By Subhash K. Jha, Indo-Asian News Service
Mumbai, (IANS) Bengali sensation Koena Mitra is prone to fits of defiant anger and that's how she starts her diatribe against easy labels like 'item girl' or 'item bomb' that commodify women.
"What did they mean by the term item girl or item bomb? It makes the woman sound like a commodity. Excuse me! Malaika Arora Khan is a wife and a mother. And they had the audacity to brand her an item girl...
"When I did a song in 'Road', I had little choice. I was happy being a supermodel, happy with the share of fame I got."
But then Ram Gopal Varma made her an offer she could scarcely resist.
"The 'Road' song was never seen by me as an 'item'. To me it was part of the story. And of course one hoped for better things," Koena told IANS.
Luckily for her Sanjay Gupta happened.
"He first offered me a role in 'Plan'. That didn't work for me. But he didn't take offence. When he came back to me with 'Musafir' I immediately said yes. I was aware there was Sameera Reddy playing the central role. But I was paired with Sanjay Dutt. And my song was a hit. Like I said, I had to inch forward step by step."
And recently she made her solo-heroine debut with Fardeen Khan in "Ek Khiladi Ek Haseena".
"It's actually like my launch film. I wonder what I'd have done if Pritish Nandy hadn't reposed so much faith in me. I learnt so much working with him. He treated me like his own daughter and director Suparn Verma was so clued in."
She is frank enough to admit the role was offered to Bipasha Basu first.
"When she couldn't do it, I stepped in. That's okay. From one Bengali to another. I'm proud to be known as the next Bengali sensation. We Bengalis have a reputation of being above the ordinary at what we do. Look at Jaya Bhaduri, Rakhee, Sharmila Tagore, Sushmita Sen... I hope I can be the next link in this 'Bong kadi'," she laughs.
Sunny and sensuous, she seems unstoppable. "I've just signed another film 'Money Money Money'. I did it for three reasons, and none of it is money. Firstly, it's a Subhash Ghai film. Secondly, I get to work with director Sangeeth Sivan and Ritesh Deshmukh who were hilarious together in 'Kyaa Kool Hai Hum'. Thirdly, I've a substantial role, though I admit Ritesh has a lot more to do."
She refuses to be an undraped prop in any film.
"I've nothing against sexy films. But I won't do sleazy cheesy films just for the heck of it where the director comes to me and says, 'Madame, you'll have to wear a bikini'; sorry, wrong intentions. And after the film is released I'd be expected to go on camera and scream about how I've done 20 smooching scenes.
"Please, that's so desperate! You can't expect the audience to come and see a film just because you've kissed repeatedly or shown your body all over the place."
Er, is a certain Ms. Sherawat listening?
In the same breath she's all for the steamy shower song with Fardeen that producer Pritish Nandy has put on the MMS. "That song isn't there in 'Ek Khiladi Ek Haseena' for titillation. It isn't an after-thought. I'm cool about being hot with a reason."
Single and happy, Koena stays alone in Mumbai.
"I've no man in my life. My family keeps coming and going from Kolkata. It's a lonely life out here. But work is my solid companion. Let's see what destiny has in store."