Sanyukta Iyer (MUMBAI MIRROR; April 12, 2017)

Aparna Sen first watched Mahesh Elkunchwar's one act play Sonata 13 years ago. “I was interested in the interplay of emotions, the textured characterisation and dramatic ups and downs of three single, childless, 50-something women who'd been friends since college,“ says the filmmaker-actress who chose then to adapt another play, Saari Raat, by Badal Sircar, with her daughter, Konkana Sen Sharma, as one half of a married couple. “I thought it would be challenging to shoot in one space for an entire evening. I had to choreograph in a certain way,“ Aparna reminisces.

Saari Raat was her short for the 'Zeal For Unity' film project, which was to showcase the works of six Indian and six Pakistani filmmakers. “My film was appreciated at festivals. But now, the climate of our country is anti-Pakistan and the producers have put the release on hold,“ she sighs.

When she realised her short would not open soon, she decided to give the one-night narrative one more try, this time as a feature film. “I had a small budget and tight schedule so I decided to make Sonata in Mumbai. I thought three really good actors would bring the play alive on screen,“ Aparna says.

Shabana Azmi was cast as a whimsical, Bengali woman, while Aparna stepped in to play a prudish North Indian. “Shabana sings well but her voice has never been used in a film before. Even if the singing was slightly flawed, it would seem natural because her character does not do riyaz before singing a Rabindra Sangeet,“ she says. “Everyone wanted Lillete (Dubey) as the third friend. The producer insisted I act in the film and since I cannot sing a single note, I played the only character left in the trio,“ she says.

The film will have a different climax from the play to give it a global context. “I brought in a 'bai' to cut across classes and bring in another female perspective. I've also used a transgender character, a friend of the trio in college who underwent a sex change. Everything was with Mahesh's permission,“ she signs off.