Art & Entertainment

Sushmita Sen: I’m One Of The First Mainstream Actresses To Take On OTT At A Time When It Was Not A Done Thing

It may not be easy but the life of an artist is a privileged one, says Bollywood star Sushmita Sen, who credits her job for keeping her motivated whenever she feels down and out.

Sushmita Sen

It may not be easy but the life of an artist is a privileged one, says Bollywood star Sushmita Sen, who credits her job for keeping her motivated whenever she feels down and out.

Sen, who underwent an angioplasty following a massive heart attack in March, said acting is a stronger medicine than all the pills prescribed by the doctors.

"Health is good, because they (doctors) give you that many pills. The work aspect keeps me healthiest. When I’m working, the mind doesn’t have the time to think about sad stories or tragedies. You keep moving and doing what’s best.

"To be an actor or creative person is not an easy life, but it is a life that most of us are privileged to have. So, every time you are dog tired to the bone, tell yourself 'How many people get this? You are so lucky, shut up and do it'," the 47 year-old-actor told PTI in an interview here.

Sen is back on screen with the JioCinema series "Taali", described as a biographical drama about the story of transgender activist Gauri Sawant, who was born as Ganesh. The show is her second digital outing after her acclaimed web debut "Aarya" on Disney+ Hotstar.

The former Miss Universe, known for films such as “Biwi No 1”, “Filhaal”, “Maine Pyaar Kyun Kiya” and “Main Hoon Na”, said the streaming platforms gave her an opportunity to “grow” as an actor.

“I'm a big fan of OTT. I’m one of the first mainstream actresses to take on OTT at a time when it was not a done thing. I’m glad I did because it allowed me an opportunity to grow and come back to an art form that I love.

“Earlier, it used to be the greatest tragedy, when an actor or actress reached this age, their careers were long finished, but this is when they know how to bring it to real life. This is the time to be an actor,” she said.

Directed by National Award winner Ravi Jadhav of "Natarang" fame, "Taali" is also the first time for Sen playing a real-life character. Portraying a real person on screen can be daunting and the actor said her strategy was to keep it simple.

"One of the key things that we decided when we started ‘Taali’ was that you cannot try to ape Gauri Sawant, she is strong. We will have to not mimic her, (because) then we will get it wrong... That's how strong that persona is. So, what do we do?

"We take the essence of this woman, and all of what she is hiding and she is projecting. What she is hiding is far more powerful because you don’t see that on YouTube or Google. You see that when you meet her. That’s what I brought to ‘Taali’, with her permission,” she added.

The upcoming six-episode series needs to be watched as a human story, the actor said.

“‘Taali’ is about reminding ourselves that watch this as a human story, you will be mesmerised with how this could have been your or my story. You don’t have to be born into a world like this.

"It’s a desire that drives you, the desire is so powerful that you are willing to sacrifice not just an organ but sometimes your life in the process of trying to give it up. They (trans community) need to be recognised as human beings, who feel like us, who hurt like us, who go through mental depression like us, whose lives matter just like us,” she said.

To look the part, Sen said she relied on prosthetics and did a thorough homework to get the mannerisms and voice modulation right.

"We decided we will have to go the prosthetic way. The director said we will not shoot sync-sound because we will have to regenerate the voice. So, we would finish one performance, then all the actors would go to the dubbing studio. We dubbed close to the mic in order to come as close to the truth as possible.”

The actor also trained with acting coach Atul Mongia to "unlearn" everything she knew about being feminine.

"We tried to unlearn everything that I know to be feminine... Understanding the masculine side of existence, being a man, how a man thinks, etc. Then, the only person I spent time with was Gauri. Besides, there are 2,200 transgender actors that worked on this show, who were there to guide us,” she said.

"Taali" is a "tribute" to the trans community, Sen added.

"I hope and pray that it (the series) opens hearts and allows people to feel the same love, acceptance, belonging that they have given me, that my playing Gauri will bring it to the trans community as well. I want them (people) to take away a new thought process, new acceptance. Nobody is expecting the world to change, but a single person and then two more...” she said.

Even while gender inequality persists on a global scale, the actor believes it's time to have "a sense of inclusion".

"We live in a world where there is gender inequality and there’s always going to be. The US still talks about it. (However), it is time to have a sense of inclusion to get past so many multitudes of divide, divide, definition, divide, LGBTQIA +, human beings then everything else,” she added.


“Taali” will premiere on August 15.