July 13, 2011 (Calcutta Tube): Aparna Sen’s Iti Mrinalini is scheduled for an international release at the end of this month. She talks about the film, her motivation for the story, her strategies in film-making. Read the interview at Calcutta Tube.
Iti Mrinalini is your first self-reflexive film as director. What was the motivation?
The germ of the idea had come to me a long time ago. I saw images of an ageing actress revisiting her memories on the eve of her suicide as she looks through her memorabilia. Then I had put the idea in the back burner and moved on to something else that had engaged me more at the time. Suddenly the idea came back to me after all these years and I thought why not explore it? I have had considerable exposure to the life of a mainstream actress after all!
The story unfolds, from what one has read, about a letter being written by the older Mrinalini. Letters play an important role in your films. Is there a special reason?
Yes, there were letters in Parama and in The Japanese Wife. There is no special fascination for letters. I used them as a device that can be made to work cinematically.
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[ReviewAZON asin=”B003M5P9GK” display=”inlinepost”]You generally keep away from casting yourself in your directorial films. You made an exception in Paromitaar Ek Din and now in Iti Mrinalini. Why?
In Paromitaar Ek Din, it was a condition the produce placed to ensure the box-office value of the film. Besides, it was made on a shoe-string budget and it would be cheaper and more expedient to cast myself rather than spend on another actress from Mumbai. In Iti Mrinalini, we felt it would be better that I play the older version of Kokona than try getting an older look-alike.
What made you choose Konkona to play the younger Mrinalini?
There is a familial resemblance between Konkona and myself. Many have commented on this. Many have said that when Konkona walks into a room, they feel they are suddenly seeing a younger Aparna. I wanted to use this in our favour. Besides, it makes for great casting if Konkona and I are there in a film. But playing mother and daughter is predictable and we have done this already in Rituparno Ghosh’s Titli. Playing the same character in two different time zones is something completely new and therefore, exciting.
For the first time, you have cast actors you have not worked with before –Koushik Sen, Priyangshu Chatterjee and Shaheb Bhattacharya. What were your criteria?
Mrinalini has four men in her life. The film is also about the different facets of love. I needed a young actor to play Mrinalini’s first love Abhijit, and Shaheb seemed to fit the bill in terms of appearance. He is very dedicated and cooperative and easy to work with! I needed a man much older than the young Mrinalini to portray the director Siddhartha Sirkar and chose Rajat Kapoor for the role. I had initially thought of Anjan Dutt but he had date problems. Rajat loved the script and agreed at once. Kaushik Sen has great sensitivity as an actor and his potential has not been fully explored. I chose him to play Chintan Nair, the author from the South who becomes Mrinalini’s closest friend. I gave him a completely different look, though. I did away with those and with his mustache and gave him a slight South Indian accent. I am delighted with the result. Priyanshu plays Imtiaz Chowdhury a young film director from NYU who makes films completely different from the mainstream fare that Mrinalini had hitherto acted in. He is much younger than her and yet she gets romantically involved with him. I needed an actor who would be extremely attractive, suave and also very different from the other men in Mrinalini’s life.
. Given a choice, who would take priority in your life – Aparna Sen, the actress or Aparna Sen the director?
The director – without question! To start with, I feel I am a better director than an actor. Secondly direction for me is much more satisfying. As an actor, you are part of someone else’s vision; but when you are directing, the vision is your own.
-Shoma A. Chatterji