| Jackie Chan with Mallika Sherawat at a photocall for their film The Myth at Cannes. (Reuters)
Cannes, May 17: Mallika Sherawat revealed her charms as only she knows how when she appeared at a packed press conference in Cannes, alongside Jackie Chan, the producer and star of her debut international movie, The Myth.
She said that Chan was the biggest star in Asia ' “number one to 10” -- and that “he deserves the best and he’s got it”.
It was assumed she was referring -- with characteristic modesty -- to herself.
An American woman from the film production company Emperor Motion Pictures of Hong Kong was slightly taken aback but recovered sufficiently to remark with a laugh: “Well, that’s the statement of the press conference.”
Before it ended, Sherawat said she was wearing enough jewellery in keeping with her new status as an “Indian princess” and that for the party later to mark the film’s Cannes launch, “I will wear something outrageously sexy”.
First, though, a shock is in store for Sherawat fans across the Indian diaspora. She is going to play a good girl in the movie, pure even.
The tale is set in China in 221 BC and is a sort of Chinese Indiana Jones story. The film is in Chinese, English and Hindi and has been shot in China and India.
Although the focus of attention at the news conference at the Majestic Hotel on the Croisette was the legendary Chan ' he turned in an excellent performance before the world’s press ' there were enough Indian journalists around to make those present in the Salle Croisette aware that here was a ranking Bollywood babe.
She wore a low-cut golden dress though, unfortunately for her, her name placard, placed strategically in front of her, hid the view. She could have given the young Brigitte Bardot, had the original sex kitten appeared, a run for her Eurofrancs.
While Sherawat did her best for Indian womanhood by attempting to portray the bold and the brassy, her co-actress, Kim Hee Seon, a Korean, was stunningly elegant and exquisitely beautiful. Since she has no English, she had to play second fiddle, though, to Sherawat at the press conference.
Also on the panel to answer questions about The Myth were the film’s director, Stanley Tony, and the actor, Tony Leung Ka Fai.
Sherawat plays Samantha in the movie. According to the programme brochure, “Bollywood beauty Mallika Sherawat was personally chosen for the role of Samantha by director Stanley Tong after an extensive search. Best known for her sexy Bollywood roles, Mallika surprises her legions of fans by accepting the part of a pure-hearted student of yoga and philosophy who helps and then falls for the hero, a stark contrast to her steamy roles from the past. Mallika has previously starred in Murder and Kis Kis Ki Kismat.”
Sherawat began by graciously commenting: “I would like to thank Jackie Chan and Stanley Tong for giving me this opportunity to star in this film. It’s a very big break for me. Bollywood will always be very important (for me) because that’s my bread and butter. But the whole world is becoming global now.”
She went on: “A whole new market is opening up and I would like to be a part of global cinema.”
Chan himself compared the huge billion plus populations of China and India, but Sherawat, whose grasp of demography is impressive, cut in to say: “In the next 20 years, half of the world’s population will reside in Asia.”
This, at least, showed her command of English. A western bimbo would probably have used the word “live” rather than “reside”. Journalists were suitably impressed.
Chan explained that although he was keen to collaborate with Bollywood ' and if he ever made a film himself he would go into partnership with India ' the Indian involvement in The Myth was for him “a coincidence. When Stanley presented a script for me (and) it (was) all about India, I think that was part of what attracted me to make the film.”
He did not want world domination of cinema by America. He wanted Asian countries to work together. “That’s what we want right now, otherwise we will keep losing our audiences. American movies are so strong; they have big productions, big promotion, they have a lot of money. Asian films don’t have that kind of money. So we want to unite with a strong market like India, like Korea. Then we can survive.”
Sherawat added that “India and China coming together” also appealed to her. She said: “It’s a great opportunity for me to be working with a superstar like Jackie Chan (and also with) Stanley Tong. It’s a role to die for. (For me) it’s a great debut internationally.”
Before the conference, a clip was played from The Myth which had a brief sequence of Sherawat looking ever so shy in a red sari. She said: “I play an Indian princess in a 2,000-year-old civilisation who is very pure and into yoga and who saves Jackie by accident from the bad guys and accidentally ends up falling in love with him.”
It was clearly Chan’s lucky day.
But she later said that in one scene shot in a glue factory in Shanghai, she had done the impossible by hanging on to her clothes. She had also done all her own stunts because she felt the body doubles had unattractive figures.
Chan said Sherawat told him: “Look at the girls (body doubles), they are so ugly.”
Sherawat continued: “It was a tough scene to shoot. Flying around with cables with my Indian clothes was not easy. The clothes kept on getting stuck to the conveyor belt which was sticky . It was tough but I held on.”
Chan said she did not know how to do somersaults but she stuck to her guns, learnt the routine and executed the movements.
“I did all my stunts on my own and I am very proud to say that,” remarked Sherawat, full of admiration for Sherawat.
She seems cut out for Cannes.