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Sushmita Sen on Overcoming a Heart Attack to Complete Disney+ Hotstar’s ‘Aarya’: ‘It Felt Like a Very Victorious Return’ (EXCLUSIVE)


Top Bollywood star Sushmita Sen conquered a heart attack and returned triumphantly to complete Disney+ Hotstar series “Aarya.”

It is the second such comeback for Sen, a former Miss Universe, who headlines the series. The show is an adaptation of Dutch show “Penoza,” in which a woman has to join a mafia gang and avenge her slain husband. Season 1 was a triumphant comeback after a five-year break due to illness. Sen plays the title role of Aarya Sareen, a fierce mother who has to keep her family safe from the world of crime.

The first season, which bowed in 2020, was nominated for best drama series at the International Emmy Awards. The Hotstar Special is produced by Endemol Shine India and Ram Madhvani Films.

“It’s a daunting task to take a series from Season 1 all the way through to Season 3 and still have this level of love and interest and audience attention intact, which I think has been one of the most commendable things this team has done, and done it so beautifully,” Sen told Variety. “It’s been pretty cathartic, especially this season, because through the season I also suffered the heart attack in the middle somewhere, and we had so much to finish, most of it was action. And it felt like a very victorious return on a personal and professional front.”

The first half of Season 3 began streaming from November 2023. After Sen’s heart attack, a big chunk of the action sequences were pending. “I had a chat with Ram [“Aarya” creator Ram Madhvani] and I said, ‘You have to promise me this, you’re not going to treat me like a patient and start cutting scenes off or saying we won’t need to shoot this anymore. My doctor has given a green light and we need to go and shoot it exactly as you visualized it.’ And he goes, ‘Yeah, don’t worry, I just feel like this one sequence we can get rid of, because I don’t see the need for it in the script.’ So, he tried that,” Sen said. “But when you have a team as brilliant as this one and we’ve been a unit, a family, for five years now. I have not for one moment felt like I needed a manager on the set. That’s how taken care of I was throughout. This was very special.”

Regarding the show as a whole, Sen says, “The essence is this, that people go through their trials and tribulations. Do you get up? How well do you take a fight? And what drives you to get back up? That to me is what I’ve always wanted people to take away from ‘Aarya,’ not just from the season, is that the human spirit is capable of great things, impossible things. You just have to sometimes have the courage and the other times be left with no other option. But, either way, it’s a celebration of human spirit.”

“Aarya” Season 3 is subtitled “Antim Vaar,” which translates as final assault, but that does not necessarily mean that it is the series finale. “I don’t look at this being the end of it or the beginning of something else. I think everything has a lifespan. And as it stands now, this is the story of Aarya and where she stands, where her journey stands. Will there be a future? Will there not be a future? I’m not committing to it,” Sen said. When asked about whether there will be future seasons of “Aarya,” “zip” is Sen’s response.

Next up for Sen are a couple of projects that are on the verge of being greenlit and also her debut as a producer.

“Aarya” streams from Feb. 9 on Disney+ Hotstar. It streams in the U.S. on Hulu and internationally on Disney+.