Mallika Sherawat was a name which was almost unheard of a few months back until she came into limelight with her bold debut performance in the Govind Menon's film 'Khwahish" which is to hit the screen very soon. Mallika has brought in a new prospective and approach towards sexuality in mainstream Hindi cinema. In all her interviews she talks audaciously about the 17 kissing scenes she has done in "Khwahish". SeasonsIndia correspondent Sanyukta meets this new age actress whose performance will bring about a revolution in Bollywood.
Excerpts from an interview with SeasonsIndia correspondent Sanyukta.
What is the movie "Khwahish" about?
Well the movie has a very simple and straight forward story. It basically explores the relationship between a young couple from courtship to post-marriage highlighting various aspects of a married life. It also deals with social issues like pre-marital sex, post-marital affair, contraception etc. The only thing is that the issues have been dealt with in an honest and fun way. This concept is usually unseen in contemporary Hindi movies and has been dealt with for the first time.
How did "Khwahish"happen?
Well actually I must say that it was luck and also my hard work paid. The director Govind Menon was looking for a new face to launch and he had seen me in a Santro ad that I had done with Shah Rukh Khan. I was screen-tested, and had to do things like performing two-three scenes from the film, show how my dancing steps were, and they also checked out my chemistry with Himanshu Malik who was doing the main role anyway. Well I did was I was told to do and I came out with flying colours.
What exactly were you asked to do in your screen test?
Well I had to perform two scenes -- one, a comic nightmare about how I try to cook live crabs which was my first experience in cooking -- I didn't have much of a problem as at the end of the scene I slipped and fall and a live crab landed on my breast and I was screaming my lungs out. To be frank that was my natural approach and I didn't have to enact for the scene. The other one was the much talked about condom scene, where for the first time on Indian screen a couple talk about contraception on their honeymoon night. I was again called back after a few days and asked to do the scenes with my co-star Himanshu Malik. Well things were smooth and I was selected.
Tell us about your character `Lekha'. Do you identify with her?
I think there are a lot of similarities between Lekha and me. For the first time in Indian film industry an Indian woman is portrayed as she is and not as she's supposed to be and hats off to the director who had the guts to do that. My character is not a perfect goody-goody character - so the character has flaws and irritating qualities as well as some extremely frank and honest opinions about what women really think. I feel really close to Lekha and the character totally identifies with me.
In all your interviews you have said that you do not regret doing the steamy and hot scenes. Were you being frank and natural or doing it for publicity?
Well I believe in what I do and this is a movie I really identify with. I have absolutely no regrets doing the scenes and if required I will do them again. I don't believe in putting on an act in my interviews - I am who I am, and I think our society is very biased when it comes to women. Whatever I did, the hero did it too with me, so why single me out. There's a line in Khwahish - If a guy does it then he's a stud, but if a girl even wants to kiss, then she's a slut. And that's really true. As a 21st century Indian woman, I believe in fighting for my rights, to be treated equally. I think as a country we still have a long way to go.
Well in Indian film industry an actress is normally typecast in a specific kind of role. Any fears that you may now be typecast as a sex-bimbo.
Well to be frank I am not bothered about that at all? I work out for two hours every day and I'm proud of having a beautiful and sexy body, and if that attracts audiences to the theater, its fine with me. But remember I have the central role in Khwahish, which examines a five-year relationship from courtship to marriage to post-marital issues and the end of the relationship. I believe that after seeing the film I'll be vindicated. Besides I am doing Govind Menon's next film in which I have a role, which is completely different from the one in Khwahish. So there is no question of being typecast in a specific kind of role. The audience will get to see my talent and versatilities.
You hail from a very conservative family. How are your parents coping up with this kind of publicity?
Actually they are in shock and are still struggling to come out of it. I always wanted to be an actress and I have infact come to Bombay to pursue my dreams against the wishes of my parents. Infact in my family no woman has ever done something like this, they have not even held a job. But recently they watched a trial of my film and surprisingly they all loved the movie except for the hot scenes (smiles).
Your name in the fashion world was Reema Gill and then you changed it to Reema Lamba? Some even say that you have been married once and now you are divorced. What's this confusion regarding your name?
Well the confusion is because I used Gill and Lamba as the two last names for Reema, people think Lamba was my maiden name and Gill my married one. Actually the truth is my dad was against my getting into modelling and movies. So I walked out of his life and instead of Lamba (his last name), I used my grandmother's maiden name Gill. But because people in this industry can't take anyone's success in their stride, all sorts of shit flows out of their mouth. Tomorrow they'll say I have kids. Anyways let them say whatever they want, I don't really care. Well I adopted this name coz my director Govind Menon suggested that I go for a new name and end the confusion.
Finally what are your forthcoming projects?
To tell you the truth, lots of offers and lots of big banners are coming to me. But I want to make sure I don't make any mistakes and so I'm being very careful in selecting scripts. As of now, I have signed up Govind Menon's next film which is also produced by Vivek Nayak, the producer of Khwahish. It's a fabulous script and speaking selfishly its completely female-oriented and I play the central character. Menon trusted me to do his next even before Khwahish has been released and I am really excited about this film. I am also doing an Indo-French production with a contemporary theme which deals with the modern-day Indian woman.