Anushka Sharma bagged a dream debut with Shah Rukh Khan in Aditya Chopra’s Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (2008) exactly eight years ago (December 12). Although the actor says the eight years have “gone by just like that”, she has had a dream run in Bollywood. This year has been especially great for her, with Sultan and Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (ADHM) topping box-office charts. HT talks to Anushka about life, career and her personal life.
You’ve now completed eight years in Bollywood. Do you think it was a good journey?
Yes, especially in terms of carving my own path. Since I come from outside the industry, I could have fallen into the trap of thinking ‘this particular path is the right one’ or ‘this is how it should be’. But I have always done what felt right, and I have managed to be successful. I am happy that the risks that I have taken in my career have paid off. I wouldn’t say it has been a satisfying journey, because the minute a creative person is satisfied, they’re headed for a good fall. But it’s been a great journey. Still, there is so much more to do.
This year has been very special for you…
If the success of Sultan and ADHM were not backed by the praise I have received, I don’t think it would have mattered to me as much as it does today. For me, that’s very important. I’ve done very few films, and that’s been a conscious choice, because the idea has always been to do things differently and to be able to challenge myself. Balancing the roles of a Haryanvi girl, Aarfa, from a small town in Sultan, and Alizeh — a refined, spunky, big-city girl from London — in ADHM in the same year was exciting for me. The fact that I could pull it off, and the praise that I have received is humbling. It makes me want to do more.
You have worked with all the three Khans already. Does that make you feel special?
At the beginning of my career, I used to say that I would always do films in which I have a solid role and have something to contribute, because it means nothing to me otherwise. With films starring such superstars, you get tremendous reach. I would call it my USP that I have always been able to deliver those performances. So, that’s obviously a great feeling. I am happy, because I may not have been offered these films. But I have been fortunate, and you want to feel like an actor that a director can rely on.
So, would you have turned down films with the Khans if your roles weren’t strong ones?
Yes, because my USP as an actor is the fact that I can act, right? So, I can’t do something that goes against my grain. If I am not contributing to a film in any way, I will not be happy. I don’t want to be a burden or feel unhappy and irritable on the set. I am happy things have never reached that stage.
How has it been to work with Shah Rukh again (in Imtiaz Ali’s film)?
My relationship with him has grown over the years, because we have worked together and known each other for a long time now. So I feel slightly more comfortable with him. Today, I can say that I share a lot of things with him and he is very easy to talk to. We can talk about a lot of things, because he is philosophical in nature as well. He is very intelligent, well read and can talk about anything under the sun. There is always so much to learn when you listen to Shah Rukh talking, because he has had so many life experiences, and I really enjoy that kind of friendship with him.
Do you get frustrated when your personal life (with alleged boyfriend Virat Kohli) gets discussed?
If you had had this conversation with me last year, I would have given you a very different answer. But this year, I am happy. I am content that this year has really been about my work, about my films doing well, and about the new ventures that I have started with my production company. I am happy that I actually don’t have an answer for that question [about my personal life]. The focus has been on my work and not on my personal life, and I would like to keep it that way. I have worked really hard over the past eight years to get to where I am today. Nothing should be of more importance than my work, because this is what I am doing right now. This is what I love doing.
But you must be happy that the focus on your personal life has diminished?
I am not observing anything.
Despite your achievements, you don’t go into PR overdrive unlike your peers…
I feel stumped whenever I’m asked this question. I don’t know what others do. Today, if anybody talks about me, it’s because of my work, and the fact that I have done things in a different way with a fewer number of films. I’ve also worked with the best directors in the industry. I actually want to understand what it means to market myself enough. Today, when I think about it and look back, I feel things have been incredible. I don’t need to go out and make noise about it. I am self-assured that way. If you look at the trajectory that my career has taken, it has been kind of consistent.
Watch Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi | Official Trailer
So, can it be safely said that you are happy in your own space?
I will never do anything that is not in my nature, so I cannot do anything that will put somebody down. I can’t work on anything other than myself. I feel the way things are in this industry, there is a sense of insecurity that has festered to keep that competition alive. And it works in everybody’s favour — both the industry and the media. But we s***w up as actors by falling into that trap. If I start doing things that somebody else is doing, I will not be following my own path. I will be unnecessarily crossing paths with other people, which I don’t need to do. They have their own journey and I have my own. My journey hasn’t been conventional, and I like that, because I am not conventional in any way.
Watch Ae Dil Hai Mushkil | Trailer
Do you keep track of what other heroines are up to?
If I hear about it, it’s fine. I have never called someone and inquired which films others are doing. I’m practical as a person. I want to understand what people gain from focusing on someone else’s career. Competition is a positive thing, as it helps you get better. But growing insecure about your decisions and career, by comparing yourself to somebody else, is a foolish thing to do. It doesn’t translate into anything and only leaves behind a lot of stress and unnecessary burden.
Like Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra, is Hollywood on your mind too?
As of now, I am not even trying. But if something superb comes my way, I will do it. It’s becoming easier [to get into Hollywood]. Deepika and Priyanka are representing us in such a good way, especially Priyanka, as she has been there for longer, is part of a hit TV show and is doing a great job. Also, the representation of Indians in Hollywood is more correct now. It’s not stereotyped. I will do a film outside of India, and I will do it anywhere; even in China, if there’s something different and has nice content. That’s how Irrfan Khan’s career has been. His career has been stupendously successful, in the true sense of the word. He has done noteworthy work in Hollywood.