36 Chowringee Lane spoke of her pet projects, regional cinema and Konkona.

This year has been lucky for the mother and daughter duo. Both of you have won National Awards.
Yes, we've won together like Javed Akhtar and Farhan last year. I feel especially happy for Konkona. She's so young. And yet so gifted.

Now you'll have to design something as brilliant as Mr & Mrs Iyer for her again?
Not necessarily. I'll give her a role when I feel she can do justice to it. I'm hardly the besotted mother who'd design my children's career. I only took Konkona in Mr & Mrs Iyer because she fitted the role so well.

Frankly, I'd love to cast her again if I get a chance. She's a wonderful actress. However, my next film, Gulel, is about two men.

Do you think an actress like Konkona can fit in comfortably with  mainstream cinema?
This is a truly exciting time for Indian cinema. There're so many English films being made in this country. Like me, Konkona isn't comfortable doing mainstream cinema. I remember Shabana Azmi expressing misgivings about how mainstream cinema would react to Konkona playing a mother in Mr & Mrs Iyer.

Now I wonder if a top Bollywood actress whom I want to sign for a mother's role would say no. I feel like me Konkona will finally go into direction. She's a very strong-willed woman. For me acting was always a means of earning money. I needed only enough to bring up my children comfortably. I'm not planning to install a Jacuzzi in our house. I wouldn't have the time to use it (laughs).

Would you say Mr & Mrs Iyer is your most acclaimed film after 36 Chowringhee Lane?
I'd say so. Lots of people tell me I should keep making films in English. Both the films are hugely accessible to the audience because they address themselves to universal emotions. Mr & Mrs Iyer is such a universal story.

The 'message' is incidental. My Bengali film Yugant, which is close to my heart, was too cerebral. Earlier I looked more at individuals. As I've grown older I've become more interested in topical issues. That could also be because I edit a magazine.

Would you say Mr & Mrs Iyer is your most successful film to date?
It could've been more successful if it was marketed well. My Bengali films don't seem that successful only because they aren't accessible to a larger audience. Paroma and Paromitar Ek Din were hugely successful.

The national policy on cinema doesn't encourage regional films. I'm very disappointed. Children need to be exposed to good cinema from all over the country. Their exposure to mainstream Hindi cinema is so extreme that their entire sensibility is formed through it.

One positive development in recent times is the globalisation and multiple-channel satellite television. Now kids can see films from all over the world.

Themes in Hindi films are changing accordingly. Notice how they've gone
towards horror? Unfortunately every trend finally becomes a stereotype in
our films.

Your next film is in Hindi?
Yes. Paroma was in both Bengali and Hindi. But the Hindi version was so badly released. So in a way Gulel  would be my first step into Hindi cinema, and I'm a bit worried about how I'll be accepted. Gulel is also my first film with strong male protagonists. I'm also going to talk about violence and what motivates it without being preachy or making violence into a box-office ingredient. There's going to be a lot of black humour in it.

I want the pluralism of India to show up in my film. I don't want the north Indian Hindu upper caste male to be the predominant protagonist in films. When do we ever see any characters from east India or the south being featured as anything but a parody? Do we ever see Assamese or Mizos? Or physically challenged characters, unless they're beautifully blind or exotically dumb?

In Mr & Mrs Iyer the heroine was a Tamilian in all her traditional traits and finery. And yet she didn't seem alien to the audience. People have responded to the film in the same way all over the world.

Is your first Hindi film going to be produced by a non-Bengali?
He's a Bengali but from Mumbai (laughs). I've had several offers from non-Bengali producers. But I couldn't say yes to them. I want Ajay Devgan and Saif Ali Khan for the two principal leads, though Saif hasn't said yes as yet.

I'd like to shoot the film in Mumbai in November so I can send it to Cannes
and other festivals. Also post-January the skies in Mumbai lose all their mystery. I've given Ajay and Saif DVDs of my earlier films. They must know what I do.

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