“I know what Jiah Khan was going through”: Koneenica

Posted: June 10, 2013 in survival, Women
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
Bengali actress Koneenica Banerjee

Bengali actress Koneenica Banerjee

When I was working as an entertainment journalist in Kolkata I was always fascinated by Bengali actress Koneenica Banerjee’s in-your-face honesty when she talked about the perils women face in filmdom. Koneenica never had any qualms about admitting that she got “casting couch” propositions every other day and because she turned them down she often didn’t get roles.

The girl – who shot to fame with the role of Pakhi in the superhit Bengali serial Ek Akasher Niche went on to do memorable roles in a number of Bengali films and serials – also decided to try her luck in Mumbai. With an impressive CV she was brimming with confidence that her work would speak for her. On the contrary while standing at the endless queues at the auditions everyday she realized Mumbai was a different ballgame altogether.

Bollywood actress Jiah Khan committed suicide on June 3, 2013 by hanging herself

Bollywood actress Jiah Khan committed suicide on June 3, 2013 by hanging herself

When I asked her about what she thought of the suicide of Jiah Khan, Koneenica told me over phone from Kolkata, “I know what she felt because I have gone through the exact situation. I am no one to judge why she did this but if media reports are to be believed Jiah Khan was depressed about lack of roles and at the same time a letter written by her talks about the pain she felt for the demise of her relationship with her boyfriend. I have faced rejection day in and day out and I plunged into depression after my break-up. When I finally came back to Kolkata from Mumbai I couldn’t go out or speak to people for months.”

Here is what Koneenica told me: 

“In Bollywood if you sleep with 10,000 men it does not ensure you a role”

If you are an aspiring actress every man in the industry – from the spot boy to the top producer – wants to sleep with you with the promise of a role. But even after that there is no guarantee that the role will come. Most often it doesn’t.

I am an actress and not a prostitute”

It is true that nobody rapes you in the film industry and it is your choice if you want to warm up anyone’s bed. But now more than a choice it has become something like a norm. But what I find ridiculous is if women are with men they are quickly branded as “bad women” and talked about while men get away with the light tag of “industry playboy”.

I have chosen not to bow down to this norm and have suffered immensely. But I have ensured a peaceful night’s sleep that way although I have been called a “jobless actress” many times.

 “One influential man with connections in the film industry asked me if I was a virgin”

One powerful man even asked me that why am I behaving like a virgin in a place like the film industry. I told him on his face that I just didn’t like him so I refused to be with him. I was laughing to myself in my heart because I knew about his waning influence in the film industry although he tried hard to convince me that he had the real passport to my fame in Mumbai. I know there are plenty of women who still believe him.

Koneenica at a recent photoshoot. (Photograph taken from her Facebook page)

Koneenica at a recent photoshoot. (Photograph taken from her Facebook page)

If Hrithik comes up with a proposition I will definitely consider it”

I don’t want to project myself as a Sati Savitri (pure chaste woman). But the thought of being with ugly, pot bellied men, with no knack for a conversation is truly repulsive. It is repulsive to think that I will be with these men to get a role, and as I said earlier, a role that does not come with a “guarantee card”. But if someone like Hrithik Roshan or Brad Pitt tells me the same in return for a role it is definitely worth considering.

“During my almost 4 years stay in Mumbai I went for more than 800 auditions”

While in Mumbai I did one telefilm, one reality show called Sarkaar Ki Duniya and a few ad films but I must say every audition was a harrowing experience. I had to stand in long queues all through the day and then people handling the auditions often had no respect for us and misbehaved. As the days passed by I realized that when they were looking for a new face acting prowess was the last thing on their mind. But after an audition sometimes it happened that they pulled a chair for me and offered me water and spoke respectfully. I think that was my moment of truth and I would cherish those moments. Of course, the role always went to someone with good connections. Chances were no one standing in that long queue got the role.

