People in public life are always expected to be in control. But the truth is that you have responsibilities and you can’t shirk them, so people begin to label you. Like for example when Steffi Graff had problems with her father and the tax guys were baying for her blood, she couldn’t get off the hook by saying, “My father was my accountant. I’m just a little girl. I only play tennis.” She had to go out there and take the heat. Throughout life we are trying to be in control and maintain that balance. The problems begin when you lose control or are obsessed with control. Every day of my life I wake up and pray to God that I hope I’m finally in control of my life today. So from denial, it’s now an acceptance phase? I’d like to believe that. Then there was denial, today there is acceptance. Earlier I used to have a point to prove and I’d go out there and prove it. Today also, I have a point to prove. The only difference is I know I can do it. Awareness is all. If I want anything bad enough, things just automatically happen. When I’m down in the dumps, I listen to Baz Luhrmann’s “Sun Screen.” He simplifies life so beautifully. There is a line saying “remember to floss.” It doesn’t mean pay attention to your teeth and check the cavities. Often, it’s just a metaphor for us to look closely at the finer aspects. It’s all about reading between the lines, reading the subtext. Don’t take everyone’s advice but listen to them carefully. Because they are a form of nostalgia and nostalgia always has something to benefit each one of us. There’s a song by Lee Ann Womack called “I Hope You Dance.” Whenever I feel a certain trepidation in life, I remember her song and like she says, I choose to dance instead of sitting it out, and here I am. It’s like the mountain you see from a distance. From afar, it seems huge. But once you start climbing it, you won’t even realize when you’ve reached the top. So whenever in life you get a chance my friend, do dance. I’ve been telling this to Renee too. I guess that’s what defines me. Whenever I have the fear of the unknown, I hold on to it some more and then it’s gone. And then people say you are courageous. But my friend, you can’t get to courage without experiencing this fear. How come the Miss Universes after you with the exception of maybe Lara Dutta never really made it. Forget movies or other achievements, we don’t even remember their names? I think we got spoilt. Overnight we became a nation capable of acquiring three powerful crowns in one year especially with Dia, Priyanka, and Lara. The titleholders after that took themselves too seriously. I’ve always maintained that beauty pageants are not about world peace and superficial fairy tales. See, we’re talking 18-year-olds, so I guess wisdom comes only with age. The pageant is an incredible window to the world. In my tenure, I visited 33 countries in that short time. I saw life, I got introduced to problems and issues a normal 18-year-old doesn’t. But then it was up to me to carry my responsibilities further. Nothing wrong in seeing pageants as a ticket to the movies. But there has to be a large worldview too. You have to see the larger picture and I’m not sure if many of the subsequent winners did. Being a movie star or being the head of a country are just by-products. So can we talk about Manav Menon? Manav is off limits. He doesn’t want to be talked about. What about Randeep Hooda? Randeep is an integral part of my life. That’s also because his relationship with my daughter is very strong. Their equation is fabulous. Right now, my 7-year-old has made him her official boyfriend. Ha! Ha! On a more serious note, a relationship doesn’t just fizzle away. You invest too much into it. The fun thing about being 30 is that you grow up (laughs). Randeep has turned 30 too, so hopefully he’ll grow up too. I must meet him today, have to give him some prasad that I’ve brought from Vaishnodevi. I’m not in constant touch with him any more. But Renee meets him on her days off, which are Saturdays and Sundays. How true is Vikram Bhatt’s Ankahee to your life? The only truth about the film is that it wasn’t my life at all. It’s the director’s creative interpretation. God bless him. To make a film on my life, one would have to have at least half the audacity I have. Next question, honey. So from Robert De Niro’s daughter to Richard Gere, you’ve been bitten by the Hollywood bug too? Darling, I came from Hollywood. Remember Miss Universe was then owned by Paramount Communications, which was based in Hollywood. Karma Confessions and Holy will be released at The Tribecca Film Festival in November. It was great to work with the likes of Naomi Campbell and the cameraperson Lisa who worked with Stanley Kubrick. Everything was so organized, well-coordinated. Even the pauses in our conversations would be earmarked in the film’s script. There was not a minute’s wastage. You can’t really come on the sets hoping that chalo set pe improvise karenge. We just need to shoot one musical portion. But seriously, I’m not cut out for Hollywood. It dawned on me when I met three agents who wanted to sign me on. It’s too business-like, you are a product. I mean, it should definitely be done like that. You have to stay there for six months, market yourself, hard sell, I can’t do all that. I’m comfortable just being me. For me, acting has never been a passion, it was an accident. It’s only now that I’ve started loving it. Hollywood is a one-off agenda. How did two divas—Naomi and you—fit in one frame? Who threw bigger tantrums? (Laughs) Oh, my tantrums are completely undistinguished ones. Naomi’s tantrums are distinguished. She’s the diva par excellence. Contrary to what people think, she’s very much like a child. Speak to her like a child and she responds. Actually she’s such a baby, she looks like a Barbie doll.
Know something? You look perfect to be a Bond girl. Strange that you should say it. Ten years ago when I first did a talk show in New York on Regis & Kathy Lee, they told me that I’d make a hot Bond girl. Yeah, if it were to happen, why not? Like I said, maybe I need to inculcate a fire for Hollywood. Right now, it isn’t there. Does your daughter adjust to your peripatetic life, your roller-coaster relationships? May be hard to believe but I actually lead quite a disciplined life. Come hell or high water, I work only eight hours a day. An outdoor schedule has to be in one go. I’ve said no to several lives. My parents vie and take turns to look after Renee. Dad is always saying, “If Ma isn’t coming, I’ll come and stay with Renee.” Where my personal choices are concerned, she’s with me all the time. Professionally, I discourage her from coming to the studios. Yes, like any healthy 7-year-old, she’s fascinated by movies and movie stars, so I try to go a bit easy on that front. Does she miss having a father? I truly believe that as children we miss only the things that we have and are then taken away from us. For Renee, the concept of a father is alien because she doesn’t have one. Sure, when she sees other kids in school with both their parents, she does ask questions. I always tell her she was born from my heart, not from my stomach. She says, “You have a father, Randeep has one too, so why not me?” So I’ve explained to her that once she turns 18 and the courts allow it, she can meet her biological father. So she keeps biding her time. In between she’d say, “My father’s name is Sushmita Sen and my mother’s name is Sushmita Sen too.” Right now, I’ve told her, “Your father is Lord Shiva.” So she went down to the temple and has made friends with Lord Shiva. Now whenever someone asks her who her father is she says it’s Lord Shiva. She’s never had an inferiority complex; she’s a beautifully adjusted child. Much as we hate admitting it, we end up behaving like our parents with our kids? No? You said it. I remember my mom saying “mukhpudi mei” in Bengali whenever I played truant. I use the same words when Renee becomes uncontrollable sometimes. I’d sworn to myself that I’d never lose my temper like my mom did with me as a child. But I find myself doing exactly that. My father is a very forgiving and spiritual man. And I’d keep thinking he is too good to be true. But sometimes I catch myself in a forgiving mood too. Renee has also helped me to bridge the distances between my parents and me. So many years of unresolved conflict and angst have been resolved. You are in that space where you understand your parents better and you are also in that space when you know your child doesn’t understand what you are doing is the best for her. In Gulzar saab’s lines … yeh lamha filhaal jee lene do. Sometimes I feel I’ve come to terms with my own childhood through Renee. Copyright © 2006 Filmfare. All right reserved.