Sushmita with daughter Alisah at Hushh on Tuesday afternoon. Picture by Rashbehari Das
Do you notice anything different about Calcutta when you come back each time?
I try and come back to Calcutta every few months. My heart resides here because, for me, Calcutta is my Babas (Shubeer Sen) bari. Its important for me that my second daughter (15-month-old Alisah) grows up around her grandparents. As far as Calcutta being different is concerned, I think its developing at an unbelievable pace, the traffic is increasing, and people give me dirty looks here when I move around in my siren car because the roads are so jam-packed! I find the growth of the IT sector here amazing; every time I come back, I find more and more young people — from the rest of India and even abroad — in Calcutta. I bump into them as friends and fans and I feel very happy when they tell me that this is the place to be. Also, my trips to Calcutta are incomplete sometimes when I dont get to visit Kalibari (Kalighat temple). But even that I find getting a little commercial nowadays. And my heart breaks because for me that is a very powerful change to live with.
What does Calcutta mean to your daughters Renee and Alisah?
I never lived in Calcutta myself but because of my didima, I used to be here for my vacations. In that sense, I have spent more time here than my daughters have. Calcutta for them — even for Alisah at this age — is their Taatas (grandfathers) home. Yesterday when we were packing to come here, she kept saying Taata, Taata, Taata because she somehow sensed we were coming to Calcutta!
For Renee, Calcutta is also where Ma Durga lives. I have tried explaining to her that Ma Durga resides in the heart, but she believes that Ma Durga lives in Calcutta (laughs)! And she loves the saris from here… the red-and-white bordered or the yellow-and-red bordered saris. Taata has to bring them for her every time he goes to Mumbai. She loves sandesh. Every time someone comes here, she asks them to take back mishti doi and sandesh — that she copies me because I ask for it all the time! She also connects Calcutta with family because I have so many relatives here.
You seem to be the only woman excited about turning 35!
Yes, finally I am 35. I am so excited! If I look back at my life and its easy to do so because its so well-documented, I couldnt stand myself at 14. I was tall and lanky with a horrid crew haircut. So when I was 18, I looked back and said, Thank god Im 18. I am so much better now! At 18, I was Miss Universe. But when I turned 25, I looked back at 18 and said, Thank god Im 25. I like what I see now! At 35, I have to tell you, that even 34 wasnt good enough. Being 35 is a milestone for me. Barring the greys in your hair or the lines on your face, it is a precious place to be in, because you have evolved that much more.
But people in your line of work would rather hide their age…
I think people in my line of work are afraid of letting go of what they love doing. They enjoy being actors and they want to hang on to the time till which they can do that job. In our industry, its predominantly about playing college girl and college boy and they want to keep doing that. I have never agreed with that and I have never been crazy enough about being an actor. But I am crazy about being aware of every year of my life that passes by, knowing that I have lived it well irrespective of my profession.
How is the Sushmita of today different from the Sushmita of five years ago?
Sushmita at 30 was experiencing a midlife crisis! I was a different person in my 20s. When you are used to extremes in your life, suddenly hitting a balance is midlife crisis (laughs)! You are suddenly like, What is this? Who am I? I thought 30 was a huge number… when I was 18, I used to call 30-year-olds Aunty! But 30 was when I actually came face to face with who I was and who I was going to be. Thats when I got this (points to the I Am tattoo on her wrist). By the time I crossed my 31st year, I was a lot more balanced, grounded and aware. So by the time I came to 35, I became very comfortable in my skin.
You are now on Twitter…
I am possibly one of the few people from my profession who hasnt verified her account. There are at least 15 different Sushmita Sens on Twitter and when I got on to it, I just told people that I dont expect you to believe me, but this is the real deal. Slowly, over the past few months, some 34,000 people have started believing in me and I have enjoyed these 34,000 people a lot more than I would have enjoyed with a verified account. They are so warm and interactive, full of questions. Its a very healthy communication.
