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“My throat is hoarse, I can’t seem to talk any more,” exclaims Aparna Sen, as she finishes a clutch of television interviews and, immediately, another batch of microphones are placed in front of her. She takes a long sip of water, clears her throat, remains silent for a few moments and is soon ready for the next round.
Her seventh feature film, 15 Park Avenue, starring Rahul Bose, her daughter Konkona Sen, Shabana Azmi, Waheeda Rahman and Soumitra Chatterjee, has just been released. It deals with a girl who suffers from schizophrenia and the strange relationship she has with an older half-sister.
This is Sen’s 25th year as a director, her first film being the critically acclaimed 36 Chowringhee Lane. Apart from winning national and international awards at film festivals, she has won the Padmi Shri and the Satyajit Ray Lifetime Achievement Award from the Cine Central Film Society.
Excerpts from the interview:
Which is more exciting: acting or directing.
Directing. When you are acting, you are interpreting somebody else’s vision. But when you are directing, it is your vision. You obviously have been excited about it; otherwise, you would not go to the trouble of directing it.
Where do you get your story ideas?
From life. You might notice something and at that time, you might not think about it and then it comes back to you after three months. It is a magical thing.
How has Satyajit Ray influenced you?
He has influenced me and a whole generation of filmmakers the way a parent influences a child. He was the big figure. The point now is not to imitate him and that has been my endeavour.
How have you evolved in 25 years of directing?
Earlier, I was more concerned with everyday reality and stories that were set within it. But now, I am getting more interested in other kinds of realities, like at the end of 15 Park Avenue, there is a transcendence, a kind of surreal leap where you go on to another plane of reality.
15 Park Avenue is a street in Calcutta. What is the significance in the movie?
There is no Park Avenue. That is the whole point of the movie. There is a character in the film who searches for this address. Whether it exists or not, and which plane of reality it exists, that is the point of the film.
You have mentioned that this is your most honest film. What do you mean by that?
It is based on a real life person, whose identity I cannot divulge. But that person looks for an address.
You are lifting it straight from reality.
You never lift straight from reality. You are inspired by a real life incident and then your imagination takes over.
How different is this film from the earlier ones, like Paroma, Yuganta, Sati and Mr and Mrs Iyer ?
Every film is different from each other.
You try to find something different?
No, I don’t have to try. If you are trying to be honest, if you are trying to be true to the character, the artistic vision in the film, then it is bound to be different.
15 Park Avenue explores an urban sensibility. Will it appeal to the general public?
I hope so. Obviously, our kind of film is not for the general audience who go to the mainstream Hindi cinema. Although, more and more, the dividing line between mainstream and the so-called art film is blurring. Nowadays, viewers are accepting interesting subjects. It is an exciting time and all kinds of films are being made. And I think that is very encouraging.
Working with an actress who is also your daughter. Does it lead to conflicts?
There are no conflicts. We are very close.
What are your future plans?
I want to make a comedy that I have already written. I have also joined a Kolkata TV channel as a creative director and I want to make something of it.