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Ultimate Bollywood » Bollywood Features » 1999
Sushmita Sen - Hot Hot Hot
On screen, she exudes steam. Catch her at home, though, and you sample a chilled-out Sushmita Sen.

Sushmita Sen - Hot Hot Hot

On screen, she exudes steam. Catch her at home, though, and you sample a chilled-out Sushmita Sen. Switching on the charm, she puts an oh-so-nervous insurance agent at ease. The man leaves visibly smitten. Right now, she's excited about her impending trip to Italy, "I think I'll come back with an Italian hunk," she jokes. Evidently, the reaction to her striking performances in Biwi No 1 and Sirf Tum have boosted her self-esteem. Watching the rough waves from her sea-view apartment, she answers my questions with her characteristic candour:

Were you expecting a positive response to your performances in Biwi No.1 and Sirf Tum?
Sure, I did. I'm aware that success is a must to feel a part of the film industry. Today I've been accepted. I'm grateful for the response, I feel very special. I've never seen 500 e-mails on my net in a day before the release of Biwi No.1 and Sirf Tum.

How's the industry treating you now?
I've been flooded with bouquets and calls. The way people present themselves to me has changed, the degree of respect has increased. But all this doesn't overwhelm me because I wasn't underwhelmed when it wasn't happening. I've understood that everyone is a commodity out here. Whoever sells the most is loved the most. It took me some time to realise this. Now that things are rocking, I intend to enjoy myself completely. I won't stress myself, I won't brood that tomorrow the euphoria may just vanish.

Have you changed at all?
In a way, maybe. I'm learning to say "No." I had no choices earlier but now that I've tasted success, I want more of it.

Was it difficult to cope with failure after the high of being crowned Miss Universe?
As Ms.Universe, I was on a terrific high. I have no qualms about saying this but I knew that I would have nowhere to go, that I'd have to start all over again. There were moments of frustration, moments of anger. Still, I kept a positive outlook throughout the last two years. Thank God, I didn't start with a hit.

After Dastak and Zor flopped, what made you stick around?
I didn't want to live with the idea that I didn't try hard enough. I'm not a quitter even when the going gets tough. I didn't want to walk out as a loser.

How important is success for you?
At one point, fame meant a lot to me... which is why I've got where I have. But fame is accompanied by tremendous pressure. It took me some time to realise that it's okay for a Miss Universe to be human, it's okay to make mistakes. I didn't have to be perfect person because I was being idolised. What's the use of being an idol if you've to be a hypocrite as well?

Have you now managed to get rid of the unprofessional tag?
I got rid of that tag a long time ago. But I was still being called unprofessional in print because the media had nothing else to write about me. I know I'm professional, I haven't hassled any one. True, I was very unprofessional at the beginning of my career. I've corrected that. There were times when I behaved awfully, when I messed up, but I have rectified that.

Which actors have you been comfortable with?
I've really enjoyed working with Ajay Devgan. I've learnt so much from him about acting. Sanjay Kapoor has been a fantastic co-star. He has an amazing sense of humour. Before working with Sanjay, I fret about the way my career was going. And here was a guy who had suffered a lot more than I had. Yet his attitude was amazingly positive. I like that a lot about him.

What about Salman Khan?
Salman behaved like a star to the hilt with me initially. We had a problem while shooting for Biwi No 1 in Miami. I was upset because he didn't turn up on time for the shooting. I said something and he said something. Later, he told me, "Sush, this is the way I've been working for the past five years. I know how the industry functions." And I was like, "Yeah, even I'm learning. I've learnt to be more patient." After that we were okay, we got along pretty well.

In a recent interview you've stated that "Salman can never be a friend". Did you have a showdown with him over Aishwarya Rai or what?
That quote was a figment of a journalist's imagination. Why should I say that when we're okay with each other? Salman and I aren't the best of friends but we aren't enemies either. He has quite a few nice qualities. And why should I get upset about whom he's seeing? He can go around with any one he wants to and so can Ash.

He isn't my boyfriend. So why I should be bothered about his girlfriend? So far I thought it was the so-called Ash-Sush war. I can't fathom how, why and where Salman came into the picture. When the press was writing about Ash doing Vikram Bhatt's film and me getting hyper, I could understand that. Because Vikram was my boyfriend but the Salman angle is beyond me.

What was the showdown with David Dhawan all about?
David and I did have a problem on the sets of Biwi No 1. It was a misunderstanding. After we sorted it out, David told me that the film would do me proud. He kept his word, my role has shaped out better than it was narrated to me.

Is it tough being an actress?
I haven't learnt acting, I didn't even participate in school dramatics. What I do on the sets is totally spontaneous. I do look for inspiration. For instance in Biwi No 1, I did try and copy Meryl Streep's nakhras from She-Devil.

What about the confrontation scene with Karisma Kapoor. That almost looked real?
(Smiles) There were no problems between us. It was a three-page scene which was cut down to one page. I only told David that I would address Karisma as aap not tu because by saying aap, I would be giving her respect. Also, I refused to walk out of the frame at the end of the scene. Both these things went in favour of me.

Are you on your guard working with another heroine?
When I'm doing a scene with another heroine, I'm extra cautious. I have to be careful because comparisons are inevitable. Even now I have nothing against doing two-heroine projects. In fact, the two films I've accepted recently are both two-heroine subjects.

Why did you refuse to do a film with Aishwarya Rai?
I would do a film with Ash only for a good film-maker who I know will give us both equal footage. Right now if we do a film together, it would be hyped for all the wrong reasons. It's better to wait. I refused the project with Ash only because my role wasn't good enough. I have no hang-ups about doing a film in which we both have equal prominence.

For more, get your copy of Filmfare Magazine today.

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