Star of the week: Sushmita Sen
There're bigger and perhaps better stars. But none quite like Sushmita Sen.
By Subhash K. Jha, IANS
There's an indomitable exuberance about her that renders itself well to the roles that she does. Sushmita (or Sush, as her friends like to call her) lives life on the edge. Though the presence of daughter Renee keeps her calm, there's turbulence visible only to a kindred spirit.
For the uninitiated, Sushmita can be potentially devastating. She warms up to new people as though her life had suddenly become a better place because of the new association. Then she moves on.
Sushmita hungers for new experiences and people. But that urge to reach out is ever-renewable. She moves towards new experiences with new people, leaving an indelible impact on those whom her exuberance touches so deeply.
An extremely complex character... a gamine and a seductress, Sushmita's persona renders itself to innumerable interpretations on screen. As an actress she has so much to give -- we haven't even started looking at the tip of her talent.
While other actresses tend to use their exterior personality to make a public statement on their 'self' from within, Sushmita moves in the opposite direction. She uses her inner strength to project her outer personality. That's why she comes across so powerfully on screen.
Sushmita cannot act demure and coy on the screen. These traits don't exist in her personality. They therefore don't have a place in her celluloid statements. If she ever tried to be an archetypal heroine with fluttering eyelashes she would end up doing a spoof of Hindi cinema... a sort of "Bride & Prejudice" without the comfort of distance.
Aishwarya Rai and Sushmita started out together. But while Ash is Hema Malini with a dash of Zeenat Aman (and therefore the perfect mix of the Sati-Savitri and seductress), Sush isn't cut out for mush and schmaltz. That explains why, in spite of her incomparable blend of body, brains and looks, she hasn't made the impact that she would have otherwise.
Sushmita is not only eminently cosmopolitan in her outlook, she's many other things. She's also extremely accident-prone. A heavy light fell on her head on the sets of "Filhaal" just when I had got to know her. She passed out, regained consciousness and completed the shot before being taken to a doctor by her then-beau Sanjay Narang.
The next day she joined Goldie Behl's unit of "Bas Itna Sa Khwab Hai" in Delhi. I tried to intervene, asked them to excuse her. She went groggy, but determined to complete her work.
Sushmita is extremely work-oriented. When she takes on an assignment she gives all of herself. I met her for the first time at her sea facing apartment where she then stayed with her little daughter and a close female friend.
Though she wasn't well she had to go to a party in the night. The two girls who came to do her hair were subjected to her usual charm. They went away giggling and happy.
She showed me images on a laptop of her child with herself and Narang, a complete family portrait that delighted Sushmita.
Lurking beneath the bohemian image is a domesticated Bengali girl who believes in self-assertion more than self-improvement.
Though she is the perfect youth icon, Sushmita believes her English isn't good enough. She often gropes around for more difficult words in her speech. This, I feel, is more her way of looking vulnerable in front of friends than a genuine inadequacy. Sushmita would do anything to make a friend happy and comfortable, even pretend to be less perfect than she actually is.
She's also enormously honest. Within our first few conversations she told me about the nature of her relationship with the men she had been linked with.
She's a wonderful raconteur. I wish I could replicate the way she narrated her hilarious encounter with a Casanova-type male star who was wooing her earnestly with a ring when his official girlfriend walked in.
Sushmita is always very comfortable in her place. Others around her get worked up all the time. This could be because, beyond a point, she breaks loose and doesn't focus on any one relationship. She needs to constantly reinvent herself through various relationships that come in her life.
I feel the only truly permanent relationship in Sushmita's life is the one she shares with her daughter. Even her relationship with the camera lacks durability. Sushmita will break away from acting and do something else (write a book of poems or prose, she is good at both). But first she'll prove herself. She can't leave until she does.
In the past her performances have been far above the material given to her. The star-turn as the teacher who 'student' Shah Rukh Khan has a crush on in "Main Hoon Na" has provided Sushmita with the platform she needed.
Characteristically, she isn't signing films left right and centre. But her fans will see her this week give a stunning performance in "Vastu Shastra" where she's cast as a wife caught in a web of terror.
I've watched Sushmita at her inimitable best. I've watched her fish out a pair of tweezers and do Karan Johar's eyebrows when he complained they had grown too bushy for a party he had to attend in the evening. I've seen her pick up my phone and tell the person on the other end that I'm too busy to attend to the call, and can she take a message? I've seen her be stern with her daughter Renee.
I've seen many facets to Sushmita Sen's personality. And I don't really know which one is real. And now I think it's too late to know.