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The Rediff Interview

17 kisses and a crab on her breast

Monika Balwa | March 29, 2003

Bold. Brazen. Beautiful. Adjectives that would fit Mallika Sherawat [she had her name changed from Reena Lamba] to a T. Mallika

This 21-year-old from New Delhi, who has modelled with Amitabh Bachchan for BPL and Shah Rukh Khan for Santro, has already got the industry talking about her steamy scenes in her debut film Khwaish. She had a bit role, including a song, in Vashu Bhagnani's Jeena Sirf Merre Liye. "They cut the song in the film. But since nobody except Kareena Kapoor's, Tusshar Kapoor's and my parents saw the film, it does not matter," she says.

The next 'skin' flick after Jism, Khwaish is directed by Govind Menon (of Danger fame) and also features Himanshu Malik (of Tum Bin). It deals with marital tensions. Govind Menon raves about his heroine, "We had passed the casting deadline. The minute she walked in, we knew she was star material. I just hoped she did not stink as an actress. Then she blew competition away with the best screen test I have ever seen."

Monika Balwa talks to the actress about her latest film.

How did you get into acting?

I finished graduation in New Delhi and wanted to act. So I came to Mumbai. As a newcomer without any filmi connections, the only way to get a role was to [appear for a] screen test. I did, for Khwaish. Apparently, Govind had checked over 100 faces. He was happy with my screen test and cast me in the film. What I liked, besides the great script and the role, was the professional approach of the director and his team.

I had to perform three screen tests and act in all kinds of scenes. But Khwaish is a dream debut. To haMallika and Himanshu Malikve six songs picturised on me, all sung by Asha Bhosle, is a delight!

I did advertisements to get comfortable in front of the camera. Shah Rukh Khan once complimented me about how well I dance. That was a high. Now, I am looking forward to working with Aamir Khan and Sanjay Dutt -- they have been part of my dreams.

Tell us about your role.

It is an honest and frank role -- a dream come true for a debutante because there aren't any films that have a central female character. It's very realistic and deals with the portrayal of a young, urban and educated woman. In how many Hindi films does the heroine go to the medical store and buy condoms? I have 17 kisses with Himanshu -- that should tell you how the rest of the scenes are.

17 kisses!

I had a blast! It is a passionate film about marriage. What do you expect to see? 17 kisses on screen. Imagine more in rehearsals, takes and retakes. If a hero can enjoy it, why can't I? Both of us had a great time.

In one of the songs, we actually had bhang, as we were required to act intoxicated. It worked out quite well -- raunchy, horny and passionate. The film demanded exposure, and I did it.

Is it a Saathiya-kind of a film?

It's better than Saathiya!

What was it like working with Himanshu?

It was great fun. He is a very supportive co-star. He got into the character very well and even put on weight for it to look less model-ish. He reminds me of Dharmendra. We would fight non-stop off-screen -- just like in the film. They were like rehearsals! Watch out for him in this film because he is going to make a mark.

Any tough scenes?Mallika

The worst was when I had to emote with a crab on my breast. It freaked me out.

Also, Govind is a slave driver. We would wake up at six in the morning for the two months that we shot for the film. But I am sure the end result will justify it. He never compliments me or my work in front of me, because he thinks mere bhaav bad jayenge [the praise will go to my head].

How did you feel when you first saw yourself onscreen?

I loved it because I have never looked better. Then my eyes travelled lower to what my mom and dad would see. Honestly, I am here to be an actress, not a social worker or a nun. Why should I be worried? But my parents were shocked because I come from a conservative Jat family.

How has the industry reacted?

I have had to change my telephone number twice already. I have received a lot of offers, but I am waiting to sign a good script where I am not just a wall flower but have an identity of my own.

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