Her debut as Taani in Rab Ne Banadi Jori was an icebreaker after which Anushka dished out the same in four more films — the effervescent Shruti Kakkar in Band Baaja Baaraat for which she bagged Best Female Award, followed by the bubbly Simran of Patiala House, Ishika of Ladies vs Ricky Bahl, Bijli in Matru ki Bijli ka Mandola (MKBKM) and Jab Tak Hai Jaan.
In PK, she began to walk away from the ‘bubbly’ typecast while NH10 and Bombay Velvet were turning points where her stellar performances show just how much she has matured as an actor.
Nevertheless, the bold, brash and bouncy belle she effortlessly reels off on camera is very much a part of her strong-headed personality. But be it a media furore over her relationship with Virat Kohli or a public frenzy over her lip job, she takes her challenges head on and her six million followers on Twitter love her for who she is.
Whilst in Austria for Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, model, actor, film producer, activist Anushka Sharma took time out between shots to talk to Images on Sunday.
“Quite honestly, I don’t have a plan in life. I just go with the flow, with my instincts,” — Anushka Sharma
What role is closest to the real Anushka Sharma? “I think there is a bit of me in all the films I do but I have yet to do a role that’s the closest to the real me,” she says.
She sizzles on the cover of Femina (Oct 2015) and Elle (May 2015), launches Pawsitivity, a campaign aimed at sensitising people about the adverse effects of noise, air, water and soil pollution on animals around Diwali; while ‘Twitter blames Anushka Sharma for Team India’s defeat, Bollywood comes to her rescue’ (Times of India), ‘In an open letter Anushka refutes lip surgery’ (ToI), ‘Anushka’s in a ‘shiny phase’ (The Hindu) amidst shenanigans, campaigns and controversies, who is the real Anushka Sharma?
“I’m very straightforward, grounded and honest. What you see is what you get. I have no agenda at all in my head; ever. Quite honestly, I don’t even have a plan in life. I just go with the flow, with my instincts. I am doing things that seem right to me and I think I have the courage to sit at home and not do a film rather than do a film I cannot relate to or be proud of.”
Career shift: From model to actor and now producer
She heads a production house along with my brother Karnesh and is soon going to be making some new announcements about films that they will be producing soon. “Currently, I am very fired up about producing films and working with a lot of interesting people.”
What was the NH10 experience like? “It was fantastic and strengthened our resolve that more stories were waiting to be told and we would like to be instrumental in making those.”
As an actor, it was physically very taxing, she explained. “I suffered multiple injuries everyday during the shooting. I woke up with bruises without knowing when and where I got them. Becoming a producer was never on my mind. It was not premeditated, but this film evoked an interest, I felt so strongly for this film that I wanted to back it in this way and I wanted to be a part of this film completely. So all in all, it was a good experience prompting me to do more.”
So what kind of films should we expect her to produce in future? “I think film production is a wonderful process. I would like to produce films with interesting content and tell more stories that are waiting to be told.”
Working in the Bollywood jungle
Any friends in Bollywood which is notorious for arch rivalry and fierce competition? “Very few friends. Ranbir and Arjun Kapoor are my friends; but I don’t hang out with them very often. I am more of a homebody you could say when I am not shooting. My brother is possibly my best friend.”
And what about competition? “The thing is that we have this habit of comparing our success or failure on the basis of someone else’s. That is not the way I look at it. I don’t compare myself to my peers. I admire their work. I agree that there is competition. I am not saying I’m my only competition but I am charting my own course just like everyone else is and I am not pressured by what others are driven by. I am only concerned with doing good work.”
Talking about the two Khans who she has worked with, she says, “They are both very unique. Aamir is Aamir and Shah Rukh is Shah Rukh. They have worked for so many years and both have their style of working and how they are as people. They are very unique and it’s so great that they both are unique, so we have both of them.”
Are looks more important than talent in Bollywood, especially if you’re not a protégé or a star son or daughter?
“When I was new in Bollywood, lots of people told me that you should grab as many films as you can or that out of sight is out of mind. But I knew that I wanted to do the right films and I wanted to give my best in every film that I did. So that was a better strategy in my head."
"Of course, it could have completely backfired or blown up in my face. But by God’s grace, it all worked out and today I’m really happy. Now when I look back, I feel proud of that quiet confidence which was present inside me at all times. It was a small voice but it was there — telling me, ‘No, it’s okay. Things will work out’. I am proud that I was able to cut out the negativity/expectations that was around me.”
The other 'dude' in Anushka's life
Despite rumours of Anushka marrying cricketer Virat Kohli in January 2016, she dodges my question about them being a ‘Rab ne banadi jori’. She instead speaks about the other ‘Dude’ in her life, a Labrador, being an animal lover and in October this year campaigning for a “noise-free” Dilwali. “My NGO is in process. It will cater to various causes, be it people or animals.”
While her fans and co-stars like Alia Bhatt and Shah Rukh Khan actively support her humane mission, it isn’t difficult to understand that behind the makeup and beyond the lights and lens is a young woman who has continually broken stereotypes and boundaries in reel and real life, and will continue to do so.
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, November 15th, 2015