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How has life been treating you?
Fabulously! I'm 31, and rocking. And though I do at times explore the possibility of other options, I wouldn't have my life any other way. 2006 has been personally tough. But I'm an eternal optimist. I say, 'All right God, you've chosen me for this tough test. But please don't make it into a habit.' I'm His favourite child. I wish the same for everyone.
Was 2006 your toughest year?
That would be hard to say...I've faced all the hardships in my life as and when they've hit me. Whether it was the sudden spurt of success as Miss Universe at 18 or the battle in the courts to adopt my daughter Renee, or my relationships, failed or successful, they've all been full of turmoil when it happened. At 31, I realize nothing has been that bad because at 45 I'll feel everything has been pretty much worth the while.
There's an insatiable appetite to know more about your current man Manav. Why are you for once so secretive about your relationship?
As you get acclimatized to the media, you adopt a less bindaas approach to the limelight. Right now I feel, this is my life and I don't need to justify myself. As you mature with time you realize relationships aren't just about one person. The privacy of the other party in a relationship does matter. I may not be secretive about the relationship. The other person is. That's it. It isn't easy specially when pushed to a corner about being answerable about my relationship. As long as I can answer without compromising the other person, I do it. I can't let other people suffer for the choices I make in life. People are most welcome to be inquisitive about my life. I do enjoy sharing it.
So is this relationship more serious, therefore more private?
No the secrecy, as you call it, is purely because the person has asked me not to talk about it. I'd rather choose what my heart tells me to. I've a tremendously strong conscience. I'd never do something that makes me uncomfortable.
Do you feel the need to find a man who loves you for what you are rather than for being 'The Sushmita Sen'?
Gawd! You always did come up with wonderful questions. God knows, the image is of no importance to me. And you can't go looking for love. It would hardly depend on who I am. It'd greatly depend on who he is. I believe all these relationships that you go through in life are actually a part of that cosmic design where love and marriage finally finds you. I believe that will happen to me also.
Madhuri finally settled down with a US-based doctor who didn't watch her films.
That's tough to believe. But I'll take your word for it. God bless Madhuri's equation with her husband. I saw a picture of her and husband with their two sons. And my heart melted. Blissful relationships are still possible in today's world. As for me, I'd rather have a man see any and every thing I've ever done, and then be able to connect on a one-to-one level.
Does your heart crave for marriage now?
It craved for marriage forever. I've always been a home-lover, in spite of living a very public life, which I enjoy in my own way. I'm a hundred-percent all-there person. When I'm at a public event I wouldn't want to be at home, and vice versa.
Your two bravura performances in 2006 in Chingari and Zindagi Rocks went unappreciated...
Sometimes I feel, why do I put so much love, effort and passion in all my roles? Over the years I came in with no expectations from myself. It was more like....okay someone was offering me a chance to be in the movies with good money, so why not? I don't have that feeling of initial excitement any more. Now I've actually started enjoying acting. Cinema allows me to exhale. It's no longer about impressing other people but expressing myself. That's what makes me feel so liberated. That's why when I'm accused of living in an ivory tower; I've to say that whether it's life or cinema, one can't function in isolation. Having said that, I must say I love ivory (laughs).
Do you feel the need to cut loose from the bustle?
Of course! Everyone has that need. Whether its meditation or a vacation, you do need to get away. We all need to go into that ivory tower once in a while to exhale. Otherwise we'll be burnt out. But when I take a vacation, I'm accused of being the diva in an ivory tower.
But you're a diva!
Can you please define diva for me? Because I'm very confused. Of course I'm unreachable. But never unapproachable.
I feel Bollywood still has a problem finding the right place for you.
I've never looked at this from their perspective. Speaking from my own perspective, I do understand my audience. I know a Main Hoon Na thrills them. And I do it only because I know that's what audiences expect from me. But they've to allow me to do the stuff I enjoy doing. Otherwise I'll stagnate. By the way I love doing David Dhawan's films. And we'll be working together again.
You can run around trees. But you've a problem running around the heroes, don't you?
Yeah, that's always been a problem. I'm accused of remaining in my shell. But if you know what's getting out of that shell entails, you'll be very proud of me. Salman has always been a friend. But many other actors are disappointed because I don't socialize with them after-hours. Yes, I'm chirpy by nature. But to show up at every do wouldn't make me comfortable. I remember during Main Hoon Na, I went around all over the place trying to help Shah Rukh with his bad back. But when it came to chilling around with Farah and co., I wasn't around.
But you're yet to find a favourite hero to pair with.
What are you talking about? I've paired up with the greatest hero of them all...God!
The image of the strong woman haunts you. Is it a curse?
Well....from the history of the heroine in Hindi films, I feel I've been a big sore-thumb. Having said that, I must tell you, I came here to make a place for myself which no one else has. And that wasn't about a Friday-to-Friday equation. By God's grace, every time a film of mine bombs-which is rather regularly-I've kept growing and diversifying into different areas of the entertainment business. My last film has never determined my fate in the public eye. I got a Main Hoon Na after a line of duds. It's not as if I don't want my Fridays and big banners. It's just that a lot of people in the industry have very fixed ideas about how a working women needs to conduct herself vis-À-vis the men. I can't stoop to that level to get work. I don't want to.
How different is the 30s from the 20s?
Oh, it's like a decade of brilliance. It's beautiful because I still have that sense of wonderment about life, though it now comes with an understanding of how it works. The kind of life that has been bestowed on me is simply so fascinating. If you were to breathe the air that I do, you'd realize what I mean. I don't live my life by numbers. It's not about 20 or 30. It's just a figure.
And what a figure!