She is been considered as one of the most fiercest and boldest actress in the Indian movie industry and one of the most influential celebrities in India, Sushmita Sen is a synonym with grace and class. At a time when actors are screaming for attention in today’s hyper-competitive movie industry, the 45-year-old is only interested in delving deeper into her characters. On an email interview to You & I, Sushmita discussed a bit of everything: her beautiful relationship with her daughters, Renee and Alisha; show business; her inexhaustible zest; and her latest web series, Aarya.
What is your relationship with jewellery like and how has it evolved over the years? What is your first memory with jewellery? Any special jewellery piece handed down from your mother or grandmother…
For me jewellery has always been meaningful. I often associate a piece with a special place, or a situation, or person.
I’ve always been a big fan of diamonds to begin with. Then as I started growing up, my tastes started to include more colour, I discovered emeralds, and I’m a big fan of Burmese rubies and opals, it’s a favourite.
My earliest memory of jewellery is a pair of my Maa’s thin gold bangles. She wore them on her right hand, and I remember them making the prettiest sound, telling me exactly where Maa was!
Bengali brides traditionally wear a choker and then layers of gold chains. My mum for some reason had those chains melted down to make something new! And I was like, why would you do that…when you have a daughter and a daughter in law in line, who’d love them! So I went to Dubai, and from her locker I took the choker and a bracelet that she had worn as a bride, before she melted those, and yes those are very special to me, and will be in my collection forever.
When it comes to jewellery, how would you describe your personal sense of style?
For me jewellery must be timeless and unforgettable. It has to be pieces that you can wear often, not just ones you wear once in your life. Even if I did ever get married, I’d like to pick jewellery that I can repeat, rather than something really big and different, that I never get to wear again! That’s also true for my clothing, my bag collection, everything, it has to be timeless. Occasionally, I’ll experiment, I’ll be very outlandish, and I’ll say I love that! But experience has taught me that jewellery like that stays in my locker, or I gift it to somebody, I don’t end up wearing it.
Do you have any treasured heirloom pieces that you have worn on repeat over the years? Today, do you shop for jewellery keeping your daughters in mind?
My ring…. it’s 22 carats and I wear it everywhere! But it is something that represents hope for me, it’s something I gifted myself, to empower me, to remind me that I don’t need a man for that! But I love the sparkle of a diamond, it’s so full of hope!
Renee has a beautiful collection of her own now, but my younger one Alissa, who’s only 12, she’s discovering solitaires if you please… dangerous sign! So she says I don’t want too many pieces, I just want one diamond that I can wear as a pendant.
I had bought a 22 carat diamond, then a 11 carat one, and then a 14 carat one, a yellow diamond. And Renee and Alissa say, so one is for each of us… who is the third one for! And I have to remind them that excuse me, it’s for me! So yes, they also have picked up my love for jewellery.
How did the Zoya collaboration come to be?
When it comes to collaborations, for me it’s either that there is a long standing relationship with time tested equations or it’s something you enter after a tremendous amount of due diligence.
I love the team behind Zoya and due diligence was not needed, because it’s a brand from the House of Tata, and that’s a family that I have the highest regard for. This is also not my first outing for Zoya, so I was very comfortable being part of this family and joining them to celebrate Libera, which is a stunning collection with gorgeous pieces.
What, according to you, is unique about Zoya’s new Libera collection? How does the range fall in line with your aesthetic?
Every piece in Zoya has a beautiful thought behind it. Zoya, described the inspiration of Libera to me like the fable of a heroine’s life and this collection celebrates her soul. She’s a woman who is not seeking approval from the world in the form of external validation, she embraces who she truly is. I felt delighted that I get to be the hero, associated with that aspect of this! Because Libera represents that depth, and I connect with that idea. The pieces in this collection don’t scream for attention, but they are elegant, beautifully crafted and memorable. They command respect and so its lovely launch to be a part of it.
What are your favourite pieces from the collection and why?
My favourite piece from this collection is the necklace I’m wearing. It’s called ‘Unchained Elegance’ and it represents the concept of flow very beautifully. It snakes down with grace and fluidity and feels royal and elegant. See everything about life in all its glory that is unchained, I love, and elegance is always beautiful.
I also love my earrings… they have an opal in the centre, which is one of my favourite stones. It stands for purity and elegance, and the diamonds flow like the drapes of an opera house or theatre, I love that thought.
Libera is replete with diamond and gemstone pieces. How do you like to style your precious stones?
Today I’m styling it with this lovely white dress by Russian designer Kristina Fidelskaya. It’s a departure from my usual black, and I’m really enjoying it. I think the colour complements the diamonds of Libera perfectly.
If you had to edit your jewellery box down to a few must-haves, what would those pieces be?
Has to be my rings and the pieces from my mum!
This is Zoya’s festive collection. Is the festive season special to you?
Oh yes! There are all the festivals, Durga Puja, Navratri, Diwali … but also, it’s nearing the change of a year and that always brings in a sense of rejuvenation, and hope for better times and we can celebrate that! And needless to say, no matter which part of India you’re in, people are usually getting married around now! I think November is a very special time of the year because I was born in it! So yes, I think its lovely!
You have always been an independent thinker when it comes to your personal decisions. Where do you derive the strength from?
My mother always said, “If you don’t try, you will never know.’ It pushed me give my best to everything, to give life a shot. Everyone around me - especially my parents – has been very supportive and made this journey a wonderful and fulfilling one. Today we are talking about living in the flow, for me a lot of that is about acceptance. When you accept things around you, you can flow forward, unapologetically.
What is authenticity to you? Why is it important to you to be your authentic self?
Authenticity is about being true to yourself. We hear this often, but it’s very easy to become someone else because that’s how the world sees us. But you’re born unique and if you become one of the herd, you’ll be lost! So, truly the greatest success is in being yourself.
You are recognised for the bold choices you have made in your life. Where do you derive this self-conviction from?
Your genetic makeup is different from everyone in the world, and there is a reason for that. I believe that every person is born to be unique. If you become one of the herd, you’ll be lost. So forge your own identity, follow your heart and go forward with your own flow, that is how you build conviction. The greatest success you can ever have is to be yourself. That’s how you build conviction.
What would be your advice to women?
My advice to all women would be to always be financially independent.
How have you instilled independent thinking in your daughters, Renee and Alisa?
I tell them to be true to themselves. It’s an oft repeated statement because that’s how the world perceives us. The greatest success you can ever have is to be yourself.
Your fitness regime?
I work out regularly; I am quite serious and strict when it comes to workout schedules, I make it a point to never skip my sessions.
Your beauty mantra?
Beauty is so many little things. But mainly, being beautiful is about being innately happy. You have to evolve, grow and accept everything about yourself — the good, the bad and the ugly. The new lines that show up on your face…to accept it all knowing that beauty has to be deeper than that. So, my beauty mantra is to stay happy and live a fulfilling life. — as told to Anisha