Sunday, November 14, 2010

Filmi Girl talks to... Mallika Sherawat

Bollywood bombshell Mallika Sherawat whipped audiences into a frenzy in Hisss - you can read my review of the film here - but critics were less than kind... to put it mildly. While it's not unusual for a film to receive bad reviews, I felt like the discussions surrounding Hisss went beyond that. The level of vitriol in the press was remarkable and I haven't really seen anything like it since Anurag Kashyap's misunderstood and highly underrated No Smoking.

When a film generates something beyond just a bland dismissal or a haughty roll of the eyes from critics - something like the hate spewed at
Hisss - I think that the film and the reaction are worth taking a look at. I mean, audiences rioted at the first performance of "The Rite of Spring" and it's now part of the cultural mainstream. Then again, somebody like John Waters has always remained on the fringes of mainstream culture. Does that mean Pink Flamingos a bad film? It's now a cult classic.

Only God knows what we the people will think about
Hisss in a few years but I wanted to know about the lady in the center of the storm thought about it now.

And, thankfully, Mallika Sherawat was gracious enough to answer my questions about the film and the reaction to it in the press.

FG: What did that Pamela Anderson t-shirt mean in Hisss? I kept trying to figure it out – do you know? Was it supposed to be a reference to a very sexual woman?

Mallika: I remember Jennifer being surprised that people in the East were fascinated by Pamela Anderson as they were in the West. I guess it's a result of
Baywatch being the world's most popular TV show before. And with that scene in the film I guess she thought it would be representative of being those boys being "oversexed".

[I always got to know about stuff... I'd be an excellent commentary track moderator! Hee hee!- FG]

FG: How does it feel to have proved the critics wrong with Hisss? [In reference to the box office collections]

Mallika: Overcoming any challenge feels good, but with
Hisss, the Indian critics really went after us in a way that many thought was not only unfair, but even bordering on the ridiculous. There's a few theories as to why, because although the film is not perfect, it's certainly not what they were saying it was. These same people give good reviews to certain Bollywood films we all know are in truth bad, either poorly made, or just amateur. Some say the Indian critics are in bed with the studios, get kick-backs, or are trying to prop up the establishment. I don't know the truth. But I do feel that if the very same movie had been made about this Indian legend but starring westerners, maybe they would have embraced it more. Or if the filmmaker was Indian. I hate thinking this way, but...

FG: Do you think critics are still useful to film goers?

Mallika: There's room for everybody. :) Though I will say that word of mouth is usually what wins out in the end, and as social media, what some call "word of mouth on steroids", continues to grow and dominate, I think less and less will one critic's opinion matter. In India, I think we need more critics, maybe some younger ones (like you and Raja Sen ;) ) who are a little more in tune with the changing nature of the country and Indian cinema. We're the youngest country in the world, yet we let the older generations tell us what's good?

I took a lot of heat because I was "retweeting" alot of user comments about Hisss, but I felt I had to. So many people were saying they were planning on not seeing the film because of the critics, yet decided to see it when they saw the comments about the film I was putting on Twitter.

FG: A lot of the attention from the press about Hissss has been on your figure and the bold nude scenes. Do you feel more exposed than before? Are you worried that you will have problems with men trying to take advantage of you?

Mallika: I knew during the making of the film that my "boldness" would probably end up being the USP of the film. ;) I'm fine with that being one of the reasons people went to the theater, because they were then also
exposed (pun intended!) to some interesting filmmaking, different stuff they wouldn't normally embrace without a sensational angle, or my unique USP.

I learned how to handle myself a long time ago in relation to my screen image. A lot of people think or hope I'm a certain way personally in real life, when I'm just the opposite. I can put them in their place with the best of them. [
Note from FG - and this is why I love Mallika!] It's usually in the first two minutes of meeting me that anyone who was thinking of trying to take advantage is put in their place.

FG: Is it hard to watch yourself in those scenes? Do you get embarrassed? Do you think films are too conservative [in the use of nudity]?

Mallika: I don't find it hard to watch, and yes, I get a little embarrassed if someone else is watching while I'm there. I'm not proposing films should be less conservative, just with certain films more realistic. Some of my favorite films are able to elicit emotions and feeling with no visual risque-ness whatsoever. But other films, like Hisss, actually call for it. How could a snake turn into a woman who is fully clothed?

FG: What is your favorite part of Hisss?

