Sen & sensibility: In conversation with Konkona Sen Sharma


Mayukh Majumdar talks to Konkona Sen Sharma, who is winning plaudits for her bravura act in the gripping series Mumbai Diaries.

Konkona Sen Sharma’s latest web-series, Mumbai Diaries, has been earning rave reviews on social media and has already become a critics’ favourite. Mumbai Diaries deals with the plight of medical professionals during the 26/11 terrorist attacks in the city. Along with the Taj Palace and Leopold Café, Mumbai’s CAMA hospital had also witnessed the worst of the 26/11 attacks. There was news at that time about doctors and nurses delivering babies in silence while the hospital was overrun by terrorists. Konkona plays the role of the hospital’s social services director, Chitra Das in the show. Konkona’s character is the victim of domestic abuse which leaves her almost crippled with fear and trauma. At the same time, she regularly puts herself in her patients’ shoes and helps them lead happier lives. And then, of course, 26/11 happens and Chitra Das has to rise to the occasion alongside her colleagues. In this candid interview, Konkona talks about her character’s growth, the attacks on doctors in government hospitals, the politicisation of the “spirit of Mumbai” and how it is only in moments of fear, that one can show courage. Excerpts…

Tell us a little about your character, Chitra Das?

Chitra Das is the social services director of a hospital. She has a medical background but she is not a doctor. As we know, on 26/11, many people went out of their way, to help others. She is one of these people. She is also someone who is dealing with a lot of emotional baggage from the past. And interestingly, what I liked about her, is that she is someone who is vulnerable and through the course of time has to overcome it. And she goes through a certain growth where she is able to show tremendous courage by the end of the season.

Actors say they can really bite into their characters in the OTT space because they’re given ample time to settle in. In the case of Mumbai Diaries, how does Chitra evolve? Because the series takes place over a few days.

Chitra goes from a position of vulnerability to a position of strength. The people who are brave are actually people who are scared. It’s a choice to be brave because if you’re not scared, then it’s no big deal. But if you are scared and you are vulnerable, and then you go to a position of courage, that requires bravery and that is what happens with Chitra. In a show like this, which is over just a matter of few hours or days, there’s not a lot of time to do character development. I mean, you can show details of the character etc but it’s not a character drama. It’s almost like a thriller because there are events unfolding at the same time. And extreme events at that. So, in a series, you usually have the space to delve into characterisation, go into peripheral characters and go into more detail but here, because we have chosen a time stamp on everything, it’s a very different kind of a show. It’s a character based show, it’s a medical drama which has the feeling of a thriller.

Konkona Sen Sharma


In the show, the doctors are working on the victims of the terror attacks and also on the terrorists responsible for such devastation and destruction.

I think that’s a very important thing that Nikhil Advani is saying through the series, that doctors have actually taken an oath and they are supposed to save all human lives on the scene. They are not supposed to look at the morality of a person, the colour of their skin, their profession or whether they are criminals. And it must be so difficult for the doctors, when they can see that the lives of their colleagues and their loved ones have been affected by these terrorists. But, in a broader sense, I’d say that in any ER in the world, doctors are supposed to respond to human life. They are not supposed to ask what religion you are from, what your caste is. They ask you what your blood group is and what your allergies are. The other stuff is for the justice system to deal with. Doctors have to save lives. The courts and law and order have to deal with the rest of it.

When COVID-19 struck, medical professionals were on the frontline and expected to battle a virus that no one had ever heard of.

I’m someone who is from a very privileged background and has access to the best medical care but that is not the case for most of the country. In government hospitals, even in a big city like Mumbai, the situation is quite bad. So, you have a lot of overcrowding, a huge shortage of beds, of medical supplies, of equipment and lack of infrastructure and it is very, very difficult not just for the patients who don’t have access to basic medical care. But it’s very difficult for the doctors to work under these circumstances and doctors are not gods. We do think of them like that sometimes but they are not gods who can create miracles everyday, they need that kind of support to bolster them. That is something which is sorely lacking and that is a tragedy – and a reality in this country. Plus, on top of that, if you have a situation like 26/11 or the pandemic, it’s so challenging for frontline workers. That is also what our show is dealing with. And you know, even though I have lived through the 26/11 attacks – I wasn’t in Mumbai but I was living in Mumbai at the time – I never really saw it from the inside of a government hospital. And how they worked in such extraordinary circumstances… That was a very new thing for me.

Konkona Sen Sharma

Of late, we’ve even heard of doctors being attacked by the aggrieved relatives of people who unfortunately couldn’t be saved…

You know, that is why we have to raise awareness about how difficult it is for doctors. They are not geniuses or gods performing miracles everyday and also, they cannot perform in a vacuum. They can’t just produce magic out of thin air. They have to have the equipment, they have to have the nurses and the team. We have to support the frontline workers and the first responders so that they are able to do their jobs.

Konkona Sen Sharma

After every terrible thing that happens in Mumbai, people talk about the “spirit of Mumbai”. Your take on that.

Well, you know it’s a very convenient thing where anything will happen and you can expect the spirit of Mumbai to continue but really what choice do people have? If they have to run their homes, they have to go to work. And when there’s crisis, it’s not like people can decide ki “oh, now we will not continue”. They still have to run their homes and put food on the table. So, they don’t really have a choice. I mean, it’s an amazing thing that after 26/11, the next day the local trains were up and running. That’s crazy and admirable also but I don’t know at what cost. And it shouldn’t have to be like this, that’s what I’m saying.



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