“I was crying almost every day…… maybe it was postpartum depression”

Konkona Sen Sharma is so awesome on so many levels, it’s kind of hard to write an introduction to an interview with her. But we’ll try. When we spoke to her A Death in the Gunj had just released. So in a way, she’d just had another baby, methinks!

First off, Konkona is warm, kind and approachable. I have so many questions and she’s happy to answer them in that disarming style that we know of. Very much a working mum, she had a lot to say about that as well as about many other things, including postpartum depression, which she admits she should have gotten checked. But more on that later.  

How she manages her working mum mantle

As a daughter of a working mother, Konkona is all for working mothers. She sees women all around her who are working mums and are a constant source of inspiration for her. “A happy person makes a happy parent. So I feel everyone should find means to their happiness and fulfil their own dreams.

“No point being at home all day and not being present… like not engaging most of the time.”

She has some advice for mums who are working:

1. Children are raised by the community also. So it is important for the child to engage with house help and nannies. This will help them engage with different people at different levels.

2. You can engage with a child by not talking also. Like reading together. You can model the behaviour you would like child to emulate.

3. It is worse being at home all the time and being resentful. Instead do things that are meaningful for you- whatever that may be- to make you a happier person.  

Postpartum depression? May be.

Parenting is probably the one thing that connects this powerhouse of talent from an enviable gene pool with many mothers like me, and maybe you. I know I cried a lot after my son was born and didn’t seek help despite having known about postpartum depression.

Konkona is frank in admitting that love for her son also happened over a period of time. And to be honest, it’s a relief coming from someone as accomplished and sorted as her.  “It was not instant. I mean obviously I loved him. But over a period of time, I learnt I could love him so much more. Like there are newer depths of love you can achieve.”

The first few weeks were rough on her too. Being “massively sleep deprived,” finally got to her. Don’t we know! As we speak, she takes a quick break to check on her son Haroon, six, who was wailing, and comes back to say, “It was nothing, just a scratch,” and begins the interview in earnest.

Toughest time: Breast feeding

One of the reasons why many mothers struggle with the initial few months is the breastfeeding. Konkona describes it as a “stressful time”. She says that her nipples were sore all the time. They bled and were scabbed. “I used shields to protect myself. I am not sure it helped.” She recalls doctors and other well-wishers touching, asking and telling her what to do and what not to, which was deeply uncomfortable. Yet, she kept at it for three months, she says. Today her son is six years old and her concerns have changed.

Parenting formula: Benign neglect

This is the formula her parents used and one that Konkona swears by. “There is no way to really describe it, except that it is the opposite of helicopter parenting. I just can’t see the merit in helicopter parenting.” Her parents always gave their children — Konkona has a sister — the space to develop on their own. “Ideally, I would love to bring up my son the way my parents did,” says the actor-director who believes children should be allowed to find answers for themselves and be creative on their own.

Also, parenting is all about change, she says. At every age children are in a different phase so, “You constantly have to recalibrate, and be on your toes.” What’s right and what’s wrong are answers she would like her son to come up with on his own. Also, being a celebrity child herself, Konkona is clear that he should not grow up thinking that he is the center of the universe.

“Like when we are sitting in a room, he is the only kid who is possibly jumping around or attracting attention. So I have to ask people to consciously look away,” she avers as a way of making him comfortable in his own skin in his own universe.

Award for very first directorial outing

Daughter of actress and filmmaker Aparna Sen and science writer, journalist Mukul Sharma, Konkona is a startling amalgam of her parents. Like her mother, after acting she has taken to direction. The drama-thriller ‘A Death in the Gunj’ was released last week and critics everywhere are feteing it as the best debut they have seen in a long time. The story for the film was written by her father who narrated it to her when she was a child.

The film is still running in theatres and absolutely needs to be seen. The film also got her the Best Indian Female Filmmaker Award at the Mumbai Film Festival.

Child on sets

‘A Death in the Gunj’ needed to be shot at the very location it says in the film, McCluskiegunj, at Jharkhand. Since the crew was large, they found accommodation at Ranchi which was an hour and a half away from the set. Her son travelled with her and her sister and nanny helped in taking care of him.

Konkona is raising him to respect everyday jobs. From age four onwards her son has chores to do every day. “He lays the table, puts his toys back, settles the cushion down. Well, mainly because he is the one who is playing with them, throwing them all around,” says Konkona, very much a hands-on mum.

Whenever she travels for work, her son helps with the packing too.  Her voice goes up an octave as she says “Oh yes, he loves to help me pack,” with glee.

Single parent

Konkona and Ranvir were married in 2010 and had their child the very next year. They separated in 2015, on amicable terms. They are still friends and share joint custody of Haroon.

So it helped that Ranvir acted in her directorial debut and helped care for Haroon. “He is a very involved parent,” she says.

Parenting and craft

Has being a parent informed her craft in any way? Yes, she says. “Being a parent has taught me to experience life from a different perspective altogether. Resilience, tenacity and patience. I never knew how much of these were built into me.”

Amen to that and to many more films like A Death in the Gunj from the remarkable mum who is charting her own territory in a kind of cinema that is less seen. (Seen it yet?)

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