I also dont follow anyone from my industry on Twitter because I am on this forum to get inspired. I like following people who inspire me like Paulo Coelho, The Dalai Lama. I also follow Lady Gaga because she is someone who has something about her, the ability to celebrate your uniqueness as an individual, irrespective of whether you are liked for it or not.
Your next film No Problem releases on December 10…
No Problem was offered to me a while back. It is an Anil Kapoor production, but the moment I knew Anees Bazmee (director of No Entry and Singh is Kinng) was directing it, I just signed it without even hearing what my role was. I have shown this kind of blind faith earlier in David Dhawan and in Farah Khan for Main Hoon Na. The only thing I told Anees is that I would like to trust you but whatever you decide to do for me has to be outstanding because this is my first film with you. And the next thing I knew, I was playing a split personality! So there was one of me playing two of me. I play a wife who is hysterically and comically demented. I loved what Anees managed to pull off. He took great pains to ensure that I make a fool of myself as often as possible in the movie because without that it wouldnt work!
When I dubbed for No Problem, I had to use two different voices for Kajal and Kamini. And you had no idea what a tough time I had to keep a seriously straight face while I was dubbing. Two of the best songs — Shakira and Mast Punjabi — have me in it.
As an actor, you have to work with a director like Anees Bazmee to just know what commercial Bollywood cinema is all about. I have done three films with David Dhawan and his brand of comedy is very spur-of-the-moment. With Anees, there is a definite method to the madness.
Do you follow the no problem policy in your own life?
I try to. I dont succeed all the time, but I feel that people who say no problem are very happy people. We have to accept and move with the realisation that things always cannot go our way. But when there are not such good things written about me, there is a problem because my daughter is old enough to read it now. She gets very upset when she hears things about me. But I tell her that strength sometimes comes from keeping quiet and not screaming your lungs out.
You have been lucky as a mother. Would you say you have been unlucky as a girlfriend?
Not at all! The media keep saying that I have had a long list of boyfriends, but I feel that I have been very blessed to have had so many! People say that if you know love once in your life, you are sorted; I have known love many times over. I have been in love all the time. I never look back at my life and say that at 22 I should have been married and by now I would have been settled. But what does being settled mean? I feel its about settling yourself within. Once that is done, you can get married to anyone and at anytime and it will work! I wasnt settled inside me all these years, but now I feel that the time is coming. I am ready for marriage now, but then there is no man yet. However, I am looking to marry in the next two years.
What kind of man are you looking for?
I had an image of the man I wanted till the time I was 28. I was very clear that he had to be extremely stunning, because if you get tired of everything else, you can at least keep staring at him (laughs)! But after 30, that changed big time. I want a man I can look up to, irrespective of whether he is taller or not! I will have to respect him first to love him. These days love goes out of the window faster than you can say Jack Robinson! Then what sustains the marriage is respect.
Which real-life role do you enjoy most?
Being gods favourite child. That is what has kept me going all these years. Whether I am praised or insulted, I never allow it to faze me because I know that god is watching over me.
What is it about your daughters that amazes you the most?
The simple fact that here are two kids from two different sets of parents who call someone else their mother and yet they are so connected between themselves. You just have to see the way Renee picks up Alisah in her arms and how Alisah looks at her. Its the most beautiful moment in the world. As a mother I cant help but have tears in my eyes. I feel very blessed.
Finally, how will you want Sushmita Sens epitaph to read?
Sushmita Sen… she lived. She lives on. But I think it will change with time. When I am 40, I would like the word sexy put in somewhere!
The restaurant in Calcutta is called Hushh and Sush is launching it was the tweet from Sushmita Sen on Monday. On Tuesday evening, Sushmita took t2 on an exclusive walkthrough of the South City Mall restaurant owned by her friends Rajat and Pinky Dalmia…
WHAT WE SAW: The wired copper partitions dotting the restaurant are a Hushh trademark. Wine bottles of different shapes and sizes are arranged in two vertical gravity-defying stands. An instant eye-catcher as you enter Hushh.
