Shabana Is One of the Finest Actresses in the Country; Lilette Has Been Under-utilised by Bollywood: Aparna Sen
Aparna Sen talks about her new film Sonata and how her off screen bonding with Shabana Azmi and Lilette Dubey helped in creating the perfect ambience for the film.
Image: Youtube/ A still from the trailer of Sonata
Mention Aparna Sen and to all evolved lovers of quality cinema, images float into their mindscape the frames of Chowringhee Lane, Japanese Wife, Mr.& Mrs. Iyer along with several memorable Bengali-language films. Despite her last movie Arshinagar not quite appealing to her fan-base, Sen’s aura as a class act remains intact. In this brief one-on-one, she opens up about all that is relevant and meaningful, both about her new film Sonata and events and happenings surrounding it.
Did your last film – Arshinagar – which released in Dec 2015 to disappointing reactions, prompt you to return to known and familiar terrain of relationships, women-centric stories?
Sorry to disappoint, but that was not the case at all! Right at the outset, let me make it clear that, whatever the results of my last film, I am immensely proud of it because it allowed me to experiment with a new and exciting genre – a true-blue musical – that got added to my oeuvre. Looking back, I (and the producers along with a lot of people who loved the film) felt Arshinagar was a film that was before its time. The idea of Sonata emerged from a play I had seen years ago, I loved the richness of the text and the concept of three, totally diverse, not-so-young women, who were dear, close college buddies, coming together to form a compelling, fascinating, human interest story that is likely to resonate with all interested in this miracle called life.
What is the defining aspect of Sonata – the core?
Clearly female bonding. The commonly perceived notion that women are women’s worst enemies is total nonsense! It may apply in the popular soaps and serials but in real life, there are a zillion case of solid sisterhood in action, everywhere.
Why is the film in English language?
Well, like 36, Mr.& Mrs. Iyer, 15 Park Avenue, the script demanded this language. What do middle class educated women – Bengali, U.P.-ite & Gujarati – converse in … but English?
What were the most challenging aspects while making Sonata?
How to celebrate – less is more! Successfully demonstrate the art of creating a wonderfully interesting, engaging, absorbing, meaningful and audience-friendly cinematic experience on a small budget that will both entertain and enrich the viewer. For the cinematographer, set-designer and me – as also the actors – the challenge was to never make the viewer feel that the whole film is set in just one room! Actually the basic script and interplay between the three women is so amazing that everything else pales in comparison.
How was it to act and direct in Sonata considering you’ve never been too happy to do it.
You’re right – although I have directed and acted in the past (Paromitar ek din, Iti Mrinalini) I’ve always preferred to stay away as much as possible from this double whammy! It is too demanding and distracting! Like the earlier ones, this too happened because it was a part of the deal with the producers. They insisted that the Shabana-Aparna-Lillete trio power the neons, so agreed to act.
What was it like working with Shabana Azmi again and directing Lillete Dubey for the first time?
Working with Shabana was sheer joy! She’s a dear and close friend and one of the finest actresses we have in the country. Lillete is essentially a dedicated, well-known and respected theatre person who, sadly, has been under-utilised by mainstream cinema. She is a fabulous actress, receptive, sensitive and fiercely focussed. Both of them are completely on the side of quality cinema, irrespective of commercial considerations. Actually, like the theme of the film – female bonding – all of us bonded brilliantly during the making of the film. In fact, we walked the talk, translating it into a truly joyous, enriching, even empowering experience.
Sonata’s trailer across social media was sensational, garnering fantastic, rave feedback from respected celebrities from the showbiz and the common man alike. That must be re-assuring ?
I’ve pulled the trigger – I can only hope the bullet hits its target! Sure, the feedback was most encouraging but ultimately it’s the paying public who will decide the fate once it is released. Team Sonata can only hope that it touches them in a meaningful way, re-affirming the beauty of bonding amidst diversity, the wisdom of being non-judgemental and finally show cinema as a vehicle that presents truth at 24 frames per second.