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August 24 2019
‘Every decision of mine has been unconventional,’ says Anushka Sharma
14 December 2018

Zero marks a decade in Bollywood for Anushka Sharma who is back in a starring role with the same superstar her career started with

I am writing this piece on December 12, the day Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi and Anushka Sharma complete ten years in Bollywood. A few weeks earlier, I’d referred to the landmark year with Sharma who was busy with her pre-release interviews for her new film Zero. I’d asked the actor if she planned to celebrate the landmark date in any special way. “Zero is releasing in the same month as when I started out. It’s a beautiful coincidence. When the film releases it will be a great way to celebrate. Apart from that, one day before is my first wedding anniversary so it will be a double [celebration],” she said.

Holding her own

Zero also fittingly brings her back with the superstar she started off her journey with—Shah Rukh Khan—someone she was at complete ease with, even in her debut film. Munching on makhanas, measured and concise in her answers, Sharma recalled the confidence of the Chopras in her and how she had prepared herself for the film. “If they took me because they thought I would pull it off with my acting, I had to work really hard at it. I used to read the script again and again every day. Not just mine, I knew everybody’s dialogues in the film,” she said. She added, “Yashji [Chopra] and Adi [Aditya Chopra] used to tell me that we took you because you could stand your own against Shah Rukh Khan (SRK). They wanted a newcomer but also one who wouldn’t get overshadowed,” she said about what she felt was a “performance-driven” first role.

 

Shah Rukh Khan and Anushka Sharma in a poster from ‘Zero’. Photo courtesy: Twitter/@iamsrk

Shah Rukh Khan and Anushka Sharma in a poster from ‘Zero’. Photo courtesy: Twitter/@iamsrk  

 

What about the journey with superstar SRK, with whom she has acted in four films in ten years? Sharma feels her bond with SRK has become more comfortable over the years. “I am very good at looking confident on screen because that is not my own persona,” she said. Off set was a different matter as Sharma wondered what conversation to have with him. “He was nice, kind, warm and welcoming and he continues to be that as a person. He always takes care of people around him. He is really easy to work with,” she said. The actor is also admiring about SRK’s work ethic, “It is commendable to see someone like him who is so driven. You never feel he is slacking in any way. His energy is 100% at any given point of time except in the mornings when he is never awake. As soon as he is awake it is hundred,” she recollected while laughing at the memory of SRK turning up for Zero shoot at 8.45 a.m., which was actually Sharma’s shot. “We had a good laugh about it,” she said.

Decisive career path

There have been several mileposts for Sharma in the past ten years. Band Baajaa Baaraat was a film with (virtually) all newcomers on board, turned out to be a turning point after which many opportunities opened up for her. She set up her own production house — Clean Slate Films — and a clothing line. “Every decision of mine has been unconventional and has come from a pure, instinctive space,” she said. For her film production means, “To create and generate interesting content and use my position for influx of something new,” she shared.

Directorial vision

Zero appears to be the love story of two people who are challenged in their own way. When she was approaching her character, who has cerebral palsy, how much did Sharma keep real and where did she bring the imagined element in, considering it is a mainstream Hindi film after all, I queried.

The condition and limitations had to be represented correctly—what is it she could do and what was it that she couldn’t do—which director Aanand L. Rai and writer Himanshu Sharma had extensively researched. Sharma explained, “I went with their vision, both of the character and the film.” Her faith in Rai is evident – Sharma alternatively referred to him as able, capable and with clear vision. “He engaged me with an occupational therapist and audiologist who I worked with extensively, who explained to me the limitations, how this condition impacts the speech, the confinement a person like this faces because she is on a wheel chair,” she said.

Rai didn’t want it to be just about their respective physical condition. “He wanted to focus on the spirit of the character[s]. That was something I thought was sweet,” she said. They happen to be facing this challenge in life but they don’t look at it necessarily as hurdles. “My character is brilliant, she has attained a lot in life professionally, her intellect is very high,” she said. Sharma’s character is a positive person. “She is not ha-ha, hoo-hoo all the time. She wants some things from life. She has ambitions, has achieved a lot in life professionally. At the same time she is also looking for love and excitement in her life. She finds it in Baua [SRK’s character] who is very different from her,” she says. While she finds Bua very obnoxious, the fact that he doesn’t take himself seriously attracts her to him: “It’s exciting for her to be with this person who is showing her a different facet of life,” she shared.

Keeping it real

How is it to act out a character in which you have to let go of –the look, glamour and presence of a star? “I don’t think I had that [ego] ever,” Sharma quickly responded. The actor also pointed the other films on her CV—NH10PariSui Dhaga where a glamorous look was absent. “This year, has been a high point for me as a performer, of letting go of any vanity and going out there and being just the character I am meant to play,” said Sharma. For the actor, the challenge lay in the varying characters. “I want to reinvent myself, I want people to think this is not the same person they saw before, that’s what excites me,” she said. The actor then stated almost rhetorically, “That’s also a certain kind of ego, isn’t it? Ego can’t just be about vanity. I think it’s a good kind of ego to have—of pushing yourself.” It’s the ego that Sharma finds “liberating”, one that helps her find insights into somebody else’s life that she wouldn’t otherwise have been able to, “So many lives you live as an actor. It’s such a gift.”

A clear path

Sharma’s career trajectory has been possible because of the good directors and writers she has hitched her wagon to. “I can swing between either ends of the spectrum very easily and they want to explore that option with me,” she said. From veterans like Yash Chopra to successful ones like Aditya Chopra and Raj Kumar Hirani to a newcomer like Prosit Roy—what does she look for in a director? Clarity. “Their vision was very clear to me. As an actor I have the ability to gauge that in somebody. It may or may not work but I have gone with the conviction in me,” she said. On the flip side there have been well-known, established directors, not sure of what they were telling her, projects that she wouldn’t name but instead opted out of.

What’s next for Sharma now after Zero? The actor wants to take time to pick and prep for her roles. “I don’t want to just fill up the calendar,” she asserted. She is going to be busy though, with her in-house productions – a cop drama for Amazon Prime and a film titled Bulbul for Netflix. “I like being regarded as a legitimate creator of unique and different content,” she said. Clearly slowing down is not an option for Sharma.

 

 

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