Actor, writer, and filmmaker, Ms. Konkana Sen Sharma is the recipient of two National Film Awards and four Filmfare Awards for her outstanding contribution to Indian cinema. Her filmography is dotted with some strong female characters. She is a bold feminist voice in a largely male-dominated industry.
Here are some excerpts from her chat with senior journalist Rituparna Chatterjee on the Feminist Adda panel- Humari Kahani, Hamari Zubani, talking about the power of women sharing their own stories in Bollywood and more:
Rituparna Chatterjee: Women filmmakers bring a lot of experience from their daily lives to the narrative… Does it give some sort of authenticity to the content? Would portraying power dynamics in sexual context be different if a woman is the filmmaker?
Konkana Sen Sharma: “There is a different perspective when the woman is the creator of the content. I definitely think there is something called female gaze, which is different. The problem is there are very few women filmmakers. As a filmmaker, I am not obliged to have a female protagonist. I think men can write about women, and women can write about men. We must have all sorts of women making films to see what emerges from it.”
Rituparna Chatterjee: Does Bollywood/Indian Cinema have the system in place to address sexual harassment? Is there a support structure of that kind? What are the barriers for women to come out and call out the powerful men in the industry? Do the women warn each other?
Konkana Sen Sharma: “I think women do look out for each other. And they intuitively do that from a young age. We speak rarely about it probably because it comes at a great cost. For that we need unity, women need to come together. It is a very unfair choice for women who have to suffer financially for speaking up against powerful men with many more contacts and far more resources. What we can do is listen to the women who speak up.”
Rituparna Chatterjee: You identify as a feminist, Why don’t everyone?
Konkana Sen Sharma: “I’m a very proud feminist. People have outdated notions of feminism, there is a basic misunderstanding and fear about what feminism is. Feminism is a complex issue. We must understand that we are living in an unfair world and we need to raise awareness about what feminism is. If not us, then who?”
Rituparna Chatterjee: Do you think there is space left for free speech today?
Konkana Sen Sharma: “I don’t think there is a space for free speech in India. Growing up in 80s, it was normal to criticise the government and no one was called an anti-national for it. We constantly spoke in a very dismissive fashion about the government and it was okay. Right now, I’m an Urban naxal.”
Rituparna Chatterjee: Do you think actors should use social media to raise political and social issues? What is your take on the current trend of trolling/online harassment of actors online?
Konkana Sen Sharma: “I am not very organised about my social media. It leads to an image-making of a person based on a post. I take a stand based on issues rather than being overtly political. Self censorship is at an all time high right now. Why does my patriotism has to be jingoism? We are not Pakistan, we are a secular country.”
On being asked about the much hyped age difference between Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas, she responded-
“I think we should save our energies for other battles. How does it matter who people want to love?”