I am meeting Sushmita Sen after almost a decade and everything is the same. Her warmth, her smile and her demeanour. She's still as articulate, spontaneous and as she used to be, the new breed of actresses could learn a lot from her. She a actress, mother 90 two lovely girls Renee and Alisah, an entrepreneur and she multitasks without a frown on her forehead. She has just signed up two films – one in Bengali (her mother tongue) and another in Hindi to be directed by Prahlad Kakkar and co-starring Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. Read on as she talks about
You have signed a Bengali film. Your first in your mother tongue?
Yes, It’s called Jodi Emon Hoto.This one just made my heart skip a beat when i read it. My director Rupali Guha is going to kill me for saying so much but it's a fabulously written script about an equation between a man and a woman. The idea is 'jodi emon hoto' which means what-if it had happened? As a script it’s engrossing and, moves and overwhelms you.
I have got the Hindi rights for the film so we are processing some changes because Rupali has written it around the Bengali culture. I will make the Hindi version for sure because it has universal connect as a topic. I love the fact that my fans have waited so patiently for me to return to films and I don't want to disappoint them. I do want to come back with some films I believe in and do my best. You know I am not made to be an actor my entire life. God bless people who are but before I take a bow I want to give my fans a chance to say, 'That was what we were waiting for from Sush and she delivered!’
Both Aishwarya (Ms World) and you (Ms Universe) seem to have retired prematurely while older actors like Juhi and Madhuri are still acting in films. Why is that?
I am so happy for Juhi and Madhuri. When I came into the film industry in 1996 it was unheard of for married actresses to come back to films. But if you look at the global film world, that's not the case. More than married women, I think films are being written for characters of multiple ages. They have gone past college love stories, boy meet girl and 40-year old men who act like college students. The scope if increasing and newer kids are going into writing and even directors are allowing themselves to experiment with smaller budget films and it's working like magic
Any other projects on the anvil?
There's another film that I am superbly excited about directed by Prahlad Kakkar. We are working on it currently. This will be an outstanding film provided we have all the right numbers in place. It's not a love story but drama and very sexy thriller. It's a complete jump from a realistic film like JEH. I am finally excited to be back!
You must be bored of people asking you why you stopped acting for three years?
Yes. I am bored of people asking me where have I disappeared... I appreciate the fact that some people have been concerned about the fact whether I okay, but I will not just walk away like that. Sometimes you have to wait for the right things to come. Fact is, when there is a army of young actresses, filmmakers are always pitching those exciting, finely nuanced films to them and to the older lot which is my category, has to do the best with what I get. A film has to be worth your time and your art if that means I have to wait and polish my art till the right film comes along, then I do so.
Did you miss being in the film circuit?
The truth is that for three years now I haven't been able to come across scripts that were good enough to get me off my bed and say, 'let me stay away for six months from my children and other commitments to do this. I did have the option to say, 'I have to stay visible, people can't forget me (because this is how the industry works)' and I must continue to be in circulation. But that's not me. I put all of my energies into creating something even if it is a simple, rather than wasting time chasing a mirage. So I was very excited when three scripts came along at what I believe is divine timing. This year is a turnaround year. Films will happen for me and now I have made up my mind, the body has to follow! Then I can take a bow.
Has the career taken a backseat for the last three years because of motherhood?
Yes. Alisa was just one and a half months when I adopted her and even too young for even me because I had Renee come into my life when she was six months. As a child six months is pretty developed to deal with but one and a half months is just too young. Alisa couldn't even balance her neck she was so little. I had to learn myself about parenting again. No Parenting exercise is the same as every child is different and the way you raise them is different. I was in the middle of three films when Renee came into my life and it was very hard to spend time her and get to work and most days I edned up taking Renee to the sets and that is not the right atmosphere to raise a child. This time I was very sure not to do that with Alisa. What made my decision more clear was that Alisa has early stages of asthma and needs nebullizer for anything that triggers of her allergy. Though doctor says it's temporary condition but it's very serious and she was on severe medication. So it's not even an option for me. I just wanted to make sure that her heart and lungs are both stronger before I get out there and make a film. They are now. She is my daughter and she is a tough cookie.
People feel you are going the Rekha way - elusive and in your own world.
It is not true. First of all it is unfair to stand in judgment of 'the Rekha way.' Ma'am Rekha has her own life and the choices she has made. Because I mind my own business I am known as elusive. I choose where I want to spend my time so if this is showing up at Shilpa's party it's not because I want to be photographed but because she's a friend. And if I am going to Shah Rukh's Eid party it's because I have a blast with him. If I am going for the Republic Day parade it's because I really want my daughter to be patriotic. There is no other reason for me to hang around. I know a lot of other people in this business who because of their level of insecurity have to walk in at a certain time to get photographed at the right corners with the right people. But that's not me.
I am very happy taking the back door because whatever is written for you, you will find it backstage also. This is my core belief. I must not look back and say that I wasted so much time lobbying for a role. And patching up with people I don't know or who don't care about me just for a role? Nah. I am not reclusive - I just choose my time wisely. I am always there for friends because they matter to me and I am always creating things. Evenif you don't know that Sushmita Sen created it the very fact that I enjoyed doing it gives me happiness. And also I have a very full-time committed mum job. I have a 14-year old and a four-year old daughter and time flies. I I have no guilt about not being there for them. And now as I come back to do selective work,both my kids are in an amazing place where both don't feel the lack of mom not being around. They have had too much of their mom and and are like, 'can you do something else and give us some space now?'
