Mallika’s Cannes act can’t further subcontinental cinema

Subhash K Jha

Mumbai: She Can(nes) do it...! Or so she would like to believe. Mallika Sherawat as India’s representative at the Cannes film festival seems as improbable an idea as Saif Ali Khan representing us at a WWF tournament.There are some things that are meant to be. Like Aishwarya Rai’s global impact, which currently reverberates from Cannes to Los Angeles.

When Rai stood up at Cannes to declare the festival open she did Indian cinema proud. She is, after all, the true face of Indian womanhood... delicate, feminine, beautiful, ethereal and very, very Indian. In contrast, Mallika Sherawat with her brassy upfront image and strident self- proclamations looks like a revved-up advertisement for a silicone implant. Many of her colleagues from the film industry are appalled at her body-display in Cannes. One leading actress, not known to comment on anyone unless provoked, was appalled: “What was the need for her to wear, or not wear, clothes that left nothing, and everything, to the imagination? The hot-bod image may have men panting for her back home. But over there in Cannes Mallika represented India and Indian cinema. The foreigners are hardly going to be bowled over by a woman’s sharp cleavage content. You need much more substance to grab attention at a jamboree like Cannes.” But Mallika has said at Cannes that she represents Jackie Chan’s “The Myth” (in which she has a starring and certainly not sari-ing role) and not Indian cinema at Cannes. She has also sent back her reactions to Cannes in a letter where she expresses her delight at being able to explore “unexplored anthropological territory”.

The face of Indian cinema is the face of Indian grace and dignity — Hema Malini, Sridevi, Madhuri Dixit, Aishwarya Rai. These are the dream girls of Hindi cinema. The overall impact of Mallika’s bejewelled body exhibition in Cannes was nil. Mallika’s presence didn’t further the cause of Indian cinema in the West. We cannot sell our cinema to the West by exporting beach-blonde bombshells. We need to get proud of the way we are. And we need to market Indian cinema accordingly.