Mallika: Probably the chase scene, and the transformation scenes. The dramatic element of the "family storyline" with Irrfan, Divya and Princess "Akka" is pretty powerful to me also.

That chase scene was fun to watch - I think my fave part was when she climbs up this telephone pole... just the expression on her face... I'll dishoom anybody who says Mallika can't act! - FG]

FG: What is coming next? I heard rumors of Murder 2 but then I heard that Emraan Hashmi was unhappy with the casting.

Mallika: So many rumors every day! And that one is one of them. Someone I know from the west is always making fun of the Bollywood press and its rumor mill. She just can't believe how much b.s. gets printed and published online. [
Not from me! I always call B.S. when I smell it. - FG] No fact-checking, no research, not even a desire for it. I'm told Hollywood was like that in its Golden Age, but maybe with the threat of lawsuits they had to grow up. In India its really hard to actually get anything done by lawsuit - you could be stuck in court for 20 years!!! So there seems to be no recourse, the press get away with anything.

I recently finishing filming
Double Dhamaal [with Arshad Warsi!! - FG] and Love, Barack should be hitting theaters in 2011.

FG: You got to travel around a lot during the promotions of Hisss to different film festivals – did you see any other kinds of films or actors that really impressed you? Korean, Italian, etc?

Mallika: Sure - The Koreans are doing great work in a variety of genres. Jeon Do-Yeon and Moon So-Ri are two of the most amazing actresses in world cinema, and I'd like to see how people here would react to the films of Park Chan-Wook and Kim Ki-Duk - brilliant filmmakers who continuously manage to shock me. There's also some great Spanish and Latin American cinema - I loved
The Secret in their Eyes from Argentina.

Yeah, that atrocious Oldboy remake does not count... ugh. - FG]

FG: What was it like working with Jennifer and how do you feel about her statements to the press now, disowning the film? Do you feel like it is all just part of the business? And would you work with a Western director again?

Mallika: I'd rather have the producers comment- but I'll say this - In no way did the producers violate her contract, and its definitely not a part of the business to complain when you don't have reason to. I don't know if it was the press again, making more out of it, or if she forgot some of the facts, that she actually did see the final cut right before the FX was implemented, and signed off on it with just a few notes. She worked with 2 editors she chose for 17 weeks in the U.S on her cut of the film. Contractually, she didn't have final cut, which is the same scenario used in Hollywood: the studio had final cut, and they let the filmmaker take alot of time to submit a director's cut. So, months went by after she saw the studio cut, but she ran to the press when the critics didn't like it... I enjoyed working with her and I wish her all the best. I just worked with a great American director, William Dear on
Love, Barack, and loved the experience.

FG: There have been some other bold films released (or releasing) recently – have you seen Pankh or Dunno Y... and would you choose to do another bold film like this? Do you think doing a bold film is a good step in a career?

Mallika: I haven't seen them. I think as a society we've been hypocritical and repressed for a long time, not to mention archaic, with puritanical censorship guidelines. Its all history due to the internet - and what we term "bold" is actually honesty, and as Edgar Allen Poe said: any person who has the courage to be honest can create a masterpiece. [
And she quotes Poe! What a lady! - FG]

FG: If you could have your dream project in Bollywood, what would it be?

Mallika: My dreams are certainly not restricted to Bollywood. But a Bollywood Musical directed by Pedro Almodovar would be insane fun!!!

I want to give a big thanks to Mallika for taking the time out to satiate my curiosity... and to wish her good luck on her next projects!

Love and kisses from Filmi Girl!


KeepingItSimple said...

Quite Decent and Honest Interview Questions.

Thank you for bringing the actress and thinker Mallika Sherawat interview and her ponts straight out.



eliza bennet said...

Thank you for this interview.

I really liked Malika in Pyaar Ka Side Effects.

Now I read the interview, she talks like someone I can actually hang out with. She likes Park Chan Wook, Kim Ki-Duk (two faves of mine) and knows who Moon So-ri is.
She really likes films and l sure like her better for it.

I hope that she'll be in more films in the future.

Note from Filmi Girl:

I love Bollywood - and all the ridiculous things that happen in Bollywood - but it doesn't mean that I can't occasionally make fun of various celebrities and films.

If you don't like my sense of humor, please just move on by - Trolls are not appreciated and nasty comments will be deleted.

xoxo Filmi Girl
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