A proud mother of two daughters, Sushmita Sen surprised many with her decision to step back from the film industry and prioritise her family. This choice, made at the height of her professional success, raised eyebrows among those who expected her to continue at full throttle. Recalling the period when she adopted her second daughter, Alisah, in 2010 when she was just one month old, Sushmita recently shared that her decision to take a break was driven by a desire to avoid being separated from her kids. However, she stated that the hiatus extended beyond her initial expectations and she found herself as a single mom with bills to pay but sans a job.
“I can’t leave her with her nanny and be doing something I don’t like. Of course, I did have my then-manager and people from the industry, friends, who dubbed my decision as hara-kiri and said that I was making a very big blunder,” she said during an interview with Mid-Day.
“They said this is the prime of my age and advised me not to quit. However, I wasn’t quitting; I was just taking a break. But, who takes a break? It’s a very male-driven industry, so, as a woman, you have only so much time to look your best. I told them they were probably right, but inside me, there was a voice asking me not to do it. I have to listen to that voice because it has worked for me my whole life,” she added.
Sushmita stated that the break continued for a longer period than she expected. “The scripts that were coming, they also dried up, obviously because I wasn’t visible.” At this point, she was a single mom with bills to pay but no job as an actor. Sushmita recalled that her association with Renee Jewellers and the endorsements she had helped her move forward. “We had branches of Renee Jewellers all over the Middle East. So, we were looking into that, and I was also doing some endorsements.”
Between 2010 and 2012, she also ran the Miss Universe franchise from India, at a time when it was owned by former US President Donald Trump.
Expressing that Alisah herself served as the inspiration for her return to work, Sushmita recounted an incident from 2012 when her daughter provided her with a candid career evaluation. “She was eight, and one day she saw some paps under our house and asked me why they were taking pictures of me. I told her it’s because I am famous, to which she asked, ‘doing what?’ When I told her I was Miss Universe, she reminded me that it was a long time ago. Then, when I told her I am an actor too, she responded by saying that I don’t act anymore. I said that’s because I wanted to be with her…”
“But then I realised that the time had come. She was kind of telling me off and trying to encourage me to break free from my inertia, go back to what I am supposed to do.”
Reflecting on reaching out to the heads of Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar et al, Sushmita emphasised the unforgettable nature of the experience. “I was jobless. I had no experience in the last eight years. The world had changed dramatically, and OTT had shown up. I was loving the content on OTT. I personally made the calls because I wanted them to know I was hungry.”
Acknowledging that her children aren’t particularly fond of her movies, Sushmita described them as her grounding factor. “They are the biggest critics of every little thing. They are very proud of the person I am, but they are not always very proud of the work I do, which is absolutely fair.”