“Being alone in Mumbai is the toughest thing”

After a day like this where you are pushed and shoved at every audition when I came back to an empty home I felt the walls came to gobble me up. Then money was a major issue. I had to count every penny and spend carefully. Something I was not used to doing in my fairly cushy home in Bhowanipore in Kolkata. Also it is very hard to find real friends in Mumbai who would care for you without a motive.

When I used to have differences with my ex-boyfriend he would often tell me I had gone mad but I never told him anything of that sort in return. I knew he lived alone and it was extremely upsetting to go back to an empty home and keep questioning your own sanity and credibility.

“Sometimes I have been mentally tortured”

This has happened in Kolkata even when directors have misbehaved with me on the sets and told me I am not good enough. They have compared me with other actresses and told me they were better.

But thankfully I have had directors who have told me that they are my fan. I choose to cherish those words and ignore the rest.

“My family saved me from the brink”

By God’s grace I have a family who were always with me even when I was alone in Mumbai. I could pick up the phone and talk anytime to my mother, sister, uncle or father. I think this connection helped me immensely. I always knew that whatever happened I could go back to Kolkata, to my home, and I would not be judged by my family.

With time your perspective of life changes. When I was going through these phases I started questioning myself if I am the one who is running against the tide? I read up books, I did meditation and reiki and realized that at the end of the day I have to be at peace with myself. Now that I am back in Kolkata I am also thankful to have some true friends.

I have never contemplated suicide”

After being constantly rejected in the film industry and having a break-up with my boyfriend my confidence reached the nadir. But I always believe in re-incarnation and my soul is the only connection with God and I have no right to harm this soul. Now that I am in a better place mentally I know I have to stay mentally and physically fit for my own good.

“If my life is a book I want to read till the end”

Every experience, be it bad or good, teaches you something and enriches you. I think my experiences make me the person I am. I don’t believe in giving up and I have to read the book till the end to know how it all ended. I want to know what the future finally has in store for me.

(Koneenica has recently worked in two Bengali films Kapurush O Mahapurush and Ganesh Talkies.)

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Comments
  1. Candid.Honest and. Beautiful writing.

  2. Chandrani says:

    Beautiful & very honest writing…Hats off to Koneenica..

  3. Kudos Konee, i always admire your guts of speaking the truth …. it’s sad we live in a society full of such hypocricy & double standards… I wish only if Jiah too had been a bit more strong, & not let her emotions rule her mind so much that she decided to take her own life… new ays.. may her soul R.I.P.

  4. swati says:

    very honest and heart touching writing….
    jakhan ‘PAKHI’ role ta dekhechilam takhan thekei ami fan apnar.

  5. Sujoy Prosad Chatterjee says:

    Very well written…sensitive and not sensational, for a change….Konee is an old friend and I salute her spirits…she is some one who is probably one of the most beautiful heroines that Tolly could afford to have but just lost the case…and man what a dancer!…

    • amritaspeaks says:

      Dear Sujoy,
      Thank you for your comments on my writing. I agree with you Koni is no doubt a brilliant actress and a dancer and I have always admired her ability to speak her mind.

      Cheers
      Amrita

      • Anindita Burman says:

        Hi,
        Although Konee is a celebrity, I consider her as an individual with a srtrong possitive attitude towards life & a fighting spirit which make her more powerful as a human being. This write up will surely boost of the moral & the mental set up of many.Thanks to you both for this wonderful sharing.

        Love
        Anindita

      • amritaspeaks says:

        Dear Anindita,
        Thank you for your appreciation.

        Cheers
        Amrita

  6. Debolina says:

    such vivacious confession might lead her to a horrifying exposure to the industry n even a faceoff to sm extent, still konowin d consequences,she spoke her heart out..salutes to koni for being so braveheart..the phrase says god helps those who helps themslves n thts wht she showed pinpointing..salutes agin for incredible work,besides every dialect i jst love her comedy part in several plays like Gorai Gondogol n many..and lastly thnx a ton Amrita for revealing this to us..keep up d good work going 🙂

  7. D Banerjee says:

    Bolly struggle is tough and almost tormenting….good write-up.