Amongst the current lot of films which is the one you would have loved to do?
Queen. What a film! I took my whole little gang including Alisah and Renee to watch the film. Kangana Ranaut has just gone back to being a child and I say that because actors age on screen whether they like or or not. Also actors who have been in the business for so long have in that intelligence in the eyes which they can't cover up. This girl has done it. I kept looking at her eyes for that one moment of acting and she just didn't give it away. That's superb acting. I am so proud of her! I am in love with Lisa Haydon! I just wonder why this girl hasn't done more films. She looks amazing and what a fabulous actress she is.
Are you content with life as it is today?
Yes, totally. I am very blessed that way. I can't believe in this 20 years of me winning Ms Universe I have defined, redefined, evaluated, re-evaluated the concept of being successful.
You were one of the first actresses to produce films. Why did you stop after one?
Because at the time when an actress became a producer people assumed that she was giving up acting. when I announced my banner, the worst kind of recession was happening. I am stubborn and I know that a lot of people thought that I had completely lost the plot wanting to make a Rani Laxmibai. I story boarded the entire film, put everything together including arranging the money,buying Jayashree Mishra's book rights... If I want it to be a crossover film it be able to make its journey like Joan Of Arc makes it to us. The western world made Troy, I can't do that by giving them a soap opera version of it. So I said dig your heels in, bite your pride and shelve the film till i am ready to make it. And I did just that. It's too close to me to just throw it away.
It was a good time to have stopped. I started banking scripts which was another productive thing we did and that has held us today because we have an incredible line up. Again from a medium small to a large scale film we can produce anything - from a big studio to a small scale equity founder wants to fund, we are ready. Today after evaluation I understand how in front of the front and back end of a film works. I was tired of being a satellite film. My films would bomb at the BO, go on TV and people would tell me the film was so wow so why didn't it work? Today I know there is a equation of the marketing of the film which I never was interested in. Today it's a primary concern for me. I want to know how the film will be marketed and if they don't have that plan I won't do the film no matter how great the script is. All this learning came late.
Do you keep in touch with films? Who are the promising newcomers according to you?
I do watch English and Hindi films. I like the fact that we are slowly coming closer to a global world in terms of storytelling. Anushka Sharma, I feel has great potential because she has a wonderful energy about her. There's been flak about her but that aside I like her very much. Even Alia Bhatt who has been taking wise risks has lot of potential.
What's your normal day like?
Extremely busy! Over the last four years I got introduced into the corporate world. I am still in touch with a lot of companies who worked with me at different levels during the peagant. I am learning the tricks of the trade from them which I will utilize for my other businesses, hospitality, fitness and lifestyle. I am reading scripts to act in. I am still waiting for another one to trigger like these two did. I watch films a lot, mornings and afternoons is about Alisah and weekends are for Renee who is at a boarding school. I also have the I Am Foundation which has its affiliations and annual budget meetings. The brand-building exercise for Inhale is just starting. I work out during early morning.
Are you happy?
One can't be happy all the time but I just decided to put mind over matter. These days whenever I feel low I go on Twitter and ask people to send love and that energy is awesome! That reminds me – that I am better than that
Are you in touch with your other heroes?
Salman I bumped into after a while at the Republic Day Parade. He's a sweetheart and he was the first one to remark ' what have you been doing man, you are looking f_g ripped!' He's always there encouraging you. I am not in touch regularly but I keep bumping into people at various places.
Who would you say are your friends in the industry?
Bhattsaab had said that there are no permanent friends and enemies in the film industry and quite honestly he is right. We are all so busy with what we do here and your equations are as long as you are doing a film together and it's not like actors don't try. People have these get togethers to try and connect and stay in touch but despite that it's not possible to have friends as have to draw a line between your professional and personal life otherwise it becomes very messy. Also the friends who are from outside keep your reality check going beautifully. You can be a star for the rest of the world but for them you are a normal person. I have five friends, all outsiders, who without a blink would give their life for me. Only one kid, Dia Mirza, and I call her a kid. She has been a true friend through my journey, no questions asked she has been always there for me.
Are you in touch with Manisha? At one time you were close.
That's what happens when you do a film together (wryly). She was producing Paisa Vasool and I was acting in it and we would often hang around together or party together after pack up. No I am not in touch with her but I am very proud of the way that she has dealt with her life after it has gone from one extreme direction to the other. More power to her!
Randeep Hooda is suddenly the flavour of the season while he was a struggler when you were together. Are you in touch with him?
No. I am happy for him and that's about it. (Long pause) It's important in life to focus on things that are good for you. Somewhere in the past, Randeep went a little too ballistic talking about things that were unnecessary. I had hoped that being dignified is the one thing he would have learned while he was with me... I have nothing more to say. I am happy for him professionally because now he can focus on something that is a lot more constructive.
No special men in your life?
They are all very special (laughs) or they wouldn't be in my life. I have been linked to many people but when I am linked to a 22-year kid in life I wonder? I mean really! I have far superior tastes in life but then people who don’t know me will never get that, right? Unless you hear me say that most probably it’s a load of crap but if you believe it – hey! How can I stop you? Believe it!
Are you in love?
No I am not in love. If I were, THAT you would know from the rooftops! But that doesn’t mean I don’t love yet – I do.