She would be a part of all the guys’ activities on the sets, from playing football to target shooting to playing pool. And often she bested the guys, which left Salman impressed. Having dealt with damsels-in-distress all his life, Sush’s independence was refreshing for him. Say watchers, that Sush was probably Sallu’s only co-star he didn’t get linked with coz their friendship was evident. The two shared easy chemistry on the sets, were a riot during the shooting of that film and it showed in the film’s success. Their friendship only grew stronger post that.
Although there was a lean period, according to insiders, when Sallu was dating Sush’s arch rival, Aishwarya. Since the two beauty queens stayed out of each other’s path, Salman by default kept away from Sush. But he still held Sushmita in high regard and the two always met warmly and kept in touch, though there weren’t any films in the interim for the two, despite their successful pairing.
It was another thing Salman appreciated about Sush, she never tried to use their friendship to sign more films with him or sucked up to him. She probably believed she didn’t need a hero to prop up her professional life. She was happy leading her life in her ivory tower and got out of it only when work called. Post Ash, Salman did disastrous ‘Tumko Na Bhool Payenge’ and ‘Maine Pyaar Kyun Kiya’ with Sush.
The latter was a relaunch of sorts for his new girlfriend Katrina Kaif and his own production, but he made sure Sush got her due in the film. On the sets of the film, while Sush’s then boyfriend Randeep Hooda and Katrina were almost bystanders, Sush and Salman took over the sets. Their camaraderie was unmissable. Sush may have been in several relationships over the years, and men might have come and gone, but her friend Salman was still around.
‘Maine Pyaar Kyun Kiya’s success came close on the heels of Sush’s resurrection via ‘Main Hoon Na’. To an industry awakened to her presence once again, one expected Sush to give a happy helping. But, she was done ‘clapping for the hero’, in her films and wanted to take on the mantle of the flagbearer of her films. Hence she turned her back on sure shot winner commercial potboilers and leaned towards women centric themes like ‘Chingari’ and ‘Zindagi Rocks’.
Despite of warning bells all around her, Sush decided to listen to her heart and went with her gut instinct. Unfortunately both the films bombed and Sush had lost all the advantage ‘Main Hoon Na’ had given her. In fact, it set her back further and Sush made matters worse by retreating into her ivory tower since then. There was not even an attempt to damage control and Sush was only heard of through her walk-ins and outs of a few films. “That’s because she wasn’t really keen on taking on any work in the first place,” says her close aide.
Anything else felt like a distraction to Sush and a digression of her energies as she immersed her whole and soul in her beloved project, ‘Rani Laxmibai’. It’s a story that had always fascinated her, she claimed and Sush wanted the story to be retold in her style. And her style is definitely larger than life, magnificent and Queen size.
Sushmita floated her production house and began her intensive research on the subject. It’s almost been two years since the project has been in the talks, but Sush is in no hurry as she wants everything just perfect with her film. According to sources, writers have been hired and sacked at will as Sush is personally overseeing every minute detail and won’t rest in peace till she has everything in place according to her.
The film is obviously expected to be mounted on a huge canvas and will be made in Hindi and English as Sush wants the whole world to see the Queen’s story. It’s going to be an International venture and some big Hollywood names are being linked with the project as the script and ground work is almost done.
On home ground though, Sush expected no hassles as far as her casting was concerned. Being an actress herself she expected her fellow actors to stand by her. And she certainly expected that from her friend Salman, who she’d penciled in to play the role of Tatya Tope, Rani Laxmibai’s best friend and confidante in the film. And when she first asked Salman for his nod to the project, there were no signs of disapproval.
Without batting his eyelid Salman said a ‘Yes’ to Sush and mighty pleased with herself, Ms. Sen went back to her work. Sushmita was of course going to play the lead role of the Rani of Jhansi, while her second most important character of Tatya Tope was already taken care of. She must have felt a huge burden off her back right then. She could now concentrate on the other pressing issues without having to worry about the saleability of her film in India given Salman’s presence. But can life ever be so simple? Aren’t all magnum opuses riddled with obstacles? Sush’s is turning out to be one too.
According to Salman’s friends, when Salman said a yes to Sushmita for her film it was his usual rush of benevolence. “He finds it very difficult to say ‘NO’ to his friends,” adds our source. Only when he sat down with close friends and people in his coterie did he realize that even if he wanted to, he couldn’t accommodate the project.
By signing up for the TV show, Salman gave up a lot of his free time this year and if, which is a distinct possibility, the show is a success, there will be an encore next year. Added to this, are the numerous film commitments, which are likely to keep him busy for the good part of next year. Sush all charged up with her ready-on-paper project, couldn’t possibly wait that long for her project to roll.
Apparently Salman’s friends also weighed the pros and cons about doing this project to him. Although he’d be playing second fiddle to Sush almost entirely through the film, he’d still have to dole out a chunk of dates as he’d be needed throughout the film’s length. Rather than a gesture he’d be making for a friend, the film, according to his friends, would turn out to be a waste of time for him in the bargain.
Salman saw reason in their argument but was still awkward about letting Sush know that he was going back on his word as far as her film was concerned. But he had to finally bite the bullet and convey his message to Sush, which he eventually did, in the hope that they would still be friends. Sushmita is obviously disappointed that her friend hasn’t been supportive of her, despite knowing how much this project means to her.
But she is driven completely by the film and her ambition to see it through, and she won’t let anything stop her. She is already considering her options to fill in Salman’s shoes in the film. What remains to be seen is whether she’d have to replace him in her life too, as a friend she could rely on?
Ironically, we’re reminded of the Rani of Jhansi who lost her battle with the British because help from her ally, Tatya Tope didn’t arrive in time. But that didn’t stop the Queen from thundering ‘Main Apni Jhansi Nahin Doongi’ and fighting her battle alone, valiantly. Something tells us, this won’t stop Sush either.