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The Lamba & Short Of Sherawat

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[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he recent attack in by masked gunmen on Indian actress Mallika Sherawat seems to have created quite a flutter and generated some attention for an actress who had attained considerable fame and fortune in the last decade on the Indian silver screen, primarily as a siren.

Mallika Sherawat or Reema Lamba, as her birth name goes, has always been controversy’s favourite child. In fact, she has courted controversy in such a wanton way that it has left little doubt that she apparently believes there’s nothing called negative publicity. Right from stepping into Bollywood universe, she always made her intentions clear in a not-so-subtle manner.

One of the earliest controversies surrounding her was the result of a blatant lie Mallika had herself propagated. From her early days in the tinsel town, she maintained that she supposedly hailed from a small town and had been a victim of patriarchy and archaic social practices, a story that found resonance among the fashionable liberal elite in India and abroad. She was suddenly the toast of certain liberal coteries who found in her the symbol of the ‘rebel Indian woman’ coming of age, with CNN dubbing her a “youth icon” and Newsweek doing an article on her, all within a year of her first role as lead actress.

To say she was being economical with the truth would be actually putting it mildly. Having done her schooling from Delhi Public School and then her graduation from Delhi University, the image of a young Reema Lamba, helplessly stranded in the parochial clutches of a patriarchal society in a backward North Indian village at any point of time is indeed, difficult to imagine even for the most fertile of brains.

Mukesh Lamba, her father, a government official originally from Rohtak in Haryana who subsequently shifted to Delhi, was indeed confused and puzzled when he heard of his daughter’s stories for the first time on media. As revealed in an interview, the aging Jat gentleman revealed that when he confronted his daughter Reema on this, she had supposedly said,  “Publicity ke liye filmon mein yeh sab kehna padta hai, papa.

Marriage to Karan Singh Gill: Stepping stone to her ambition?

She had worked as an air hostess for some time. In 2000, the then 24-year-old Reema Lamba got married to Captain Karan Singh Gill, a pilot with Jet Airways, who was based in Delhi. Her friends from those days recall that she was facing some turmoil in her own family and was looking for a man to get away from that. Although somewhat close to her mother and brother, the ambitious Reema was apparently never satisfied with what her family could give her and was always looking for more. Having a perpetually strained relationship with her father, it was at this point when she decided to burn the bridges behind her for good. At that time, Karan Singh Gill was doing very well professionally and the couple was apparently in love. The marriage to a professionally stable decent man served Reema well and provided the emotional stability in her life, in addition to professional security.

What the marriage failed to satiate was her ever-growing quota of ambitions. It was this that led her to break a home once more. She had already started working as full-fledged model in Delhi and once her divorce proceedings were through, she shifted to Mumbai in order to fulfil her dreams in the glamour world of the silver screen. In time, Karan moved on with his life as well and married again, although he never made any attempt to speak to the media on his own. Their common friends still vouch for his innate decency.

In an interview given much later, Mallika’s mother-in-law gave some insights into the marriage that barely lasted 2 years: She commented, “We don’t know anybody named Mallika. A few years ago, we had a girl in our family called Reema Lamba. She was my daughter-in-law and we all loved her very much. But her led to problems. She always had thoughts of becoming rich and famous. She married my son because she was in love with him, but married life wasn’t made for her. She decided to quit wedlock and lead an independent lifestyle.” She further added, “We wanted a girl who was independent in her thoughts but who would also understand the needs of the family. But her dreams were different.”

Lying for fame and success

From the time of her 2002 in ‘Jeena sirf mere liye’ where she was credited as Reema Lamba, Mallika had never spoken about her marriage in the industry, even trying to pass off rumours of her ex-marriage as false. Her lies were later exposed. In fact, even Mahesh Bhatt who helped her immensely by giving her the big break in ‘Murder’ could not help but remark once that he had advised Mallika not to hide her marriage in the industry. “People would always find out anyway,” he rued in an interview. Mallika, however, could not risk losing the sex appeal she was generating in movies like ‘Khwayish’ and ‘Murder’.

In Bollywood, Mallika had her priorities clear from Day 1. She knew she was severely wanting in acting skills, and decided to more than make up for it through controversies. She knew how to make news. This led to her projecting herself as a sex symbol and making headlines with stripping and wanton skin show. She also did not have any qualms about making outrageous comments in interviews. There was nothing called negative publicity and scandals were welcome for Mallika. Her brush with stardom came through films like the 2004 superhit ‘Murder’. She was also won a nomination for the Best Actress prize at the Zee Cine Awards. Her simple but deft self- was paying off!

The cameo role she did in Jackie Chan’s Chinese film, ‘The Myth’, and especially her aggressive self-publicity in course of the shooting, also helped her leapfrog many of her colleagues. With the legendary Kung Fu actor at her side, she once infamously commented about her casting at an interview, “He (Jackie Chan) deserves the best and has got the best.”

Over the next few years she did appear in blockbuster films like ‘Dashavatharam’, the Tamil movie of superstar Kamal Haasan, but most of her films were also flopping miserably at the box office, which perhaps led to her move to Hollywood where she worked on some mediocre or outright low-grade films like ‘Hiss’ and ‘Politics of Love’.

Futile comeback attempt

In 2013, Mallika Sherawat did try to make a comeback with the reality show ‘The Bachelorette India’ which had the caption ‘Mere Khayalon ki Mallika’, but with scant success. Many of the magazines had already written her off and dubbed her a “yesteryear actress” while reporting on the show. It was also widely reported in media that she was doing the show “only for money”.

To sum up, it seems the rich dividends that her strategies yielded at one time have all but dried up within a decade.

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Sagnik Chakraborty
Sagnik Chakraborty
A writer, editor, translator and teacher of languages based in Hyderabad, he serves this portal as a contributing editor

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