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    '15 Park Avenue' is my most honest film: Aparna Sen

    [Interview by Subhash K. Jha]
    Friday, January 06, 2006
    At last, the lady reveals the truth. The role of the girl rapidly degenerating into a schizophrenic that Konkona Sen Sharma plays in Aparna Sen''s "15 Park Avenue" is based on someone very close to them.

    "This is too close for comfort," reveals Aparna about her latest film that released Friday. "But the role of the schizophrenic girl is designed on someone we have known and seen suffering."

    Lyricist Javed Akhtar broke down after seeing the film. "Initially I thought he didn''t like the film. Then he just looked at me and said, ''Please don''t make movies about such pain''," Aparna told IANS in an interview.
    "All my films are about pain and loneliness. I don't make them sentimental. But people cried like babies in 'Mr & Mrs Iyer'. I think my empathy comes through. That's why I am so glad '15 Park Avenue' is being dubbed into Hindi for 15 prints.
    "At first I didn't like the idea. But when I saw the end result I realized the film works just as well in Hindi, thanks to the professional dubbing of all the artistes... All the original actors have dubbed their lines. The minor characters were dubbed by others."
    Aparna's "Paroma" had been made as a bilingual in Bengali and Hindi.
    "But that was a totally unpleasant experience. My Hindi was weak and the dialogues weren't what I wanted. But now, when I was working on my Hindi project 'Gulel', I found my Hindi had improved."
    Commenting on her shelved project "Gulel" she says: "I very much want to do 'Gulel', and it will definitely be made. Naeem Hafiz wanted to produce it. But then his uncle Ismail Merchant died. There are lots of producers who are interested. But I think I'll go into 'Jewellery Box' (featuring Govinda) next.
    "The problem is I was a star before I became a director. I'm used to people coming to me to sign me. I find it difficult to approach producers."
    After "36 Chowringhee Lane" and "Mr & Mrs Iyer", "15 Park Avenue" is again in English.
    "That's because it deals with schizophrenia and we need a more discerning audience. There was no point in making it in Bengali because the budget was very small. I'd love to continue making films in Bengali. But I wish there were producers with the vision to make a really international film in Bengali.
    "In China the government goes to great lengths to help the directors they believe in. In India regional filmmakers are not provided any incentives. Look at Iranian films. They're all international in reach."
    The cast in "15 Park Avenue" is its USP.
    "The quality of acting is unbelievable. Shabana (Azmi), Waheedaji (Rehman), Rahul (Bose), Dhritiman Chatterjee are all outstanding. Shefali Chhaya is very, very good. I always admired her even on TV soaps.
    "But Shabana and Konkona have more difficult roles. Shabana so wanted to be part of the film. When such a good actor offers her services one has to accommodate her. As for Waheedaji, I didn't even know she still acted. When we were casting Shabana suggested Waheedaji. I called her with my heart in my mouth. When I started narrating the story she stopped me and readily accepted the role.
    "As far as Konkona is concerned this is by far her best performance to date. We know someone very close to us who's schizophrenic... a very close relative. So Konkona got to study the traits very carefully. We also had professional medical assistance to get the nuances right. But ultimately after getting all the details right I made sure it was a human-interest story.
    "'15 Park Avenue' is about the human situation that arises from the medical crisis. One of the basic themes in the film is the question of reality... the sick girl's reality and that of others around her. Who's to say which is more real? This is a question that has been bothering me for a long time. We're all searching for the core reality that we can't find."
    Dhritiman Chatterjee, whom Aparna had cast as the romantic lead in, "36 Chowringhee Lane", is cast as a doctor.
    Aparna feels herself changing as a filmmaker.
    "Straightforward realism now bores me. I like to look for a surreal level in my relationships on screen. For example, in my 'Yugant', Roopa Ganguly had leapt into the fire at the end. Obviously that didn't really happen. Like my characters in '15 Park Avenue' I am also looking for different levels of reality."
    She pauses, "'15 Park Avenue' is my most honest film. It's born completely out of first-hand experience. I've lived through the trauma of dealing with mental sickness in the family. I love dealing with the question of who and what is normal."


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