She has had a dream start and an equally fantastic journey in Bollywood since her debut in Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (2008). But interestingly, Anushka Sharma reveals that she didn’t grow up wanting to become an actor. As she gears up for the release of her next home production, Phillauri, HT catches up with the actor to talk about her career, rumoured love life and more.
Your next production, Phillauri, is set to release. How is it to be both — a producer and an actor?
It’s important to know when to cut yourself off. But on the whole, I enjoy my life and perform better with more responsibilities. Of course, you feel more connected to your project since you know it from its beginning, so, your understanding [of the project] is better. It’s a great, creative, collaborative process, which is exciting. When it comes to acting, I cut [myself] off, but something is constantly going on in your head. But I manage to create a balance and know when I have to switch off. Also I am not doing it alone; my brother (Karnesh Sharma) and my team are there.
You will soon complete a decade in Bollywood....
I even remember the first shot very well. The beginning was excruciatingly painful, because I never planned to become an actor. The feeling was like of a deer caught in the headlights. When you want to do this for a long time and are preparing for it, you prepare your mind too, but I didn’t grow up wanting to become an actor. I was 19 when I signed my first film and was 20 when it released. As a young adult, I was growing up, but I also had to understand the industry. A lot was going on, and I wasn’t as calm and self-assured as I am today. It was difficult, but I was clear-headed and did things on my own terms even then. I didn’t blindly follow what everyone else was doing. It has been a beautiful journey and I have lots to be grateful for.
You are seen in a completely different world in your new film, Phillauri; you play a ghost.
As an actor, you are constantly looking for different things to do. When people think of me and my career, they should have a different image of me in their heads. And this will only happen because of the characters I play. So, this [film] is very different from what I have done before or [what] anyone has done. Creating a character through special effects -- that has been created by a real-life actor -- has probably happened for the first time [in Bollywood]. Plus, there’s a supernatural element to it. And, as I said, it adds versatility to my roles.
Does it help to have Karnesh as a part of your production house?
Of course, it helps a lot. I wouldn’t have done it (produce) if my brother wasn’t getting involved in it. Without him, it would have been impossible to do the film, because I am an actor, and I am busy with my other films. Both of us have the same vision for our company, the kind of films that we want to make, and how we want to function. We trust each other the most. So, I know someone has got my back.
Watch Phillauri trailer
2016 was great for you with Sultan and Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. Any pressure to repeat the feat?
There’s a reason why this company is called Clean Slate [Films]… it’s my philosophy in life. I start everything fresh and anew every time. You can’t carry the baggage — good or bad — of your films. Having successful films is important as it increases my bankability and equity. It also enables me to make more films and reach wider audiences. I want to make my journey as easy as possible in terms of different things vis-à-vis films and roles, especially with my company now. So, I am happy about it. But I don’t get attached to success or failure too much.
You seem to be shaping a career that is different from your contemporaries…
It’s about what attracts you and how you want your career to shape up. All the decisions I have taken are because I want this to be the narrative of my story [career], and this is the path I want to take. I have worked hard and built my equity as an actor. It (my choices) is unconventional but I’m comfortable, confident and finding it easier to walk on this path. At the young age of 25, I decided to turn a producer. I don’t believe in any race because I am not a part of any. Ultimately, everyone has the right to do what they want to do.
Watch Phillauri I Chapter 2 | Shashi ka pyaar
Even in terms of marketing and PR, you function differently...
Perhaps I don’t have that vision. I have no idea what others are doing. Your work is important and it speaks for itself. I don’t understand marketing too much. And, if I don’t understand anything, I won’t let anyone else do it for me. It has to be within the framework of my beliefs and principles. My peace of mind and principles are important. I am transparent in the way I function and behave. I do what comes naturally to me.
Bollywood is a very competitive place. In that sense, do you see yourself in any race?
You have to look at my path. I am an actor, who is also a producer now. I have taken a completely different path [than others]. If my playing field in itself is different, how can I compete? It wouldn’t be fair for me to compete with anyone else and vice versa. I am doing my own thing and in a certain way. I am doing it, because this is what I understand and makes sense to me. I know I am a bankable enough actor to get the green light for a film. And, for me, that, in itself, is a successful position to be in.
So, you never keep an eye on what other actresses are up to?
Not at all. It just doesn’t occur to me in my scheme of things. It would be like I am watching some other channel. I don’t have the same viewpoint. I don’t want to compare myself to anybody.
What’s your plan of action for your production house?
My production house isn’t meant to make films only for me. By God’s grace, I get offered a lot of films, so I don’t need to do that. Karnesh and I want to make films that we believe in. If there’s a script, and we need someone of a certain stature for it, we will go ahead with it. There might also be a time when I won’t do a film (for my production house) because I won’t fit in the role. So, one should look at it the way you look at any other production house.
How involved are you in the day-to-day management of your production house? Phillauri’s marketing campaign, #ShashiWasHere has become a hit...
I am fully and completely involved in all of it. I wake up with 200 WhatsApp messages. #ShashiWasHere is a very successful social media campaign. We always knew that the marketing of the film could be really interesting. I was always like, ‘guys, with this film, we can do anything, as it’s a leap of faith in any case’. The character in the film is not alive; there’s no reality. So, it [the campaign] is funny and catching on well. We wanted to do something different with the marketing for this film. It’s very important to have a new language and a new expression.
You have nearly wrapped up your next film with Shah Rukh Khan…
It’s a fun film. There was a lot of madness during its making. I feel comfortable working with Shah Rukh, because he is a wonderful co-actor. His energy and enthusiasm is so palpable. It inspires everyone around (him). More than anything, I find it very easy to talk to him. He is also very philosophical. We have a lot of discussions. Plus, he is so well read that he can tell you so many things and facts. I find his company very interesting.
Of late, several incidents involving women have taken place. Do they concern you?
All the recent incidents [against women] concern me on a human level. Even if I see someone mistreating a man, I will stand up for it. Sadly, the whole concept of ‘feminism’ is completely abused in today’s day and age. Feminism doesn’t mean male bashing. A few also think it’s an aggressive way of female empowerment, but it’s just about equal rights for men and women. Whoever says they don’t believe in it isn’t human enough. Wouldn’t you want to live in a world that is peaceful and wouldn’t you do everything in your capacity to contribute to that? We should all be feminists. Anyone who believes that men and women can’t be stereotyped is right.
Of late, your personal life doesn’t seem to be under the spotlight…
I am happy about it [focus being on work]. For the same, I want to distribute sweets and chocolates to people (smiles). I just know that I want people to know me for my work. I want to give them enough reasons to talk about my work, and that’s what I am doing. And that’s the way I want things to be. I feel this is the time to focus just on my work.
Does it ever get annoying (to hear about stories regarding her alleged affair with Virat Kohli)?
Not anymore, as it’s not in people’s scheme of things. They don’t write about it as much. So, that’s cool.