  8. garg roy choudhury says:

    hii this is garg ,i wanna be a actor ,help mee!

  9. abhijit says:

    a big salute for having the guts 2 speak out the truth…..lots of respect

  10. Hitendra Kumar Nath says:

    Thanks koni to speakout real fact in film industry i had seen 1st time koni in ek aksher niche in a role of Pakhi and another one is BRISTY that time i told my wife this to girls can go further in their future but all of certain both were vanished however Bristy was working as a side role in some film but what about Pakhi didnt see in any picture now i could understand what was happend in Pakhi,s life thanks Pakhi you told the true picture of film industry so we sd not encourage my daughter to enter in film industry at any cost but only question is that it means all heroines in film industry become prostitute in their real life kindlu clear it to me.

    • amritaspeaks says:

      Dear Mr Nath,
      Thank you for your comment. I think in this interview Koneenica has spoken about her own experiences which have been similar to Jiah Khan’s but not exactly the same, of course. I don’t think it is fair to expect her to speak for every other heroine in the industry.

      Regards
      Amrita

  11. Babita Kochar says:

    Brilliant write up Ms. Amrita,It feels great to connect with women who have the guts and courage to speak truth.People have masks on their faces in our society.Speaking out the truth in open is considered taboo and the one who does it,feels a bit secluded from the masses.Exposing all the dark tht exists,is so important to build a healthier system where talents,looks,class is valued rather than dirty stuff.I ,as a woman,have been staying in this city Kolkata for last 4 years and find myself so lost and too confined ..eventhough i travelled as single woman traveller and m creative minded.I hope coming generations are stronger and I also hope tht we can all together fight out .Hats off to Koni and to you as well Amrita…Babs(Ko Bana )

    • amritaspeaks says:

      Dear Babita,
      Thank you for your pertinent observations. I completely agree with you that we can all get together to build a better tomorrow “to build a healthier system” as you said, where women are respected for who they are.

      Cheers
      Amrita

  12. Rony Mazumder says:

    Very good thought Konee!! A strong hold in writing as well!! Looking into ownself is definitely a way how you interpret the universe. One candid request – Start writing more!! why not short stories!! Am sure you have full episode of experience which u can document in your writing!!

    Would like to be in touch with you just as I see you are very philosophic and your vision o life matches mine as well !! Bhalo theko Bandhu !!!

    Rony
    maz.rony@gmail.com

  13. Bob Roy says:

    Nice one…Amrita and Koneenica:)

  14. ANIRBAN GUPTA says:

    hii…I meet Koninneca in a party @ ITC Kolkata…..i became a great fan of her since that day and i was so impressed with her confidence, wisdom and patience when she was talking to all of us not belonging to the film fraternity…….she was definitely looking stylish, beautiful firm and personified…….we exchanged mobile no. also and i was amazed how she realized me on my first call back to her……..long time, but what a gesture!
    i read her interview and the incidents are really horrified for any aspirant actors/ actresses in the industry……although it is now a common phonomenon in every industry thro’ out the Country, but wisdom & braveness counts, and Konineeca has both in her……….it really takes pain to get refused so many times & it gives an immense pleasure to win the way you like at the end of every day!
    Truely, life is living the moments and career is just a small part of our universe!
    Congrats again to Konineeca for her braveness and RIP to Jiah.

    Regards-

    Anirban Gupta
    +91 98309 21306

  15. cinejuana says:

    Life comes in such odd color pallets….its just shocking! By, the way a great blog..following 🙂

    http://cinejuana.wordpress.com

  16. Niladri says:

    Hi, Amrita and konee,
    Rightly said. Konee, though I know her very little, still I know she is a honest, straightforward person. Very rare to find nowadays in our double standard society! Amrita, you have done a fabulous write up and konee, as usual, is very direct to the heart. Hope, we have more people like Konee and you in our society! thanks to Indroneel too.

