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Bhaagamathie actor Anushka on pay gap: Heroes are paid more because they have a lot to lose

In an exclusive chat with Hindustan Times, Anushka Shetty speaks about life after Baahubali, criticism that she has received for her weight, wedding plans and her upcoming release Bhaagamathie.

regional movies Updated: Jan 22, 2018 13:35 IST
Haricharan Pudipeddi
Haricharan Pudipeddi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Bhaagamathie,Anushka Shetty,Bhaagamathie Anushka
Anushka Shetty explains that Bhaagamathie and Arundhati are not similar plot wise.

It takes a lot for an actor to invest five years of his or her career in a movie. Anushka Shetty spent the last five years of her career on projects – apart from the Baahubali franchise – she takes pride in but admits it was the most challenging phase of her career. In this chat with Hindustan Times, Anushka opens up about life after Baahubali, her upcoming bilingual release Bhaagamathie, why the debate about pay gap between a hero and a heroine is senseless and whether she and Prabhas are in a relationship.

Films such as Arundhati, Baahubali, Rudhramadevi and Bhaagamathie are proof that when you hold a sword and fight, you look majestic on screen. Is that one of the reasons why you’re drawn to these larger-than-life characters?

Honestly, I’m not drawn to historic, larger-than-life characters. Personally, I prefer drama, a love story over historic characters. I don’t know why I always end up picking up the sword and killing people. But I owe my career to producer Shyam Prasad Reddy (producer of Arundhati) whose conviction in me really made me what I’m today. I have a market of my own because of Arundhati, and maybe its success gave filmmakers the confidence to write these kinds of roles for me. As an industry, our focus should be more on writing better stories and not try and capitalise on an actor’s popularity or screen presence.

As much as Bhaagamathie looks like a contemporary and original story, one can’t shake off its similarities with Arundhati and Baahubali going by the promos. Can you shed some light?

The only similarity between all the three films is that I play very strong characters. Contrary to rumours, Bhaagamathie is not based on the life of queen Bhagmathi. In Bhaagamathie, which is essentially a thriller, I play an IAS officer. Unlike Rudhramadevi and Baahubali, this is a very contemporary story and has something unique to offer to the audience.

Bhaagamathie has been in the making for a long time, hasn’t it? What caused the delay in its release as it was supposed to hit the screens last year?

The producers of Mirchi, UV Creations, approached me with Bhaagamathie. I really liked the story but I couldn’t immediately take it up as I was in the process of signing Baahubali, and I was aware it was going to take most of my time. The project had to be put on hold for nearly four years and we finally started shooting in 2016. These last five years have been very challenging. I spent nearly four years on Baahubali and then I did Rudhramadevi and Size Zero, which were physically taxing project. This phase was equally rewarding. Had it not been for these projects, I would have done Bhaagamathie long back. I take full responsibility for the delay, but we are glad the film has come out very well. Also after films such as Baahubali and Rudhramadevi, it was a relief to do Bhaagamathie because it’s not a complex film but has its high moments and action.

Going by the promos of Bhaagamathie, it looks the film entirely rests on your shoulders. Is there pressure to deliver, especially because you’re a star and you enjoy a market of your own?

As an actor, I want each film of mine to do well. Bhaagamathie doesn’t rest solely on my shoulders. It features talented actors like Unni Mukundan, Jayaram, Asha Sharrath and Murali Sharma in pivotal roles. People are calling this another female-centric film but other characters have good prominence too.

In a recent interview, Bhaagamathie director Ashok said he wouldn’t have made the film had you turned it down. How does it feel to know there are directors willing to write and make films exclusively with you?

It really feels nice that there are filmmakers who are exclusively writing stories for me. When I signed my first film Super, I didn’t even known that an artist should ask for a story narration. It was only after director Puri Jagannadh asked me if I want to listen to the story did I even know that an actor has to do that before signing a project. To come from Super to this point where stories are written for me feels like a blessing.

You gained weight to play an overweight character in Size Zero. Since then, your weight has become the cynosure of all eyes and people talk and write about it even today. Do these things bother you?

I’m still in the process of losing weight. It takes time and doesn’t happen overnight. Moreover, I’m healing from some injuries and that’s why I’m taking things slow. When I can accept people’s love and appreciation, I should be open to their criticism as well. People still write about my weight issues but I take it with a pinch of salt.

Do you believe the success of recent films such as Aramm, Aruvi and Tumhari Sulu – lead by women – give you the feeling that this is the best time for female actors in Indian cinema?

I think we need to stop segregating films as female-centric and male-centric. We should be glad audiences are open to different films and it doesn’t matter to them who plays the lead as long as they’re engaged with a good story. We also need to do away with industry and language-specific cinema. We need to write stories that cater to audiences internationally as well.

Every now and then a debate crops up about the pay scale discrimination between men and women in the industry. Your thoughts about this ongoing issue?

In any profession, one needs to earn it to be paid more. Heroes are paid more because they have a lot to lose. A lot of films ride on their shoulders and I think they deserve better pay scale. Instead of fighting for better pay scale, why not write better stories for women and showcase them in stronger roles.

It is often written that you and Prabhas have been dating for a while and plan on getting married. Is there any truth in these reports?

We are most definitely friends. There’s nothing more between us. I’m glad people show so much interest in my marriage. When I find a man, I will settle down. I’m ready to wait to like someone and then think of entering wedlock.

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First Published: Jan 22, 2018 13:33 IST