July 24, 2002 
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'The best film of my career'
Manisha Koirala's in the market for a new role

Actress Manisha Koirala, who will star in Market, a Bollywood film on the flesh trade, says she has seen the exploitation of women pushed into prostitution and their trauma from close quarters.

Koirala told reporters at the mahurat of the film at Mumbai's Filmalaya Studios that she had worked with commercial sex workers during her tenure as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) ambassador. The Nepalese actress is also associated with a city-based NGO working for the upliftment of sexually exploited women.

She said Market has the potential of becoming the best film of her career and takes the issue addressed in Madhur Bhandarkar's Chandni Bar, starring Tabu, a step further.

The film, directed by Prakash Shah and starring Sweta Menon, former Miss World Yukta Mookhey and former Mr India Aryan Vaid, has Koirala playing a Hyderabadi girl pushed into prostitution. Manisha elaborates on her role. "I play a poor Muslim girl from Hyderabad. I land up in a brothel due to certain circumstances and later, take revenge on the people who turned me into a prostitute."

The actress who made her debut in 1991 in Subhash Ghai's Saudagar and received critical acclaim for her performances in Mani Ratnam's Bombay, Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Khamoshi and Vidhu Vinod Chopra's 1942 -- A Love Story, said she was 'bored' of playing romantic leads in 'routine formula films'. "I have had enough of meaningless singing and dancing," she says. "I wanted to do something better so I tapped filmmakers who had strong storylines."

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Koirala was last seen in an impressive role as the gangster's moll in Ram Gopal Varma's underworld saga, Company, also starring Ajay Devgan and Vivek Oberoi. She said Shah's Market had come to her 'as a breath of fresh air'.

"I was longing to be part of a project that portrays the reality of exploited women and when I heard the script of Market, I readily accepted it," she added.

Incidentally, she also turns producer with the remake of the Hollywood classic Fedora, starring herself and Mani Ratnam's assistant Sreenivas. To be directed by Sudhir Mishra, the film might also star Sushmita Sen. "I turned producer because it feels good to make good films. Though the film is about two girls, it is not a feminist film." The actress is very confident about Sreenivas, who has worked with great talents like Kamal Haasan and Girish Karnad.

Yukta Mookhey, Manisha Koirala, Sweta Menon
Meanwhile, Mookhey is delighted to work with Koirala. "Besides the story and role, which is fabulous, I was getting a chance to work with Manisha Koirala! I have grown up admiring her. She is stunning!

"Market goes behind the scenes of a sex worker. It is a very realistic film," she adds.

Mookhey is certain this film will be accepted and appreciated. "Cinema has come of age. People want meaningful cinema. They no longer watch films to see stars or the Swiss Alps. They want original films, not the same old stuff. They are welcoming new cinema like Chandni Bar, Aankhen, Raaz and Company."

Her debut film Pyaasa, starring Aftab Shivdasani, has been facing some problems and is scheduled for a September release. Director A Muthu was sacked in favour of Anil Mattoo, while producer Ramesh Sharma filed a complaint with the Association of Motion Pictures and Television Programme Producers' Association against Mookhey for harassment.

Mookhey shrugs it off, saying it was 'God's way' of telling her that she was 'meant for better things'. The actress reveals she plans to cut an album (she is a trained classical singer) and also plans to direct a film in two years.

"If I am passionate about something, I will do it. I did it in the Miss World beauty contest. I will do it again," she asserts.

UNI, with inputs from Ronjita Kulkarni


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