The one word that describes Anushka Sharma best is ‘unabashed’. You often read that the Bollywood actor is forthright, brutally honest and completely transparent. She doesn’t mince words, or even try to be diplomatic, which probably explains why the audience and even people in the film industry find her relatable. Here, Anushka talks about how her perception of the industry has changed — from considering it a “dirty industry”, she now calls it a safe, but “fickle place”.
Since you were a complete stranger to the industry, what was your initial opinion of Bollywood?
I had a really bad perception. First, I come from an army background, so that’s completely different from a civilian environment. My life was protected, and most of my friends also belong to the same background. So, my exposure to Hindi films was limited. Barring the movies that aired on TV, I must have watched only the really big releases in theatres… I can count that number on my fingertips. When you are not part of an industry, your knowledge of that field is based on what you read and hear, and on the stereotypes that are attached to it.
What changed your perception?
When I walked into Aditya Chopra’s studio to audition [for Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi; 2008], it looked like an advertising office, an environment I was familiar with, since I had auditioned for ads, etc. I felt it was chilled out and safe. I saw people playing table tennis. When I met Adi, I was suddenly at ease. And then, of course, it was such a big banner launching me opposite Shah Rukh Khan, so I knew that it didn’t get better than that. I know that it’s a fickle industry, no doubt. I understood that very early in my career. While my launch was a big one, I did not become the next big thing immediately. Sure, my work was appreciated, but nothing more. So, I’ve gone through that phase, where I’ve seen how fickle this place is. When Band Baaja Baaraat (2010) happened, I’ve seen people change. I’m glad my first film didn’t do that much for me, otherwise I wouldn’t have had this experience.
Why do you say the industry is fickle?
When you see the industry’s fickleness so early on, you realise that you are only as good as your last release. It is all about your work. And that has set the way I look at my profession and what I do in my career. I don’t believe in a lot of things people say, such as being out of sight is out of mind, or that it’s not good if you don’t do too many films, you don’t market yourself well… I used to hear all these things and they would bother me, because I was young. But, at the same time, I couldn’t get myself to do these things because they didn’t make sense to me back then. I believe that if your film is good, and if you are good, and you will do well.
What B-Town stereotypes did you hear about?
The stereotypes attached to Bollywood were that it’s a big, bad world, or that it’s a dirty world. I was against it. I vehemently refused to be part of it. I remember, when I was in Mumbai, my management agency was sending my pictures to producers for auditions, and I got really angry. I asked them, “Why are you sending my pictures for films? What do you think I am?” I was a kid back then, I was 17 or 18 years old, when I moved to the city. Obviously, I knew little about the industry.
What do you think of your peers?
I have a lot of respect for my colleagues because they’re good people and hard-working actors. I know how hard it is to survive in this industry and to maintain your position. When you go through it (the struggle) yourself, you develop a soft corner for everybody else. I feel like we’re all choosing good films. I appreciate actors who choose risky films because I’ve always done that. I feel such films really push you, and add a different layer to our cinema. This is a good time, as everybody is friendly and professional. But, at the same time, they’re competitive too, which they should be.
Do you ever fear disappointing the audience?
While shooting for a film, I’m very anxious and I work really hard. I stress myself out and push myself. I do that because it’s in my control. A film is a collaborative effort. As an actor, you can only do that much — deliver a good performance. But after that, when the film is ready, I don’t stress about these things because that’s how I am as a person. I don’t try to control things that are not in my hands. I know doing so just leads to disappointment. But having said that, yes, I’ve not had many failures barring Bombay Velvet (BV; 2015), which was a big one. My other films have broken even.
It must have been a huge learning experience…
I think BV was an experience because it was very close to my heart. I worked hard for it. I was emotionally invested in the film. So, when it didn’t do well, I just wondered, ‘Why?’ By the time the movie is about to release, you have an inkling about what’s going to happen. So you brace yourself. Apart from that, you have to move on. I’m very practical. Failures and ups and downs are going to be part of your life. They are important for your growth. For me, growing as an actor and as a person is above everything else, so I just treat these as opportunities for growth.