Koena Mitra's tryst with Hollywood
Koena Mitra is going places. She has almost completed a Hollywood project, The Story of Naomi alongside Kevin Sorbo, directed by fashion photographer Ash Gupta and produced by Michael Hirshenson. Koena romances both a man and a woman in the film.
She has recently landed two more Hollywood projects -- an as yet untitled film starring Miles O'Keeffe and another called Dark Romance. Both are produced by Karen Armstrong.
Koena talks to Patcy N about her first-hand experience of working in Hollywood, which she says is very different from Bollywood.
Tell us about The Story of Naomi.
The story of Naomi is a dark film. I play Kevin's wife in the film. It also deals with another relationship and that's the reason for the tag line Love, Lust, Betrayal. People are saying it is a bisexual role but let me clarify that it is not a bisexual role.
Image: Koena Mitra on the Maxim cover
'Hollywood doesn't encourage you if you're looking for stardom'
How did you get this offer?
Last year some people had come here for Kites. I received a call but such calls have come before and nothing had materialised. Till the time you meet them, nothing is real.
So I called them to my home and they told me my pictures had been short listed and they would like to screen-test me for a couple of films. They asked me to make a trip because the casting directors there wanted to meet me. I got a call within a week's time and they sent me a couple of scripts.
You have to take a risk in life so I took a chance and went to Los Angeles for a week and I thought if I am being fooled then it will just be a paid holiday. I stayed there for three months because they put me into voice training, fitness and theatre workshops and exercises that help an actor's body language.
You did not do the movie you went for, right?
I kept auditioning for the film for which I was called to the US, but it did not work out. When I met my producer Michael (Hirshenson), he asked me to give a test because he liked the way I looked. I did a couple of screen tests and auditions.
Your attitude matters a lot. You have to be humble, grounded and positive. They don't encourage you if you are looking for stardom and a little money. You have to prove yourself. If actors here think people there know who they are, that's a big lie. They don't know anybody from India. They all know Bollywood and its culture, music, and exotic locales, but they don't really know much about people from here.
Image: Koena Mitra
'In Hollywood everyone is on her own and they don't interfere in others' business'
So how different is it working in Hollywood?
People here make fun of actors who go to Los Angeles, saying that they come back with an accent and after a while, you will hear their publicist say she is the next Bond girl.
Here one actor does several films a year, but over there they concentrate on one project at a time. You have to do workshops for the film so that on location your job is easy. They shoot for nine days and then they edit, and then again rehearse for a couple of days. They don't shoot like us for 45 to 50 days.
It was a wonderful experience working over there but their work style is absolutely different. We rehearse the scene just before it is shot, but over there you know the script well in advance because of rehearsals and the workshop. On location you don't see your dialogues changing or something added to your dialogue. Everyone is on her own and they don't interfere in others' business.
Image: Koena Mitra
'It's not easy to get work in Hollywood'
So are you thinking of shifting to Hollywood?
I am looking forward to many more movies there and therefore I am giving tests, but it's not easy to get work there.
I do not look like a traditional Indian, which works for me. I have always played strong, sexy and glamorous roles. I have never tried to change my image.
Soon I will be starting to shoot for two Bollywood films. I play the role of a cop in one of them. I would love to do films here and there as well. I will be in Mumbai till October and by then, will finish three films.
Image: Koena Mitra
Photographs: Manav Manglani/Reuters
'There's no point being bold in India, people just call you names'
Is it necessary to look glamorous?
It is necessary to look glamorous if your role demands it in Bollywood, but in Hollywood they like more of a natural look -- clean skin, clean face and nicely done hair, but you still look glamorous. Jewellery and accessories are minimal and make-up very basic. They liked my black hair and black eyes.
Is it necessary for an actress to go under the knife?
It's not necessary. It is a personal choice. In Hollywood, going under the knife is part of the lifestyle and they don't give a damn about what anyone says.
You have personally gone under the knife?
I have already spoken about it many times. I have done a nose correction. But the way people have created waves around it at times I feel there is no point being bold in India. Rather than appreciating it, they will call you names.
Image: Koena Mitra in The Story of Naomi