22 abril 2010

Sen and sensibility

Sushmita Sen on motherhood, her upcoming film and involvement in the ‘I Am She' pageant
If you thought Sushmita Sen was busy completing No Problem directed by Anees Bazmee, then think again. The former beauty queen and proud mother of two is at present focussing all her energies on spotting and grooming potential candidates for her contest “I Am She”, the winner of which will represent the country at Miss Universe 2010. Excerpts from the interview:

Sushmita Sen. Photo: Sushil Kumar Verma
THE HINDU Sushmita Sen. Photo: Sushil Kumar Verma

You became a mother again recently. What is the best and worst part about being a mother?
When you become a mother, your life is no longer self-centred, it becomes purposeful. Every decision you make has an impact on everyone around, including your kids. When I was not a mother I was very different from what I'm today. Maine jitnee badmaashiya 24 ki umar tak ki … but after motherhood, and that too at an early age, I became responsible. Motherhood is beautiful.
The worst part is your kid's friends call you aunty. Do I look like an aunty?
What is the latest on your film career?
I have just completed No Problem, directed by Anees Bazmee and I'm really looking forward to it. I will announce my other film only in the end of May after the ‘I Am She' pageant, which I'm focussing all my energies on at present.
How different will your ‘I Am She' pageant be from ‘Femina Miss India'?
‘Femina Miss India' is an altogether different property; their winner will go for Miss World, whereas the winner of the ‘I Am She' pageant will go to Miss Universe. If you are asking whether my show is going to be the biggest, yes, it is.
What kind of a winner are you looking for in ‘I Am She'?
Through this platform, we are looking for a girl who is a representative of the 21st Century. She should be good academically too because the winner of our contest will not only get glamorous prizes but also a scholarship. We have a few scholarships already with us — one is with The Milan Fashion Week and another with the New York Film Academy. This is the first time such a scholarship is being announced wherein another country will sponsor her education and provide her with food and shelter. If she wants to join Bollywood, she is welcome; I too did so. But I want them to also look for other opportunities — if they want to be a political analyst or a microbiologist, great.
Have you taken any innovative steps?
For the first time, language will not be a barrier. If you are comfortable talking in Gujarati, Marathi or French, you can speak that language. A girl from a small town near Bareilly or from the outskirts of Lucknow or anywhere else can take part in this.
Many girls don't participate in pageants because of their height.
I think most beautiful women come in small packages. Many barriers have been removed except the height factor because it is a pre-requisite for the Miss Universe contest. But I want to add that people think I'm 5 feet 11 inches tall, whereas I'm five feet seven and a half inches tall. And I still won the competition. The height we look at — 5 feet 7 inches — is short (for international beauty pageants).
How are you going to groom the contestants, especially in current affairs?
There are two things that happen at a beauty pageant — you either ask an 18-year-old ‘How are you going to change the world?' or ask a 26-year-old something as inane as ‘What is beautiful?' We are trying to establish a fine balance between the two. In our grooming session, we are going to teach them etiquette, social behaviour and CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility). There will be an aptitude test to ascertain where their strength lies. Also our grooming session will not take place in India. We are a national pageant but our winner will represent us at an international level. When our winner goes there, she is likely to perform best when she is familiar with the environment.
You have ‘I Am' tattooed on your hand. Is that why you named your contest ‘I Am She'?
No, the tattoo came later. ‘I Am' is a very personal statement; we are building the brand so that one day long after I am gone, people remember it. Anything you say after ‘I am' changes; but ‘I am' always remains.
You are enrolling your friends in this initiative too. I believe you have mended the rift with Vivek Oberoi and asked him to become part of ‘I Am She'?
I never knew Vivek so how could we have had a rift? We met recently and he told me what I was doing with ‘I Am She' was very close to his heart. I joked, “Obviously, it is a beauty pageant.”
On a more serious note, he said many girls from the school he has adopted in Vrindavan wanted to be Miss Universe. I guess people in the interior areas understand that winning Miss Universe brings prestige to the country. I told Vivek that I wanted to go to Vrindavan to meet my potential Miss Universes. And yes, he is going to support my little girls from ‘I Am She'.

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