The silver screen is dominated by macho and aggressive policemen but the portrayal of cops in recent films such as "Drishyam 2", "Kuttey", "Bholaa", all three starring Tabu, and web series "Delhi Crime", fronted by Shefali Shah, have presented people in uniform in a different light.
This is the first time Malhotra will be seen playing a police officer and the actor said working on "Kathal: A Jackfruit Mystery" helped her understand that a woman cop doesn't have to be "masculine" to do her job.
"Wherever women go, they bring so much empathy in whatever they are doing. That was so special to see. Even if I'm playing a woman cop, she doesn't have to be masculine in her demeanour or posture. She can be very feminine too," the 31-year-old actor told PTI in an interview here.
Inspired by true events and set in a fictional town called Moba, "Kathal: A Jackfruit Mystery" is directed by first-time filmmaker Yashowardhan Mishra, who has co-written the script with Ashok Mishra.
To understand her character Mahima better, Mahotra said she spent two days shadowing a woman cop in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh.
"We see these macho men (in police uniform). I also felt that whenever I used to wear the uniform, I thought that would also be (my) body language. But then I saw a very feminine, nice, sweet, empathetic (female cop).
"That woman was amazing and she helped me so much with my character. So, I sat with her in her office and I'm so grateful that she let me just sit there in a corner to notice how she does her job on a day-to-day basis... Through stories like 'Kathal' and 'Delhi Crime', it's beautiful to see that side of authority," she added.
Working closely with the police officer helped her see the woman beyond the uniform, said Malhotra.
"There is more empathy towards whatever they do. It's not about 'gun nikala aur...' (gun-toting), we can also do that, that's not a problem. But when I met this female cop who became a good source of inspiration for me, I saw someone beyond their uniform for the first time ever," she said.
The upcoming Hindi film is produced by Sikhya Entertainment and Balaji Telefilms Ltd, who previously backed Malhotra-starrer “Pagglait”, also a Netflix film.
There were multiple reasons why Malhotra signed "Kathal: A Jackfruit Mystery".
The movie, set to start streaming from May 19, marks a reunion for the actor with Oscar winner Guneet Monga, who produced "Pagglait" under Sikhya Entertainment.
"I remember getting a call from Guneet right after 'Pagglait'. 'Pagglait' was amazing for me and my career. She called me up and said 'I have a one-liner of the film...' I was like 'This sounds very interesting'.
"Coming from a producer I have already worked with, Guneet is amazing as we all know now she's an Oscar-winning producer. I was like I have to be associated with the film and I cannot wait to read the script," she added.
The Delhi-born actor, also known for films such as "Ludo", "Badhaai Ho" and "Love Hostel", said she had already made up her mind to do "Kathal: A Jackfruit Mystery" when Monga approached her.
"'Pagglait' was such a good experience. As an actor, I always look for good experiences. I always knew I wanted to work with good people. When Guneet came, I thought no matter what the story is, I'll do it anyway. Yashowardhan Mishra and Ashok Mishra ji wrote the story in a month and narrated it to me and I fell in love with it," she added.
The upcoming film is billed as an investigative satire comedy and Malhotra said doing comedy is not a cakewalk. It also stars Rajpal Yadav, Vijay Raaz, Anant Joshi, Neha Saraf, Govind Pandey and Shashi Ranjan.
"I was like 'Wow, it's unique.' We don't see female-led comedies... It was a challenge for me. Comedy is not easy to do on screen. It's just not easy. It requires a lot and when you have actors like Rajpal Yadav, Vijay Raaz with you... it can shake you up. It did. I was like 'Will I be able to do it or not?' I feel like that all the time, but then things work out in the end," she said.
After "Kathal: A Jackfruit Mystery", Malhotra will also be seen in Meghna Gulzar's "Sam Bahadur", based on the life and times of Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw. Starring Vicky Kaushal in the title role along with her "Dangal" co-star Fatima Sana Shaikh, the film will hit the screens on December 1.