had never even heard of Sharpe before she auditioned for
the role of Madhuvanthi in the latest epic adventure.
"I had never seen a Sharpe, nor even heard of the
series!" she admits. "I hadn't a clue, but then
again growing up in the States there's no reason I would
have. But I had so much fun playing Madhuvanthi. She's
such a juicy character. She's the girl everybody wants
cookery expert and writer Padma Lakshi, also married to
the author Salman Rushdie, travels all over the world
for her work. However it was especially rewarding to film
in a new part of India. Padma explains, "I am from
the south of India. I was born in Delhi, my family is
Keralan and I was bought up in Madras and Manhattan. I
wasn't familiar with Rajasthan before I went here to film.
It was just as exotic for me as the rest of the British
cast and crew. It is very different from the south, even
the landscapes. Where we filmed around Jaipur and Jodhpur
it is very brown and red, a desert area, whereas south
India is very lush and green and tropical."
her character she says: "She's sexy, capricious and
razor sharp. Sensual, charming but Machiavellian. Everyone
sees her as ambitious but I think she is more interested
in her own survival. Madhuvanthi was probably a girl who
was sold into the royal concubine when she was 12 or 13.
Here she was trapped in the harem of this kingdom, she
is not of royal blood, she's basically a glorified prostitute
and she had to use whatever means to look after herself.
The only way she could do this was to gain the king's
favour, so she was his property and no one else could
touch her. As regent she is fighting to keep her kingdom
from being conquered by a foreign power. She was made
regent by the king because she is smart, just as smart
as a man, and she is entrusted as caretaker of his kingdom.
She is a powerful woman."
Padma was fascinated
by the story and it prompted her to look into the country's
history in a new way. "When I got the role I went
to research the character and discovered that it wasn't
so rare, even in this patriarchal society, for a woman
to rule as supreme leader of certain kingdoms. Just by
surfing the internet I learnt about four or five such
women who were either wives or consorts or concubines
who became rulers and held out against the British."
Padma can soon
be seen in the movie The Ten Commandments in which she
plays the Queen of Egypt. "I don't know why I am
cast as such strong women. I've never stopped to analyse
it. But I'm thankful because you get more exciting roles.
I would rather play my role in Sharpe than anyone else's
– except Sean's! I'd love to play a female version
of Sharpe. I have often thought how great it would be
to have a series about a group of female India bandits.
We would be like Asterix holding out against the Romans
but in this case against the British. A gang lead by a
sexy woman on horseback, like the Lara Croft of India."
Padma is also keen to portray more modern heroines. I'd
like to play a lawyer, a doctor or even a grocery check
out girl. A regular, every day heroine. It's nice to dress
up and say wonderfully dramatic lines, but I'd relish
a role where I could wear trainers!"