The challenge was to depict the same thing in three different ways
Actor par excellence, Konkana Sen Sharma tells us about her tryst with her upcoming film Talvar. From how she approached this character to her take on commercial cinema today, she gives us some food for thought.
How did you approach your character in Talvar? We heard that Meghana Gulzar asked you to portray your own interpretation of the character.
In this film, we have not gone into the psychological history of the character like what makes her tick, why is she the way she is, what is her childhood etc. It is, in fact, very unusual because you are normally given the back story of a character. But this film is not a character study. We don’t get to know the workings behind the mind. This film heroes the investigation.
There were three teams, which carried out the investigation. Two of them reached the same conclusion that the Talvars are guilty, and one said that they are innocent. We have tried to depict the crime in three different ways as per the three different investigations. As a result, I had to play the same thing in different ways at different times which is interesting for me as a performer. I didn’t approach this as a characterization at all. I tried to follow it and be true to the script. It was a very well written script and an extremely well researched document by Vishal (Bhardwaj) ji.
I am still intrigued as to how you didn’t get into the depth of the character because this film is based on facts to a certain extent. Did you not want to know what the character went through or how she thought etc.?
These thoughts came, of course. I have played a schizophrenic before when I am not one actually. I have played a mother when I wasn’t one. We play people we have not been, which is part of the job. These are the challenges that we take up. Your vision for your role has to be in sync with the vision of the film also. I cannot be developing my own character by the side.
Owing to the controversial content of the movie, did you have to think twice before signing the film?
Not really. I have never come into any kind of controversy per se. I knew that Vishal ji and Meghana Gulzar were involved, Gulzar saab himself has done the lyrics and Irrfan Khan was there too. I felt we were in good hands and they would not resort to cheap sensations. These kind of people have a certain sensibility and sensitivity towards the subject to know how to deal with it. They regularly put out good work so I was never worried about any controversy.
What was the one thing that drew you towards doing this film?
This is not like a regular role. One had the challenge of depicting the same scene but in different ways.
How challenging was it?
It was out of the blue and challenging and that is what was interesting. It is not your normal, regular, girl-next-door, woman-in-the-city kind of role.
Which you have hardly done, right?
I have done it a lot earlier and I found them all quite generic. They were the same and almost ran into each other – the earnest, bubbly, good girl.
Was it easy to be unbiased in a film like Talvar?
If you are tilting towards one side then hopefully, you have a very good reason to. A lot of the people I met and encountered have decided to be on one side but based on very little factual information. The more I got into the research and details of the case, I realized it was very difficult to pin point who has done it. It was not an open and shut case. There was no hard core evidences against anyone. If there was, there wouldn’t be so much intrigue. Eight years later, we wouldn’t be writing books and making films on the it. There are missing chunks. I don’t think we will ever really know what happened that night.
How can you leave the crime scene unsealed. How would you get any information if the crime scene has been cleaned? How could you not discover that there was a body upstairs when there were no blood stains. There were a lot of things which went wrong in the investigation. Everyone is fallible. Even the most competent of people make mistakes. The witnesses turned hostile, the post mortem statement has been revised. We don’t know why. It is hard to pin point any one thing and people want to come to quick conclusions. All these institutions, whether the Delhi police or CBI, are man made institutions and have made mistakes. As citizens, we are allowed to raise these questions.
Did you meet the Talwars?
I didn’t have to meet them because it is not a biopic. It is not showing their life or their version. It is trying to show all the different perspectives and you have to decide which is the most plausible given the loopholes.
Do you think the movie will give the audience a clear idea of the case?
How would we do that? We cannot go back in time and unseal the room now. The film is not solving the case. The film is just highlighting the three investigations and presenting them to you. Through this you will actually see the social fabric of our society like the huge class divides that exist. So there is the compounder, the driver, these two upper middle class dentists whom even the police cannot relate to them. There are a lot of cultural differences within the family. This was also seen to a certain extent in Court. There is a lot of black humor derived because some of the things that people do and say is absurd.
But it is real.
Yes it is real. It happens. We all know it does. We laugh in Court because we feel, ‘Haan. Aisa hi toh hota hai.’
There was a phase in commercial cinema when it lacked content. Off late, we have seen some efforts in movies like Baahubali, Bajrangi Bhaijaan or even PK to raise certain questions and put across a message.
All these films have big stars. Is it possible to make good content without a star? We don’t know. Probably very rarely, one can. I am of the opinion that if I have a brain, I’d like to use it. I don’t like to leave my brain at home. It is nice to interact, it is nice to watch things which make you think differently about things, which touch you deeply just like books. I love watching cult films like that. The bulk of the cinema in our country is not like that, which is ok. But in the process, there are no risks taken. It is very difficult to experiment or try something different if your budget is small or do something different. This is the trap. For every ten big films, we should have at least a few small interesting films.
I agree. I don’t think a lot of people have still watched Court despite it having been selected for the Oscars.
Yes. It is very difficult because producers don’t want to take risks. I don’t think the audiences know that either.
Is it disturbing to do a film like Talvar which gives you an insight into the sorry state of our judicial system?
If you’re saying that justice delayed is not justice served, that’s true. It is not an ideal situation. It has been eight years. Things should be sorted immediately but that is not the way it is.
Coming to the casting, Irrfan has been praising your performance in the film.
Irrfan is very sweet and we have always shared a good rapport which is why he says that. He is a fantastic co-actor and I think anyone can work well with him. He brings out the best in you. He always has good chemistry with anyone he works with. I have really enjoyed working with him. Unfortunately, in this film, we didn’t have too many scenes together.
How was your experience with Neeraj Kabi?
The bulk of my work in this film was with Neeraj and he is a fantastic actor. He was just brilliant in Ship of Theseus where he plays the monk. He will do more and more good work.
Are you part of AR Murugadoss‘ Akira?
I have just finished shooting for the film where I am playing a pregnant cop. Luckily I am not doing any action or I would have had to fight Sonakshi.