WHAT SUSH SAID: I call these partitions curved mirages. They are supposed to be protective partitions giving a sense of privacy to the restaurant and they look beautiful and elegant.... For me, this the Bottle of Fame. I am going to tell the Dalmias to make every customer who finishes a bottle of wine here to sign it and then put it up on the stand.
WHAT WE SAW: Like Hushh at City Centre, this restaurant too is done up in the signature tones of chocolate brown and cream.
WHAT SUSH SAID: Brown is the new black and it never goes out of fashion. I like the play with copper and bronze also.... The niches on the walls have an element of play in them. Its sexy and fun and I like it. Even in my home in Mumbai, I have created niches and recesses in my walls.
WHAT WE SAW: The private dining space — on the right side of the restaurant — can seat up to 20.
WHAT SUSH SAID: Very few restaurants nowadays have private dining areas and I am very happy that Hushh has given thought to a concept like this.
WHAT WE SAW: One half of the wall on the right side of the restaurant comprises mirrors which not only make a pretty picture, but also create a feeling of space.
WHAT SUSH SAID: I love the mirrored wall, I find it very sexy. I think it lends a different dimension to the restaurant. This I am told has been done for Vaastu, though!
WHAT WE SAW: The lounge area at the entrance of the restaurant is very young in look and feel. Going in a large group or just the two of you looking to down a few drinks? This is the area for you.
WHAT SUSH SAID: This is my favourite spot. I think its very New York in thought and style, a place where a young group of friends can just chill. The bottom of the lounge table is again the curved mirages which I think lends harmony to the entire design of the restaurant.
HER FAVE HUSHH SPOTS: The live pizza counter, the bar in the
corner (“I like it that it is inconspicuous and not in your face”) and a tiny alcove that seats two. “People can be naughty here and nobody will see! Who would I like to be sitting here with? The next time I get him here, you will know!”
Launched four years after the City Centre address, Hushh at South City Mall is restaurateur Pinky Dalmias baby. Spread over an area of 3,200 square feet and with 65 covers, Hushh may be small in size, but is big in substance and style. We have a lot of sections — a lounge area and a private dining space — that give it a feeling of space, says Pinky.
While the flagship Hushh restaurant at City Centre takes pride in its signature Italian cuisine, the Hushh at South City introduces continental fare and sizzlers along with its Italian menu. We wanted to give our customers — especially those who have made Hushh a brand name to reckon with — a lot more to choose from. Sizzlers are very popular in Calcutta and will only enhance the Hushh experience, says Pinky.
Unlike the City Centre outlet, the new Hushh metamorphoses into a cafe during the late afternoon hours. Between 3pm and 6pm, we serve coffee and sandwiches along with pizzas, says Pinky.
The decor is minimalist but eye-catching and is done up in brown and cream. We wanted to make the decor very calm and soothing. Its understated and yet makes a statement, says Pinky.
While Hushh at South City doesnt have the advantage of open-air seating like its City Centre counterpart, the lounge section has the makings of a hit. Its my favourite part of the restaurant, smiles Pinky.
Hushh is open between 11.30am and 11pm on all days. A meal for two without drinks comes for Rs 1,000 (approx).
When Sushmita Sen throws a party, everyone who is invited lands up. The city’s glitterati feasted on Stuffed Mushrooms, Asparagus Bruschetta and Pizza Verdura as wine and whisky flowed freely at the Hushh launch party on Tuesday evening
Sushmita meets and greets Sanjiv Goenka
Rajat Dalmia with Bikram Ghosh and a friend
Sushmita with Rajat
and Pinky Dalmia
The former Ms Universe clicks herself!
(From left) t2 columnist Sachin Varma, Anamika Khanna, Raj Mahtani, Sushmita, Alisah and Rajat
Suvaprasanna and wife Shukla with Nilaanjana Chakraborty,
Priti Patel and other guests