“Exclusive is better than becoming a factory,” Sushmita Sen walks the talk with this mindset as she continues to receive appreciation for playing the titular role in Aarya 2. A happy Sushmita, who always has the warmest greetings, shared how happy she is with the response to the show. The second season of Aarya was pegged to be bigger and better, especially after the Emmys nomination this year. Sushmita plays the strong-headed yet vulnerable Aarya whose life has been nothing short of a roller-coaster. From braving family deceits to finding courage in restraint, Sushmita Sen has been the centre of attention with her fiery performance in the second season. In an exclusive chat with Bollywood Bubble’s Bhavna Agarwal, Sushmita recalls having apprehension about signing up for an OTT show before Aarya season one happened. She also reveals that as a team they did feel pressured whilst shooting for the second season and what kept them going. Sushmita also shared how she dealt with her low phases and finding the right balance between work and family. The former Miss Universe also spilt a few beans on her upcoming projects and how excited she is for the same.
After Aarya, the expectation from the second season was obviously more. Did you feel the pressure at any given point while shooting?
I actually had a lot of pressure. When you receive so much love, you know, you cannot disappoint them. This is a beautiful and dangerous aspect at the same time, that in our movies and series, you do not completely disconnect between Sushmita and Aarya. You always see your Sush in Aarya. Therefore, it was very important for me that they enjoy the show and are satisfied with both, their Sush and Aarya. There was of course, pressure but when we started filming, it became very fluid. The school where we filmed Aarya made me forget all the worries. This season, I got more than what I had wanted. This season, I feel what fans loved the most is that both Sush and Aarya are consistent.
Of course, today Aarya is a huge success. But before you saw that success, actors were divided between OTT and theatres with many fearing if OTT will overtake theatres. Did you have any such apprehension before you signed Aarya?
I had that before when I was being offered other content on OTT because I had taken a 10-year hiatus and when you come back, you return on OTT rather than a film. When you are old school, 70 mm is 70mm. So, you tend to have apprehensions but then I got Aarya. I am a very instinctive person otherwise but when Aarya came to me, I took only 5 mins to say yes. I couldn’t believe it myself and my team in fact told me ‘you were embarrassingly agreeable, you know?’. That’s how Aarya came into being. Today, in hindsight I can say with confidence that one of the best things I did was to give priority to content rather than the platform, and then OTT has taken me straight to the Emmys, and it shows you the global consumption to your work. I do not know if a theatrical release would have given me a Aarya.
Are you always this instinctive when it comes to picking up projects?
Even with films that bombed at the box office, they were instinctive. As an actor, you keep thinking I am hungry for a good role, I am hungry for an author-backed role. So, whenever I got it, I took it. Sometimes, it got appreciated, sometimes it completely tanked, but there was never a slightly negotiation when work was concerned, I gave my 100% no matter the fate of the film. But some of them became satellite hits. There’s Samay, Filhal, some of my best work were ahead of time.
One parallel I could draw between Aarya and Sushmita is that both of you are strong-headed and family-orientated. Both of you have endured a lot of ups and downs as well… Do you recollect any moment that you think was the most challenging and you wonder ‘how did I get through that’?
Oh, I felt like that. I am a human being and especially when you have a long period of time when things just keep going wrong and you have no relief in middle, just like Aarya. There are moments like this in real life as well, I am sure for everyone, me included. One of the interesting things you said was about the work and family life balance . Actually, that balance is not a balance. The work and family life, all of it is life. So the balance actually has to come from within, and so when you have that, be it friends, family, finance, work, society, everything fall into a balance because you are balanced inside. When you go through such difficult moments with yourself, you strike that balance inside, and everything outside falls in place. That’s how I live as Sushmita.
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Speaking of Aarya 2 again, how has your family reacted to it?
My kids are my biggest fans. Younger one Alisah is also my biggest critic so it is very difficult to impress her. She is very impressed with this season. In the previous one, she felt like she wanted me to get up and fight faster. Because she feels Aarya is me. That’s her. Renee loved it. My mom just binge-watched with me and it was beautiful.
My father actually, his reaction had me in tears. He was all choked up when he called me from Kolkata and said that he was very proud of me. For me, its been a big thing because my father never wanted me to be a part of the film industry. In the 90s, it wasn’t the best place to be. I had always told him that I would do it with respect and make him proud. Just give me a chance to explore the opportunity for myself. It took 27 years for my dad to talk to me about my movie career. It meant everything for me.
Your upcoming projects?
There are 2 projects that are green lit but the platform is yet to be confirmed. For me, Aarya will always be a priority. Basis Aarya’s next season, I will be shooting the other shows. One thing that remains constant that is my mindset that says ‘exclusive is better than becoming a factory that keeps churning out one thing after another.’
Aarya is streaming on Disney + Hotstar.