Sushmita Sen is a towering personality, both on-screen and off-screen. Her palpable charm sent the nation into a tizzy when she appeared as Ms Chandni in Farah Khan’s directorial debut Main Hoon Na. Her chemistry with leading man Shah Rukh Khan, iconic chiffon sarees and graceful portrayal of a college teacher has managed to attain cult status over the years. Now in an interview with Humans Of Bombay, Sushmita Sen has reflected on working in the film alongside Shah Rukh Khan and the overwhelming love she received for role in the film. She said, “My God, lots of good memories. By the way, India looks at teachers like that, but they have never been able to express it in a film. I think Farah did a good job of that. Chandni is teaching chemistry, and nobody’s listening in class.”
Sushmita Sen also said that she did not expect the film to do so well for her. Sushmita Sen said that Farah Khan even called her to apologise, explaining that her role was further shortened in the edit. Sushmita Sen said, “It became career-defining, of course, because everybody keeps going back to Main Hoon Na; it definitely was that. I must give you a little anecdote on this; it was actually quite funny when Farah called me and said, ‘Sush, I have seen the final edit and I have to apologise to you. Shah Rukh, of course, has the role; Zayed (Khan), Amrita (Rao), everybody has a role; you are barely there.’ So, I’m just like, ‘Well, that’s okay, Farah; we had a deal; you kept through the promise; I kept through it; it’s done; don’t worry about it.’ But inside I was thinking, ‘Oh, I’m barely there in the film—not that I had shot a lot, but still barely there in the film.”
Such was the response to her role in the 2004 film, Sushmita Sen said that while the pre-release posters featured only Shah Rukh Khan, Amrita Rao and Zayed, days after the release, posters with SRK and Sushmita Sen were on hoardings all over the city. “That is the power of the people and the audience.”
Sushmita Sen also revealed that a lot of the magical moments on sets were created spontaneously. She said, “The magic of that film was that a lot of the stuff you see in the movie was not written; it just happened. Nanna Munna Rahi Hoon, that’s there in the script; then he sees this woman, and he goes down on his knees and opens his arms; that was not there,” referring to one of the most famous scenes in the film.
“Shah Rukh [Khan] actually did that in the shot and was just like, ‘Dude, what are you looking like?’ Farah was like, ‘Perfect, cut! Let’s light for this; let’s get all the lights closer, the fan, and everything,’ because this was not choreographed. So, it just happened in the movie, and Shah Rukh can do the same take 50 times and make it look like it’s happening for the first time. So that was a brilliant introduction; that was not planned; that happened the way it did; the pallu was flying over his face; he was holding the pallu and walking; that was not planned; it was just stuff happening at the moment,” Sushmita Sen confessed.
On the work front, Sushmita Sen was last seen in the web series Taali, based on the life of transgender activist Shreegauri Sawant.