Aparna Sen had spent her childhood in Hazaribagh and Kolkata and completed her schooling in Modern High School for Girls, Kolkata. She did her graduation in Bachelor of Arts with English honours in Presidency College. However, she did not complete the degree. Eventually, Aparna Sen met Brian Brake - the Magnum photographer in Kolkata in 1961. During this time, she was visiting India to see the photographs in his Monsoon series. Brake noticed the striking beauty in Aparna Sen and took her as the model for what was to become one of his most well known photographs. The concept of the photograph was a shot of a girl holding her face to the first drops of monsoon rain. The photo shoot was done on a Kolkata rooftop with a ladder and a watering can. She is wearing a red sari in the way a village girl does and put on a green stud in her nose. The images from Monsoon album became part of the lexicon of photojournalism and they were published in Life, Epoca, Queen and Paris-Match in the early 1960s. Aparna Sen was portrayed, as a young girl welcoming the first sweet rain. It became an iconic image of the time.
Aparna Sen made her film debut at the young age of 16 with the role of Mrinmoyee in the 1961 film Teen Kanya or Three Daughters. This film was directed by the legendary personality Satyajit Ray. Ray was a close friend of her father. After the shoot she started to study at Kolkata Presidency College. Later she did work with Satyajit Ray in several of his films, including the short Pikoo (1981) where she played the character of a treacherous wife and mother. In 1965, Aparna Sen started her film career in Mrinal Sen's Akash Kusum. Since then until the end of the 1970s, she worked progressively in the Bengali film industry. Aparna Sen acted in a number of Hindi films also during this time.
Aparna Sen appeared in The Guru in 1969, which is an English-language feature by Merchant Ivory Productions. She further did two more films with Merchant-Ivory, Bombay Talkie (1970), and Hullabaloo over Georgie and Bonnie's Pictures (1978). Aparna Sen also acted with the stalwart Rajinikanth in 1981 Tamil hit 'Thee', produced by Balaji as Rajini's lover who would get killed by R.S. Manohar in a plot to kill Rajinikanth. Her co-stars in the movie were Sripriya and Suman.
Aparna Sen as director
Aparna Sen made her debut as a film director with the smash hit film 36 Chowringhee Lane in 1981. She was also its screenplay writer. The film is based on an aged Anglo-Indian teacher living in Calcutta; the film won several positive reviews from critics and won the Best Director award at the Indian National Film Awards and the Grand Prix (the Golden Eagle) at the Manila International Film Festival.
Aparna Sen was not carried away with this early success, but started working on with several other films; the best among them are Paroma (1984), Sati (1989) and Yugant (1995). These films were particularly focusing on the feminine condition in modern-day India from different standpoints. Aparna Sen starred as the dancer mother in Unishe April (1994), the film by Bengali cinema's Rituparno Ghosh.
Aparna Sen further made a next directorial effort with Paromitar Ek Din (2000). This too was a critical hit. This film explored the relationship between a divorced woman (Rituparna Sengupta) and her mother-in-law, played by Aparna herself. Paromitar Ek Din won a number of awards on the international festival circuit. Mr. and Mrs. Iyer (2002) was her next venture, featuring her own daughter Konkona Sen Sharma. This was a love story set against the insensitive backdrop of Hindu-Muslim sectarian hostility in India. This film won a National Film Award for Sen's direction, and also an acting award for Konkona Sen Sharma. The film also won more awards at the Locarno, Hawaii and Manila film festivals.
15, Park Avenue (2005) was Aparna Sen's latest released venture, starring Konkona Sen Sharma, Shabana Azmi, Dhritiman Chaterji, Waheeda Rehman, Rahul Bose and Soumitra Chatterjee. The film deals with a schizophrenic girl and her relations with her elder stepsister, played by Shabana Azmi. The next film, directed by Aparna Sen is titled The Japanese Wife (2010) and stars Raima Sen, Rahul Bose, Moushumi Chatterji and a Japanese actress Chigusa Takaku. This film centres around two women and is based on a short story by West Bengal author Kunal Basu.
Aparna Sen married three times. Her first marriage was to Sanjay Sen, when she was quite young. She married the science writer and journalist, Mukul Sharma later. They later divorced agreeably. Finally, she married Kalyan Ray, an author and professor of English who teaches at County College of Morris in Randolph, New Jersey, in the United States. Aparna Sen has two daughters, Kamalini and Konkona. She has two grandchildren.
Other than her accomplishments in the acting and directorial field, Aparna Sen was the editor of the fortnightly Bengali magazine 'Sananda' from 1986 to 2005. It is an acclaimed Bengali women's magazine published by the Anandabazar Patrika group that enjoys equal popularity in West Bengal and Bangladesh. From November 2005 to December 2006, she was closely associated with the Bengali 24x7 infotainment channel Kolkata TV as the Creative Director. In 1986, the then-President of India honoured the Padma Shri award to Aparna Sen recognizing her contribution to Indian cinema. Since then, she has received several lifetime achievement awards, and served on juries at film festivals around the world. Some of her latest films include The Japanese Wife (2010) and Iti Mrinalini (2011).
Filmography of Aparna Sen
Filmography as Director and Writer