By going conventional at Cannes, has Mallika Sherawat lost her red carpet mojo?
There once was a time when a Mallika Sherawat entrance on the Cannes Film Festival’s red carpet was a reason to pause, take a second look.
It wasn’t — let’s be honest — that Mallika was the most high-profile of actresses to have walked the glamorous stretch, bounded by hungry paparazzi on both sides. She certainly wasn’t part of very prestigious projects — be it The Myth, Hisss, Politics of Love or her latest, Time Raiders. She wasn’t even considered the trend-setter that Sonam Kapoor is.
But Mallika had something none of the Indian celebrities who more routinely walked the Cannes red carpet did: she had shock value. She knew just how to leverage her sartorial choices (think dare-to-bare ensembles), accessories (live snakes!), smart photo-ops (Martin Scorsese), sound bytes and acquaintances (Jackie Chan, Antonio Banderas) to make the loudest possible statement. Everything about her screamed, “Look at me” and look we did.
Whether it was in 2005, when she first attended Cannes on the arm of her Myth co-star Jackie Chan, or in 2010, when she cosied up to a python to promote her naagin film Hisss, Mallika — without the PR/publicity machinery/entourages that accompanied other Indian actresses — managed to make a splash.
When the antics ran out (because really, how are you going to top a python on the red carpet? By riding in on an elephant?) there were controversial statements that kept Ms Sherawat in the news. An interview she gave at the festival (this was around the time she was working on Dirty Politics) went viral because of her statements about being the first Indian actress to kiss and wear a bikini on screen (she isn’t) and being considered a “fallen woman and a superstar”. And then there was a mysteriously leaked video showing her dancing with Antonio Banderas aboard a yacht party — her stylist (she claims she fired him before he spoke to the press about the incident) claimed the duo shared an “intense bond”, fuelling other reports that a dalliance with her had led to the Mask of Zorro star’s separation from wife Melanie Griffith.
This then, was drama — Mallika style.
In contrast, her appearances on the red carpet have grown increasingly conventional over the past years. In 2014, Ms Sherawat chose a blue lace gown that could only be described as dull. While fashion pundits have felt that Mallika has got it right with a few of her more recent Cannes couture choices — the point is, she is now simply vying for the same brownie points as other actresses there. What now, sets her apart? In opting for the conventional, did Mallika lose her oomph and originality? The bindaas attitude that set her apart?
For Mallika, this may be a damned-if-you-do-damned –if-you-don’t scenario. When she played up the drama, she wasn’t taken seriously (although she did hit the headlines). When she played down the drama, she was barely noticed. Might finding a balance between her previous, outré actions and her recent, overly staid appearances help Mallika finally get the right kind of attention?
At Cannes 2016, she’s been the first Indian celebrity to mark her presence on the red carpet — a good idea considering how the attention shifts to Aishwarya Rai (for better or worse) and Sonam Kapoor, once they descend on the French Riviera. From what we’ve seen so far, Mallika’s going to continue down the safe route in terms of her red carpet outfits. But she has a film to promote, and Cannes will go on for a while yet. Will Ms Sherawat regain her former glory/infamy? We’ll keep our fingers crossed.
Enjoying the sea breeze, photocall for my international film #timeraiders #cannesfilmfestival #cannes2016 #mallikasherawat A photo posted by Mallikasherawat (@mallikasherawat) on