    But, I think the problem lies in our society and system. Corruption, greed and near extinct morals in our society is propelling all these issues. Everyone wants to be a millionaire nowadays by hook or crook! Though we can’t change everyone, but if we change ourselves in the right direction and fight unitedly against these evils, I believe one day this society will change. Let’s fight unitedly. ….

  17. ANIRBAN PAL says:

    WISH U SUCESS IN UR OWN PATH…..U WILL BE SUCESS FUL..IN UR OWN PATH…..U HAVENT BOWED UURSELF IN FRONT OF MONEY…WHILE MANY PEOPLES DO SO…

  18. Mansur Shaikh says:

    Really very very good Koneenica. U don’t know me but I know u,as we have one thing in common and that is Sarkar Ki Duniya only difference is u did it in front of the camera and I was behind the scenes.I too was in Karwar at that time and have seen u many times. To tell the truth our entire team liked Shamuan and u because of your personality, looks and disposition.I don’t know but I think u look more like Alisha Chinoy. I hope inshallah one day u will find fame like Vidya Balan. remember she too had her bad phases. This is the story of our industry and people without any support do find it difficult here. Inshallah one day you will make it.

  19. Swapan says:

    Yes u r writing very honestly.

  20. nav says:

    I know many people from the film and modelling industry and i say not all people are same. some are good some are bad. some people have good experience and some have bad. so we cant judge everyone just on the basis of sexual harassment. no one can force u to sleep with anyone .. end of the day its your individual decision.and if in case anyone forces you then there is always a very strong law for women.

  21. Reblogged this on Truth or Dare and commented:
    Heart touching story and Koneenica, a brave heart for pouring her heart out….

  22. Muskaan says:

    Love ur persnality.ur upbringing is vry gd.

  23. Faria Islam Ria says:

    Koneenica u r jst a superstar! I salute ur honesty n boldness. U r a beauty with brain n appreciatable character. Though I came to knw u after bigg boss but yet i cn bet on the fact that i am the biggest fan of yours. U r simply great. Always be like this. I am from Bangladesh & u r invited here soon dear. Tc.

  24. Naomi says:

    i have seen koneenica banerjee in bigg boss and i think she is a very good woman filkes with honesty and integrity.

  25. DICKY LINGAM says:

    Like it or not but every single industry has an ugly underbelly but the Film industry or other Entertainment industries be it Modeling, Films or TV that have high visibility get magnified be it the pros or the cons…In many ways the glamour industries that tend to dazzle from outside usually have lot of stink on the Other Side of Midnight and that is what Suffocates the Strugglers in their Battle for Survival on One hand and Desperation to make it at any and every cost as most of the strugglers arrive with one way tickets and going back is rarely an option until it is usually too late and that is where physical and emotional exploitation takes a heavy toll..leaving deep invisible scars that rarely heel in a lifetime and no amount of make-up can make those nightmarish memories fade.

    KONEENICA BANERJEE has spoken honestly and straight from the core of Her heart and You captured Her true feelings rather poigantly without making it a sob story though it does bring a lump to the throat..What is rather disturbing is that while everyone is willing to talk at length off the record nobody is willing to talk on record and name and shame such Sexual predators until they have burnt themselves totally and have no hope left of crosding the same bridges again..That’s why nobody takes these folks seriously and the wolves roam freely seeking their next prey..Like it or not but the Entertainment industry is lots like the Mafia and neither like to have their beans spilled. So till there is hope the silence remains and the frustration spills over only on hindsight even when Compromising gets them nowhere…Incidentally Actors are as badly propositioned as Actresses but rarely do they squeak as the trauma is equally humilating.As long as everything is verbal nothing can be done unless the situation turns ugly or nasty oor even both..Like it or not but all Indecent Proposals come with a feeler..If You don’t wanna grab it there is a line outside waiting to elbow their way in to the casting couch…So Desperation and Attitude don’t go hand in hand as nobody forces themselves upon You.Atleast on the Surface

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