Sushmita Sen’s newest tattoo has I AM neatly inscribed on her wrist. "It’s what I believe in, hence the tattoo. I am... could mean anything. I can complete the sentence depending on the situation," she explains.
Sen has four tattoos in all, and is still counting. Ask if she will ever consider tattooing a man’s name on her body and she lowers her voice, saying, “Never make that mistake, darling.” As an after-thought, she adds, “The only way I would tattoo a man’s name on my body, is if it were my son’s name.”
Is that a hint that she will soon adopt a baby boy? Maybe, though Sen says that she is ready to have biological children. “Why adopt? I may want to have biological children now. My biological clock is ticking away, so you never know.” So, is marriage on the cards? “Who said anything about marriage?” she counters, continuing, “It’s not like I don’t want to get married. I believe, like any other girl, in ‘Prince Charming’. I may not behave like a 12 year old, but I do believe in it.”
Currently, Sen is busy overseeing the grooming of the participants of the I AM She pageant. The winner will represent India at the Miss Universe pageant. “The Miss Universe pageant will be held in Las Vegas this year, and I want to see India bring home the crown. Aishwarya (Rai) and I made the country proud in 1994. We had our hattrick wins 10 years ago, when Lara (Dutta), Priyanka (Chopra) and Dia (Mirza) won the coveted titles. It’s time for history to repeat itself,” she says.
Though Sen devotes most of her time to the pageant, she will continue to act in films. “Eight months ago, I was working on an eight-hour shift to complete shooting for No Problem. I was trying to make time for my daughter, who was in boarding school, and getting things in place for the pageant. I thought it would be difficult to continue with everything,” she recalls.
But today, it’s a different story. “I am biased towards women – we can multi-task and we know to delegate work. I have a wonderful team, so I don’t have to give up on anything now,” she laughs.
Sushmita Sen has the words, I AM, tattooed on her wrist, but she is not the only one. Almost all the members of Tantra, her company, her parents, friends and fans have begun sporting the tattoo too. “Sushmita was the first one to get the tattoo. Eventually we all saw the meaning behind it and got ourselves inked too,” says Sen’s secretary Rebecca Pereira. The next time you see someone with I AM on their bodies, you know who was the inspiration. Ask Pereira if they’re forming an I AM cult, and she says “Yes, it’s like a religion to us.”
We spotted about 10 people with the I AM tattoo at the event itself, but Pereira is quick to clarify that no one was forced to get the tattoo. “It wasn’t a compulsion. In fact, when we were getting tattooed, we met a lady there who had been through a difficult period in her life. She asked us what I AM meant. When we told her, she was so touched, that she got one for herself,” says Pereira, adding that her 19-year-old son has also taken to this philosophy. Given the speed at which the I AM wave is catching on, Sen is probably the first celebrity to have a tattoo fan club to her credit.
‘I’m a mother to 32'
We’re used to seeing Sushmita Sen wave and blow kisses to her fans. But ever wondered what she is like when the cameras are not around? At the talent segment for the I AM She pageant in South Goa’s Alila Diwa Hotel, Sen went out of her way to bond with the top 30 contestants and mentor them. In fact, she’s more than a mentor.
According to her, she is a mother to them. “Yes, earlier I’d say that I have two babies, now I say I’m a mother to 32,” says a beaming Sen. But her ‘mothering’ is not restricted to only giving gyaan (advice) to the girls.
With her diva-like presence, Sen managed to brighten up all the girls’ moods, the second she walked into the room (minus any make-up). A few minutes before the talent round began, the girls were assembled near the stage, all in deep thought, the outcome of the sub-contest clearly playing on their minds.
Then Sen walked in, sat with them, singing songs and cajoling them to clap and sing along. A few more laughs and the frowns seem to have disappeared off the girls’ brows. That’s the effect Sen has on her girls.
Each time a girl would perform to a Bollywood track, or attempt to sing a song for the talent round, Sen, sitting in the last row, would promptly get up, and shake a leg and cheer for the contestant.
The stares followed Sen all along, but she was oblivious to the attention she garnered. The girls came first. One girl may have won the pageant, but the others will return home with the satisfaction of having bonded with Sen for a lifetime.
On her daughters, Renee and Alisah
Having been an actress and a model herself, Sen says that she will encourage her daughters if they want to follow in her footsteps.
“Renee already says that she wants to be an actress. And Alisah is only eight months old, but she was the first one to check out the crowns that the winners of the I Am She pageant wore. And she was so excited about it,” she says.
“But ultimately, it’s up to them. All I could dream of was becoming an airhostess, and look what destiny had in store for me,” she says on a philosophical note.
On being a female boss
Having been in the public eye for more than a decade, Sen has learnt to dodge any question with panache, but this one caught her unawares. “What kind of a boss are you?”
She thought, smiled, grinning mischievously the whole time. “You should’ve asked me this when there was no one around,” she jokes.
A bout of laughter and she explains articulately, “If someone working for me has passion, logic and reason, I have no reason not to be a good boss. But if they lack either or all of these, I have to step in to make things happen.”