Despite being labelled Bollywood’s hottest sex symbol, Mallika Sherawat has time and time again proven that she’s much more than that. She can act, she can dance and she can certainly grab headlines–no one can deny that Miss Sherawat knows how to make Bollywood sway to her tune.
The first reason I love Mallika Sherawat is because of what she isn’t. What she is not is a throwaway sex symbol, the likes of which you may stumble across in any of the back lanes of Bollywood, Hollywood or any -ollywood for that matter!
What she is, first-and-foremost, is an actress. As we have seen in Ugly aur Pagli and soon in Maan Gaye Mughall-e-Azam, she has perfect comic timing, a very rare attribute that can only come from deep within. But in addition to that, she can also play demure and confused characters as she did in the much-underacted Murder opposite Emraan Hashmi. Soon, we hope to see her in her most sensuous and possibly most threatening avatar as Naagin, the Snake Goddess, in the Jennifer Lynch movie that may just possibly launch her on the international stage in the way that she deserves.
Mallika, born Reema Lamba, came into this world on October 24th, 1981 in Karnal, Haryana. She adopted the name Mallika Sherawat to avoid confusion with another actress — Mallika means ‘Empress’ and Sherawat is her mother’s maiden name. She chose to use her mother’s name as a gesture of thanks for all the support her mother has given her — and that’s the second reason I love Mallika, she’s such a decent, well-brought-up woman. For example, earlier this year, she walked out of Kundan Shah’s movie Masquerade, it’s rumoured, because she felt unhappy about being asked to use foul language in the role of a prostitute.
The third reason is that she’s intelligent. She’s a graduate in Indian philosophy from Delhi University and her knowledge and background will no doubt be a great asset on the set of Naagin. When she speaks in interviews, her answers reflect a person who really knows what they’re talking about. This girl’s no bimbo.
After a short and disastrous marriage, she made the right decision and jumped ship, packed her bags and followed her childhood dream to Bollywood. That takes guts! She made her movie debut in Khwahish in 2003 which stunned everyone with its seventeen sexy kisses. Suddenly, she was the ‘Bollywood Bombshell’! But it was Murder in 2004 that first made people look up and see her as an actress. The film went on to become one of the biggest hits of the year with more twists and turns in the last twenty minutes than a corkscrew. For her role in this film, she was deservedly nominated for the Zee Cine Award for Best Actress. This is the film, by the way, in case you’d forgotten, that has the amazing lip-locking scene with Emraan.
In 2005, she took a risk by appearing in the Chinese movie The Myth opposite Jackie Chan and this is the fourth reason that I love Mallika — she’s prepared to take a risk with her career and try different things. She’s also very careful about her movie choices and doesn’t play the typical Bollywood game of trying to produce as many as possible in the shortest time available. Never one to take a back seat, when she accompanied Jackie to the Cannes Film Festival for the premiere of the movie, she wore such stunning outfits that she soon became the centre of attention, flocked by photographers with Jackie grinning and looking a bit bemused on the sidelines.
Pyaar Ke Side Effects in 2006 also won her many plaudits as she appeared opposite Rahul Bose. This was followed by one of her staggering item numbers on screen, titled ‘Mayya Mayya’ from the film Guru in 2007. This leads me to the fifth reason why I love Mallika — boy, she can dance! For her magnetic item number in Aap Ka Suroor in the same year, she was reportedly paid 1.5 crore for a 10-minute performance.
2007 also saw a very good performance from her in the movie Welcome which incidentally ran into some problems in Pakistan because of its sexy scenes, almost reversing the policy of opening-up that Pakistan had been extending toward Bollywood. However, it has been in 2008 that Mallika is finally leaping into superstar status. Firstly there was the huge Kollywood movie Dasavathaaram (Ten Avatars) built around the chaos theory and the butterfly effect. It brings together the lives of ten very different people (all played by Kamal Hassan) prior to the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004 that killed a quarter of a million people. It’s a staggering production and Mallika is very strong as the lead actress. It also leads me to the sixth reason why I love Mallika — she is absolutely at ease with her sexuality. Appearing in public at the launch of the movie, she was criticised by some Hindu organisations for wearing a skimpy dress and sitting with her legs crossed. So, she’s not too popular with the Hindu traditionalists, but definitely has lots of fans elsewhere! Recently, it was rumoured that Playboy magazine would like to feature Mallika but — being a good girl — she politely declined. She was also recently voted the most fantasized-about woman in India by young Indian men.
More recently, she has been in Ugly aur Pagli opposite Ranvir Shorey and now as the most beautiful Anarkali ever in Maan Gaye Mughall-e-Azam. Despite some extraordinary acting from Mallika, Ugly aur Pagli did not capture the imagination of the public as much as the producers would have wanted but the previews of Maan Gaye… suggest she’s really going to hit back with this one. The film also stars Rahul Bose. In the movie, she plays Shabnam, a small town girl married to the producer of a small travelling theatre show. She’s bored and believes that life must surely offer more exciting than what she currently has.
The seventh reason I love Mallika is that she’s really very sweet. She recently left her trailer on the set of Maan Gaye… looking stunned and dazed. When questioned, she said she’d just seen the ghost of Madhubala in her trailer — Madhubala of course was the star of the original Mughal-e-Azam. A member of the unit said, “Mallika was too stunned to react! She told us that she saw a ghost of Madhubala. It may sound unbelievable but these things happen and there’s no logic behind it.”
And the eighth reason is a genuine love for her professionalism. The director of the movie, Sanjay Chhel, asked her to play the cello in the sea for one scene. Despite being battered by a huge wave, she dragged herself back to her feet and insisted they shoot the scene that the director wanted.
The ninth reason for loving Mallika is — well, she is a little bit of a dominatrix, isn’t she? One gets the impression that she wasn’t acting all that much in Ugly aur Pagli. And men like that attitude in a woman! She once said on ‘Koffee with Karan’ that she wants her man to be subservient to her! Recently, she was appearing with her co-star Paresh Rawal on a children’s TV programme to promote Maan Gaye… Paresh turned up looking casual in his pyjama and kurta and Mallika insisted that he smarten himself up a bit and demanded that the producer provide Paresh with a suit for the show. Needless to say, both men snapped to attention and Paresh appeared looking very smart in the borrowed suit.
What’s up next for Mallika? Fauj Mein Mauj should be a crackerjack of a movie — it’s a comedy where the sexiest woman in India (guess who?) becomes the first woman to join the infantry division in the Indian Army and this could be followed by an American movie, Unveiled, a thriller, where Mallika is a woman whose life is closing in on her and she escapes by taking the identity of a recently deceased friend — only to find she’s jumped from the frying pan into the fire.
And that’s the tenth, and most important, reason I love Mallika. She’s never ever boring. There’s always a new direction in her life, a new angle that she’s exploring. She’s bright, articulate, sensitive, spunky and sexy — what more could any man want?