Iti Mrinalini revolves round the life of an actress. Once a famous star, she looks back on her past as a successful star in Bengali cinema. Nostalgia plays its part in several ways. It makes her sad enough to take the extreme step. It also gives her the hope to live on, come what may. Which step does she finally take? Does she commit suicide? Or does she open a fresh page and get ahead? Shree Venkatesh Films has produced Aparna Sen’s newest film, Iti Mrinalini, starring daughter Konkona Sen Sharma in the lead.
The casting coup is that Aparna has played the older Mrinalini while daughter Konkona has portrayed the younger version. “I was excited about the project not only because I played what my mother used to be in the Seventies and Eighties but also because I had to portray the younger Mrinalini. In this sense, one could label Iti Mrinalini a period film because it will cast a look at the cinema scenario as it existed within Bengali cinema during those decades,” said Konkona. Shrikant Mohta of Shree Venkatesh Films, the most successful production and distribution banner in Bengali cinema today, venturing into an Aparna Sen film for the first time, says, “We teamed up with Rina-di (Aparna Sen) for two reasons. One, she is a great filmmaker and two, we liked the script. We like to go back to off-beat projects from time to time. The scripts that usually came to us from off-beat filmmakers were not very good. At times, we were not convinced about the director’s ability to bring the script across on cinema. But Rina-di is different. She is extremely focussed and knows exactly what she wants from her actors, her technical team and her film.”
“Iti Mrinalini is autobiographical. But only because of the resonance it carries through images and experiences. As an actress in the film industry for decades, I would like to state that Iti Mrinalini is not the story of my life, either as an actress, or a woman per se, or a director. Working with Konkona was something I looked forward to because she is a fine actress. I decided to play the older woman because we needed a resemblance between the younger and the older Mrinalini. Generally, I do not like to act in my directorial films. Konkona and I have somewhat similar body language, manner of speech and carry ourselves in more on less the same way. We played the same character distanced by age so these resemblances were necessary.” For those who are familiar with her screenplays, they are a model lesson in screenplay writing, with camera lenses penciled in the margins, dialogue written out clearly as in a written and published play, optional camera angle spelt out and at places, even alternative closing shots in a given scene are detailed in.
The young and strapping Shaheb Bhattacharya, who anchored a reality show on a television channel, makes his debut as Konkona’s love interest, Abhijeet. He has recited a Sunil Gangopadhyay poem for a scene. “I was very nervous about working opposite Konkona under the direction of Aparna Sen but both of them helped me out as shooting progressed,” he says. The film has been shot in different parts of Kolkata, taking us back to Bengali cinema of the 1970s and 1980s. They have shot on the Howrah Bridge, in Presidency College, Sen’s alma mater, at College Street’s boi para (the famous book neighbourhood) and local pockets that were popular adda haunts during the time. Others in the cast are Rajat Kapoor, Locket Chatterjee, Priyanshu Chatterjee and Koushik Sen. All the actors have been given the look that was trendy during the 1970s and 1980s because this is the time the major part of the story belongs to. For most of the actors, this is the first time they are featuring in an Aparna Sen film.
Debjyoti Misra has written the musical score. “There are three songs in the film. Two songs are filmed in Bish Kanya, a film-within-a-film that stars Mrinalinii as a young girl making her debut. It makes her a star overnight. Another song shot within Bish Kanya, is in Konkona’s lips. The third one is based on Sunil Gangopadhyay’s poem, Smritir Shahar. I’ve used swing and Latino,” explains Misra. Shaan Shreya Ghoshal, Bonnie and Bobo have lent their voices to the songs.