When it comes to women who are trailblazers, never letting anything restrict themselves, especially with respect to what societal norms suggest, Sushmita Sen comes to mind. Though a leading Bollywood celebrity, a woman who is expected to ‘play by the rules’, she has done anything but lived her life in terms of what is deemed ‘conventional’. An independent working woman, a single mother and unafraid to speak her mind, the actress has broken many a stereotype along the way. On her birthday, here’s taking a look at some of them.
The famous actor burst onto the scene in 1994, the year she was crowned Miss Universe. Not only was she the first Indian woman to win the title, but she was also the strongest contender at only 18 years of age. The then-teenager answered questions with coherence. When asked about what she would undertake as an adventure if she had the time and the money, without missing a beat, she cited her interests in helping children across the world. Her win witnessed a break from the Eurocentric views, putting all eyes on India, which she described as “a country where love is the essence of life.”
While back in the 90s, when most entrants stuck to the tried-and-tested commercial films alone, Sushmita Sen dabbled in various films, starting out with Dastak, a Mahesh Bhatt thriller. Whilst she was a top actress at the time and worked in commercially successful hits, she didn’t shy away from working in movies that highlighted lesser-discussed topics, for instance, playing a surrogate mother in Filhaal and more recently, starring as a lead in the crime thriller Aarya.
At 24, Sushmita Sen broke yet another stereotype by choosing to become a single mother by adoption. In 2000, she brought home her daughter Renee and was always open about the struggles and realities of being a single mom. In one of her interviews, the actor and former model talked about her conversations with her daughter about the adoption. “You’re [Renee] special because you’re born from the heart,” she has often stated. Her daughter, now a 21-year-old, recently made her citing debut with a short film titled Suttabaazi. Sushmita Sen also went on to adopt Alisah, her second child in 2010.
The actor has also been open about her personal life, not shying away from putting rumours to rest when required. In a country where a woman’s marital status is much scrutinised, Sushmita Sen has played by her own rules and we love her for that. Breaking the old and unnecessary stereotypes about marriage and age in relationships, she has also been candid about her life and her partner, Rohman Shawl, who she is currently dating.
Back in 2000, in the movie Fiza, the actor made a special appearance for a dance number. Anyone familiar with the concept in Bollywood would also know how often the songs are sexist in nature, objectifying women. But even back when speaking up was practically unheard of, Sushmita Sen refused to lip-sync lyrics that portrayed such a line.
In an interview this year, choreographer Ganesh Acharya who was a part of the team, narrated how Sushmita took a strong stand against the lyrics that propagated a regressive approach. “There was a line that went ‘aa garmi le mere seene se (come feel the heat of my bosom)’ and she refused to sing it. She said, “I just won’t do it”. It was unheard of at that point of time, to command and extract that kind of respect,” the choreographer said. Her stance had composer Anu Malik reworked the lines to ‘aa narmi le meri aankhon se, roughly translated to ‘delve into the softness of my eyes’.
At a time when disease or poor health is often looked down upon, the 45-year-old opened up about her struggles and her resilience in the face of Addison’s disease, a disorder in which the body doesn’t produce enough of certain hormones and can be hazardous.
In a post on Youtube along with a video of her regime, she wrote a detailed statement highlighting it. “After I was diagnosed with an auto-immune condition called Addison’s disease in September 2014, it left me feeling like, I had no fight left in me…A fatigued body filled with immense frustration & aggression. The dark circles under my eyes can’t even begin to explain the dark times I endured for 4 long years 🙂 To have steroids substitute cortisol & to live with its innumerable side effects took its toll. There is NOTHING more tiring than to live with a chronic illness. Enough was enough, I had to find a way of strengthening my mind, allowing my body to follow suit. I meditated with #Nunchaku :)) Aggression out, fight back in & pain turned into an art form 🙂 I healed in time, my Adrenal glands woke up, no more steroids, no withdrawals & NO AUTO-IMMUNE CONDITION as of 2019. :)) Lesson: NO ONE KNOWS YOUR BODY BETTER THAN YOU, LISTEN TO IT. 🙂 There is a warrior in all of us, never give up!!! Thank you to my Teacher Nupur Shikhare for being my rock through this journey 🙂 I love you guys!!!”
We love how strong, uninhibited woman she is. She is the inspiration young girls need in today’s time.
Featured Image: Instagram