Konkona Sen Sharma has quickly become an Exotic and Irrational favorite. She first came to our attention in Aaja Nachle (2007), where she played the distinctly unglamorous Anokhi. Anokhi is a tomboyish village girl who is trying to get Kunal Kapoor's Imran to notice her; when they are cast as the legendary lovers Laila and Majnu in the theatrical show that Madhuri Dixit's Dia is directing, Anokhi has her chance.
Even without English subtitles, the dynamics among the characters and the shifts between the film's reality and the characters' fantasies in Aaja Nachle's "Ishq Hua" should be pretty clear. That's Vinay Pathak and Sushmita Mukherjee as the older couple, and Ranvir Shorey dancing with Madhuri in his character's fantasy (music by Salim-Suleiman; directed by Anil Mehta):
Under the tutelage of the older, more experienced (and divorced) Dia, Anokhi learns that the way to a man's heart is to glam up, flirt, and become more feminine. By making a parallel between Anokhi's role in the show and her adoption of a more girlish personal style, the movie is suggesting—perhaps not inadvertently—that femininity is a performance.
And this isn't the only Konkona movie that makes that suggestion. In Life in a...Metro, Konkona plays Shruti, as a woman we are supposed to see (at least initially) as exaggeratedly severe; it's only after she gets some girl-to-girl advice about her appearance and demeanor that she begins to get some (initially unwanted) attention from Irrfan Khan's Monty. It's a measure of how good she is as an actress that the striking Konkona is so convincing as these supposedly unattractive women.
Incidentally, both movies also suggest that men are crude and self-centered until love allows them to let down their emotional guard a little. In other words, masculinity is also a performance—or to put it another way, an act.
In addition to (or sometimes along with) the ugly duckling who becomes a swan, Konkona also often plays young women beginning to make their way in the big city. Her characters, with the same mixed success as the rest of us, are seeking not only love, but creative fulfillment in their work. In Page 3 (2005), she plays a naïve journalist who realizes too late that she's become a part of the empty-celebrity machine; in Luck By Chance (2009), she plays an aspiring actress who discovers that talent and ambition aren't all that's required for Bollywood success; and in Wake Up Sid (2009), she plays a young writer who eventually lands a column in a hip nightlife magazine as the "New Girl in the City." Konkona's sympathetic performances are the best thing about all three of these movies.
Here she shows Aisha's recognition of her growing love for Ranbir Kapoor's Sid in Wake Up Sid's lovely "Iktara" (music by Shankar-Eshaan-Loy, lyrics by Javed Akhtar; directed by Ayan Mukherjee):
After Wake Up Sid, which was very successful both critically and commercially, Konkona may have felt that she was finished for the time being with "new girl in the city" roles. Certainly her current projects seem to involve very different kinds of characters. We haven't seen Atithi Tum Kab Jaoge or Right Ya Wrong (both 2010)—neither slapstick comedy nor suspense thrillers (Hitchcock aside) are favorite E & I genres. We are, though, looking forward to Iti Mrinalini (announced for a June 2010 release), Konkona's reunion with her mother Aparna Sen, who wrote and directed Konkona's breakthrough Mr. and Mrs. Iyer (2002).