"A lot of people have told me I'll die young which is strange because I already feel I've lived a lifetime. Honestly, I don't believe in all these predictions and soothsayers because if they were so correct then they would all be millionaires by now. Sometimes I do hear them out just for my own amusement.
"
(On an astrologer's prediction that she would die at 35, in Filmfare, Jan 2002)

Famed equally for her Miss Universe title and her recklessness, Sushmita Sen says she's calmed down since adopting infant daughter Renee.

Sushmita Sen    Sushmita jumped from modeling to acting in a time-honored tradition: by winning the Miss India title. Unlike other actresses, however, she had big name competition: Aishwarya Rai, Miss World 1994. Typically, Sushmita refused to be cowed. "All of us were put up on that stage after a lot of effort, but the difference was that, other than Ash, the rest of us were very insecure, I don't know about Ash. We were going up against a person who was very big in the modelling world, and, obviously, it affects you negatively. Twenty-five women did not enter that year. They took their applications back when they found out Ash was entering. But that's where you have to take certain chances." (Rediff, Sep. 1997)

    Her subsequent win at the Miss Universe contest earned her the adoration of the media and a year abroad, traveling to over thirty countries, hobnobbing with world leaders, and speaking on global issues to diverse organizations including the U.N.. Her ultimate goal was, and remains, to become a clothes deisgner, but at home, she was being flooded with film offers. Finally, she decided to return from the U.S, her temporary home. "People don't realise that people can't become famous or celebrities or whatever you call it unless and until people recognise you to be one. India recognised me to be one. I knew that if I had to work I wouldn't have to struggle in India again, whereas I would have to do so abroad." (Rediff, Jan. 1997)

   Her first role was in Mahesh Bhatt's Dastak, which, amidst criticism of its similarity to recent blockbuster Darr, flopped at the box office. At a press conference to promote the film, she had what appeared to be a nervous breakdown. The media speculated that she was drunk at the time, perhaps an alcoholic. She scoffed at the idea in a June 1997 interview with Rediff:

      "I don't touch alcohol. I only drink a Coca Cola or a Thums Up, even if I take a drop of wine I'll drop down. Most people who form this judgement that I drink have never even met me. So it's wrong to form an judgement like that. As far as being a smoker is concerned, yes, I do smoke. As far as being a party pooper is concerned, my only party is when I come on the sets and go back home. Because I have partied a lot when I was 17-18 at that stage, I look forward to lots of things, bigger and better things than partying, and I have much bigger responsibilities today than to just go out and have a blast.
     
 "As far as the press conference is concerned, nobody is crazy enough to go out and make a public display of one's emotions, but sometimes people do go out of control, I did not cry because people misbehaved with me or said something. I cried because I was talking about something very close to me, it was just something that I was discussing that these are the mainline press people who had made Sushmita into Sushmita Sen this huge big thing. Otherwise, no magazine and paper would have been writing about me. That was the reason I gave the press conference only to the mainline press because I knew that it was the film press that was messing me up. I did not invite them and as I was speaking to them I got very emotional, because these are the people who had made me. I got very emotional because I was telling them what had happened. I do not regret at all crying there, because it's an emotion like laughing, and if I can smile in public and laugh in public, why can't they see tears in my eyes? I don't think it's such big deal."

  However, the damage was done. The media who had hailed her as the next big Bollywood sensation were now out for blood, and there were several people willing to aid their search. In a January 1997 issue of Cineblitz, Mahesh Bhatt, the director of Dastak, voiced concerns that would lose Sushmita many a potential job. Not only did she take "hours to change her make-up", but she "had night psyche and would go to the casinos every night. I can sleep for two hours and wake up in the morning and still be active but for an actress, it is very important to get a good sleep!"

    Also troubling producers was the backlash potential inherent in her rumored affair with Vikram Bhatt, a married man and the nephew of Mahesh. Nor did Mahesh not aid her case with his disingenuous commentary: "She seems to be very intensely involved with my boy, Vikram Bhatt. I do not interfere with people's lives and I have no objection to their relationship. I would protect them if they needed my help. I have asked them to hide behind my skirt if the need arises." (Cineblitz, Jan. 1997) When Vikram asked his wife to return to her parents' home, the tabloids had a heyday, mocking his allegations that his wife was schizophrenic and that her removal was for her own welfare.

   Recently Sushmita astounded the press again by adopting an infant girl. She explained, "As Femina Miss India, I saw so many poor children and from so close, that I wanted to adopt a girl child. It took me years to get one." (Tatanova,July 3, 2001) Her status as single mother has provoked much curiosity, which she seems to enjoy satisfying, as it gives her a chance to talk about her baby. Excerpted from a July 3, 2001 interview with Tatanova.com:

         Q: Was the experience of adoption difficult ?
      
  A: Yes, the night before we brought her home I threw up the entire time. I wanted to adopt a child from the Missions of Charities, with whom I have worked off and on. But they don't give children to single parents, and I could do nothing to change that. Then I got a call from an institution in Mumbai that had a precedent of giving children to single mothers for adoption. I went to them, and they brought medical histories of six babies to show me. The sixth they kept back because the child was not healthy. The form, when I did see it, said that she was a very happy baby, but had been sick since she was constantly prey to gastroenteritis, and bronchitis.

        Q: But I heard you insisted on seeing the children yourself before making up your mind?
    
   A: Yes, because I wanted some sign, some understanding. I told her that I would not show any sign of rejection. They showed me the babies one by one. The last one was asleep, and when I walked up to her, she suddenly opened her eyes and smiled. I said this is got to be the one. She was that sick baby. I got my doctor to check her and he said that she had not developed up to the mark, the circumference of her head was below normal and the brain had not developed better. But my mind was set, I believe in past life and I also believe that we are linked from a life before this.

      Q: Your daughter is called Renee…
      A: Yes, after my mother's store in Dubai. Renee is also the name of the French Goddess of Love. I don't want to be alone anymore, I want my daughter to be with me. I want her to spread wings with me. I wanted to adopt her before I was married, because after marriage maybe my husband could object. This way, if he wants me, he has to accept her too!

       Q: How has single motherhood been like?
   
   A: Very beautiful. I am not like the conventional mother. I don't say don't do this, or don't do that. I let her have a mind of her own. I let her eat what she wants, and when she wants. Now, since she has come in my life, I only smoke in one room in the house, and that too when she is not there. I sometimes feel like leaving my work, but mother says 'I used to work even when you were there, I used to leave you with your grandmother. She is your responsibility, and you have to take care of her.'

   Sushmita's current flame, Sanjay Narang, is rumored to get along with Renee just fine, which makes us very happy for the intelligent and ambitious woman who Shahrukh once called the best dancer in Bollywood. Here's hoping she continues to receive opportunities to prove him right.

   


Sushmita Sen
born: November 19, 1975
height: 5' 9.5"

FILMS

1996 Dastak
1998 Zor
1999 Biwi No.1*
1999 Hindustan Ki Kasam
1999 Sirf Tum*
2000 Aaghaaz
2000 Fiza
2001 Bas Itna Sa Khwaab Hai
2001 Kyonki Main Jhoot Nahin Bolta
2002 Filhaal*
2002 Tumko Na Bhool Payenge
2002 Aankhen*
2003 Paisa Vasool
2004 Main Hoon Na*
2004 Vaastu Shastra

* acclaimed performance


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