Sen and Sensitivity: Kankana in a conversation with Sen Sharma

Mayukh Majumder speaks to Kankana Sen Sharma, who has won praise for her courageous performance in the Mumbai Diaries series.

Kankana Sen Sharma’s latest web-series, Mumbai Diaries, is garnering rave reviews on social media and has already become a favorite of critics. The Mumbai Diary discusses the plight of medical professionals during the 26/11 terrorist attacks in the city. In addition to the Taj Palace and Leopold Caf, CAMA Hospital in Mumbai also witnessed the worst of the 26/11 attacks. The news at the time was that doctors and nurses were silently delivering babies while the hospital was occupied by terrorists. Kankana has played the role of Chitra Das, the social service director of the hospital in the show. Kankana’s character is a victim of domestic violence which almost cripples her in fear and trauma. At the same time, she regularly wears her patients shoes and helps them lead happy lives. And then, of course, 26/11 happened and Chitra Das had to get up on occasion with her colleagues. In this candid interview, Kankana talks about the growth of her character, the attack on doctors in government hospitals, the politicization of the “spirit of Mumbai” and how it can only be shown in moments of fear, anyone can dare. Quotes.

Tell me a little about your character, Chitra Das?

Chitra Das is the social services director of a hospital. He has a medical background but he is not a doctor. We know that on 26/11, many people went out of their way to help others. He is one of these people. He is someone who has been dealing with a lot of emotional luggage from the past. And the funny thing is, what I like about him is that he is someone who is weak and over time he has to overcome it. And he goes through a certain hike where he is able to show extraordinary courage towards the end of the season.

The actors say that in the OTT space they can really bite their character because they have been given enough time to settle down. In the case of Mumbai Diaries, how does Chitra develop? Because the series is in a few days.

Chitra moves from the position of weakness to the position of strength. Those who are brave are actually afraid. Being brave is a choice because it’s not a big deal if you’re not afraid. But if you are scared and you are weak, and then you go to the position of courage, it requires courage and that is what happens with Chitra. In such a show, which is only a matter of hours or days, there is not much time for character development. I mean, you can show character descriptions etc but it’s not a character drama. It’s almost like a thriller because the events unfold at the same time And the extreme events at that time. So, in a series, you usually have space to characterize, go into peripheral characters and go into more detail but here, because we chose a time stamp on everything, it’s a very different kind of show. It’s a character based show, it’s a medical drama that has a thriller feel to it.

On the show, doctors are working with the victims of terrorist attacks and the terrorists responsible for such destruction and devastation.

I think this is a very important thing that Nikhil Advani is saying through the series, the doctors have actually taken an oath and they are supposed to save the lives of all the people in the scene. They don’t have to look at a person’s morals, the color of their skin, their profession, or whether they are criminals. And it will be so difficult for doctors, when they see that the lives of their colleagues and their loved ones have been affected by these terrorists. But, in a broader sense, I would say that in any ER in the world, doctors are supposed to respond to human life. You should not ask them what religion they belong to or what their race is. They ask you what your blood type is and what your allergies are. Another thing to deal with the judiciary. Doctors must save lives. The rest will have to be handled by the court and law and order.

When COVID-19 hit, medical professionals were at the forefront and hoping to fight a virus that no one had ever heard of.

I am someone who comes from a very privileged background and can get the best medical care but not in most cases in the country. Not only in government hospitals, but also in big cities like Mumbai. So, you have a lot of crowds, a huge shortage of beds, lack of medical supplies, equipment and infrastructure and this is not just for patients who do not have access to first aid services. But it is very difficult for doctors to work in this situation and doctors are not God. We sometimes think so about them but they are not gods who can create miracles every day, they need this kind of support to strengthen them. It’s something that is sorely lacking and it’s a tragedy – and a reality in this country. Also, on top of that, if you have a situation like 26/11 or epidemic, it is very challenging for frontline staff. It’s also working with our show. And you know, even though I survived the 26/11 attacks – I wasn’t in Mumbai but I was living in Mumbai at the time – I didn’t really see it from inside a government hospital. And how they worked in such an extraordinary situation… it was a very new thing for me.

Kankana Sen Sharma

Of late, we have even heard of doctors being attacked by aggrieved relatives of people who unfortunately could not save …

You know, we need to raise awareness about how difficult it is for doctors. They are not geniuses or gods who perform miracles every day and also, they cannot work in space. They cannot create magic from thin air. They need to have equipment, they need to have nurses and teams. We need to support frontline staff and first responders so that they are able to do their job.

Kankana Sen Sharma

After every horrific incident that happened in Mumbai, people talk about the “soul of Mumbai”. It’s up to you.

Well, you know it’s a very convenient thing where something happens and you can expect the spirit of Mumbai to continue but what do people really like? If they want to run home, they have to go to work. And when the crisis strikes, people can’t decide, “Oh, we can’t go on now.” They still have to run their house and put food on the table. So, they really have no choice. I mean, it’s an amazing thing that after 26/11, the next day local trains were on. It’s crazy and admirable but I don’t know what it’s worth. And it shouldn’t be, that’s what I’m saying.

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