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Shedding her skin

NIKHIL VARMA
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people The queen of sizzle, Mallika Sherawat, was in the city to promote her film Hisss. She sounded part politician, part philosopher. What happened to her on-screen item-ness, wonders NIKHIL VARMA

Humble pie Mallika: ‘It is the common man who has made me what I am' Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy
Humble pie Mallika: ‘It is the common man who has made me what I am' 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 Bachchan, is probably the most well-known Indian film star in the West.

In Bangalore at the Reliance Trends store to promote her latest movie “Hisss” , the husky-voiced Mallika said: “The best part of the movie was that I managed to get over my fear of snakes as during the shoot, I used to be surrounded by them.”

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

By the way, did you know Mallika loves Bangalore and has even acted in a Kannada movie. “I enjoyed working in that movie. We had massive crowds thronging the areas where we shot. I have always had a very good time in Bangalore.”

She touches a chord, when she says that Bollywood needs to become more Indian, in its outlook. “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.

Going by the trailers flooding our TV screens, the costumes (or the lack of it!) do play a very important part in the movie.

“It was 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 on-screen lover.

Playing such challenging roles leaves no room to multitask in multiple films. Mallika believes in doing one thing at a time. “It helps me get into my character better.”

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.”

Now tempering it with a bit of philosophy, the big fan of Hollywood adds, You get to be recognised for the person you are in Hollywood and are not judged for everything you do. The world is becoming a global village and everyone is getting a chance to prove themselves.”

Incidentally, Mallika a huge fan of the American President, is getting to work on a film loosely based on him. She boasts, “Bill Clinton promised that he would also watch the movie. It was a proud moment.”

Once the acting part is finished, Mallika says that she is fairly detached about the commercial success of the film. “As long as I have done my job well and everyone has put in their best for the movie, I am happy. I am not very perturbed by box office result.”

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