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Philosopher princess

NIKHIL VARMA
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Cut above Mallika Sherawat Photo: V Sreenivasa Murthy
Cut above Mallika Sherawat Photo: V Sreenivasa Murthy

H er 17 kisses in Khwaish in 2003, catapulted Mallika Sherawat to instant stardom — not only in India, but across the world. With her success came an entire new brigade of films, which at once shed their conservative outlook and made bold statements: in a way taking on the times by its horns. Mallika won acclaim outside the country with her role in The Myth and after Ashwariya Rai Bachhan, is probably the most well-known Indian film star in the West.

IAbout her latest movie Hisss , the rasping Mallika said: “The best part of the movie was that I managed to get out of my fear of snakes. In the course of shooting many sequences, I used to be surrounded by them.”

Hisss, she says, is inspired by the many ichchadari naga-nagin tales that have been filmed in India. “This movie basically moves the story into a contemporary setting.”

“Most Hindi movies are shot in exotic foreign locations and have nothing to do with the country or its traditions, barring the characters. This movie makes an attempt to break that monotony. In India, the snake holds a very important position in mythology. A movie on the very concept of an Ichchadari naag is bound to be very popular. It has not been attempted for many years now,” Mallika puts it rather tamely. “It is very tough. Getting in and out of the costumes was a tiresome process, especially since shooting some of the sequences took many hours to complete. When I was in costume, I was virtually immobile. I could not move, eat and had to be carried across the set.”

The raunchiest was also the most daring; crawling in the mud and kissing a snake, played a vital role in removing her fear for the reptile. Though Mallika was initially terrified at the very thought, she felt that the snake has been her best online lover.

If hard work is one factor, the big portion of her success goes to her fans -- “they helped me graduate from being a girl next door to being a fairly successful actor.” With the air of a politician in the making, she launches into a small speech, “It is the common man, who stands in long lines to buy tickets for my films, he has made me what I am.”

She boasts, “Bill Clinton promised that he would also watch the movie. It was a proud moment.”

NIKHIL VARMA

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