Credited as the "original Bollywood bombshell," Mallika Sherawat first captivated Indian audiences in the 2003 groundbreaking film KHAWISH and has gone on to become one of Bollywood's most popular and critically acclaimed actresses.
Salil caught up with Mallika to talk about her new film, her plans for the future and her career so far!
Known for your glamorous image in India, you seem to be replicating the same kind of success in Hollywood. How have you managed it considering not many Indian actresses have worked internationally?
Mallika Sherawat: I hope I'm not just replicating, but evolving - and I'm lucky to have had a great role and great director for “Hisss” -- and I'm a bit of a film geek too - love the films of the 30s and 40s and watch Barbara Stanwyck and Betty Davis burn the screen.
Your first appearance on-screen was in the video for "Lak Tunoo" by the Late (RIP) Surjit Bindrakhia. Could you let us know how did that happen and did you work with any other Bhangra artists since then? Or is there any Bhangra artist currently whom you would want to work?
Mallika Sherawat: As a matter of fact, I'm told by the music supervisor of my next film that Punjabi MC is going to be involved. The soundtrack itself will have some Bhangra, as well as some new Indo-American hip-hop fusion. We're all very excited about that. It was so long ago when that video happened - Hai Rabba, I can barely remember it!
Did you always want to be actress? Who was your favorite while growing up? And how did you get your first break into the Hindi film industry?
Mallika Sherawat: Ever since I can remember I've wanted to be an actress – I might have made a pretty good child star! I loved Madhuri Dixit while growing up. And I got lucky with "Khwahish" as there were 300 other girls auditioning for the part and believe it or not, they picked me because they thought I spoke Hindi more fluently than the others!
It’s been 5 years since "Murder" released but people still remember your role in that movie. Are you open to more of such roles or you want to avoid being typecast as too glamorous and do a variety of roles?
Mallika Sherawat: I think that has to do more with the success of the film – everybody remembers you in a successful film. An actor can be great in an unsuccessful movie and nobody cares – so credit to the writer and director of Murder. I'll continue to try and choose films for their stories rather than look for a particular role. But would love to do something like "Monster" or "Million Dollar Baby".
Comedy has been your genre of liking for the past few years. Will we see you in an action movie or a romantic flick any time soon?
Mallika Sherawat: I agree - but a lot of the films being made in India are comedies as well. “Hisss” was a breath of fresh air before I go back to comedy – which believe me is tougher than anything else. But an action film would be fun. When I was a little girl and watched traditional Bollywood heroes and heroines in films, I always thought the guy's role would be more fun to play!
Now that you have received the LA Honorary Citizenship, are you planning to shift base to LA from Mumbai to concentrate on Hollywood?
Mallika Sherawat: I consider myself a global gal now, but I'll never turn my back on my beloved Bollywood or Mother India. I'm working on a few other Hollywood projects, as well as a few that work in both industries. I go where work takes me – I spent a few months in China when I worked on The Myth, and now I happen to be working on two films whose directors are from Los Angeles. Who knows ... it might be Spain next if Pedro Almodovar casts me!
Earlier "item numbers" were typically for actresses trying to get a foot in the Hindi movie industry. Now we see almost every male/female star doing such songs. What do you think has changed the perception for such songs? Or do you think that it is for pure commercial reasons that people do them?
Mallika Sherawat I can't speak for other stars, but when I've done them, it was primarily a business decision –but I see the beauty in the fusion of impressive choreography, fashion and music for those “item numbers”. At times it can be a defining element for the film itself! I think that actors/actresses can do them to add to their brand with the film – can you imagine how incredible it would be to see an entire club of your fans dancing and singing according to what they saw in the film? Although a balance is necessary and I do hope Bollywood makes more films like Chak De India and Pyar Ke Side Effects where songs are used only as part of the background score.
Could you give us a brief on your upcoming projects and what can we expect from you in the coming years?
Mallika Sherawat: I've agreed to do a Bollywood thriller, which will probably get started later this year. And studio film director Jesse Dylan who did "Kicking and Screaming" with Will Ferrell and Robert Duvall is developing a project for me. I was also recently cast in an American production playing a role inspired in part by Kamala Harris, the politician called the "female Barack Obama" and that's been very exciting. I’ve been taking accent-reduction classes, doing some character research, and the film also has an urban element, so I even started hip-hop dance classes and salsa dance to get in the mood! I've been meeting alot of filmmakers in the U.S. I've also been offered a few other roles and am considering some, but to be completely honest, I'm a one-film-at-a-time girl, and don't like to sign on too many projects at any given period.
As an actress which is that one role/character that you would want to do in your career, no matter what?
Mallika Sherawat: I was lucky to get "Hisss" – it's the role of a lifetime. My character is sexy, venomous and she swallows people alive! And I'm waiting for Ridley Scott to call me about remaking Cleopatra!
A lot of stars are resorting to social networking these days to reach out to their fans directly and have found the experience as exciting. Do you interact with your fans through this medium?
Mallika Sherawat: Haven't you heard? They called me the Twitter Queen! I was the first Asian star invited to the Twitter offices in San Francisco and I've been hooked on Twitter for quite a while now. In India, I never really got to know my fans because it's hard to do so in public situations with crowds and security. But from the comfort of my home office on my computer, or from my phone when I'm going about my day, I've found it really incredible to connect with fans, friends and people all over the world. You can follow me at www.twiiter.com/MallikaLA
If you look back at the years that you have spent in the industry what do you think is your biggest achievement to date? And have you had any failures?
Mallika Sherawat: Biggest achievement would have to be making a name for myself in Bollywood – which is very hard to do if you're not born into it or get taken under the wing of a "godfather" which sometimes comes with its own obstacles. Co-starring with Jackie Chan in "The Myth" which was a first for an Indian actress was a very big deal for me. In addition, getting awards and honors in Hollywood, especially the Resolution from the City of Los Angeles in which they say I made Hollywood history by being the first Indian actor to get such special recognition! And, besides the debacle of Maan Gaye Mughal-e-Azam, thankfully most of my films have done reasonably well – My ultimate failure has been the lack of finding a filmy boyfriend!
Have you set yourself any milestones or do you prefer to take it one day at a time?
Mallika Sherawat:: My goal is to love the life I have, and currently I couldn't be happier.
Any plans of marriage in the near future or you want to concentrate on your career for now
Mallika Sherawat: I think Hollywood icon Katharine Hepburn said it best when she said, "If you want to sacrifice the admiration of many men for the criticism of one, go ahead, get married."
Thanks a lot for your time. Any last message for your fans and the readers of simplybhangra.com?
Mallika Sherawat: All you readers of SimplyBhangra.com better come watch Hisss, or I'll swallow you alive!