Interview By: ANKITA R. KANABAR
Anushka Sharma just completed ten long years in the industry, and well, there’s so much to appreciate about the actress. Right from her choice of roles, to the variety and being gutsy! She’s got a deep insight now on cinema being a producer as well, and only feels enriched with the roles she’s gotten to play. She teams up with her first co-star Shah Rukh Khan yet again in the recently released ‘Zero’. At the Red Chillies office, we catch up Sharma and speak about the film along with her ten-year old film journey in this rendezvous! Excerpts:
This December, you completed ten years in the industry, and there’s not really been one role similar to the other largely. Is that the biggest take-back for you?
Yes, I think so. I think, it’s always been a conceded effort to do that. It’s not something which has just happened. I’ve had to really pick the films I wanted to do. For me, it’s something which excites me – breaking the mould, breaking the barrier, re-inventing yourself – I think it’s important for any actor to be relevant. I think I’ve been so inspired by some of the works of so many actors just because they’ve been so different. At the end of the day, we’re actors. You want to come on-screen and surprise people that you transform into a completely different persona. So much so, that you make people forget who you truly are. I think that’s something which I’ve always strived to do. And I’m thankful that firstly, I’ve gotten the opportunity to do it and secondly, got praise and appreciation for it. I think that’s important also because I could have just done it and fallen flat on my face but to be well-received when I’ve really gone out of my grain as a human being to do something. To go opposite of the way you are is not easy to do, but the way it’s happened and in such a hectic way, I sometimes wonder, how did that really happen?
So, talking of re-invention, how much of that happened again in ‘Zero’?
I think it’s another film which gave me that opportunity and I’m happy that I’m playing this character. It’s definitely challenged me but also given me so much insight into someone who has cerebral palsy and how they deal with it, the limitations that they feel, physically. She’s actually someone who’s a brilliant person, she has a very high intellect, is a high achiever. Her spirit is something which should be celebrated, she is beyond her physicality. She sees herself completely beyond her physicality and it’s something which everyone does. It’s something that you’re challenged by, but even seemingly normal people are challenged by so many things in their life which are not out there, or seen, but it’s there and they’re dealing with it. So, I feel, that was important to me and that’s how AnandRai, explained the character to me also. That ‘for me, I want you to focus on her charm, brilliance.’ I had to represent her condition seriously, so that was challenging.
How did you get to feeling like the character?
In this film, there was a lot of prep. It took a long time. For about three months, I was just working on understanding her condition. I met up with doctors, I was working constantly with an occupational therapist and audiologist to understand the changes in her speech, her physical limitations, or how she makes up for these limitations in other ways. Understanding these things and living it by sitting on the chair every time. The therapist showed me videos of someone with this particular condition, and she thought that if I meet someone who’s condition is not exactly the same, I would pick up the wrong things and not play it correctly. So, that process helped me. Then, I stayed like that on the sets, I stayed on the wheel chair, because it had to become an extension of my body, because it’s an extension of her body. It’s her source of independence.
How has the equation between Anushka, the person and all these characters been, in the sense that how much have you evolved as a person while playing these characters, and how much of yourself have you given to them in return?
You become so much more understanding of someone else’s life. I think it’s a rare opportunity which actors have where we get into the inside of someone’s life. We live multiple lifetimes in one and that’s not something many people can talk about. When you play characters which have a different social strata from you, or are in a different mental space than you and then you understand the conflicts which they have in their life which are totally different from yours, you tend to become more humane. You tend to become less judgmental of people and you understand that the reason they behave the way they behave is because they come from a certain space. And that’s why actors are much more observant and liberal in that sense because we are so much accepting of things and people, since we understand that there’s a reason, reaction, cause for that. That has helped me a lot as a person. Because I’ve started working so young, I’m hardly judgmental of someone’s behaviour. I’m so accepting of people, only because I’ve lived so many lives in one.
Like we spoke that each of your character has been different from the other, but something which remains a constant is the fact that they’ve all really been gutsy or courageous and not scared to take a different route. Does that come from your own personality?
It’s about doing what feels right for me. At different points, different points are working for you and you go with that. But I’ve always gone on my instincts ever since I was a kid. Even when I was growing up, I always did things which were very innovative and different. I was never someone who followed trends while growing up. I was like, ‘oh this is the trend? Then I’m going to wear something else’. I was always like that, I don’t know why. It’s something that has stayed with me, giving me courage. It comes naturally. It’s not something which I have to try to do. And, it’s a strength which I value, so probably that reflects.
“I’m so accepting of people, only because I’ve lived so many lives in one”
What’s your reaction to the response that ‘Sui Dhaga’ got?
I’m very happy that the film like that has done so well, it’s a very special film. It’s purely worked on the basis of the story and that’s important.
Also, as an actor you got appreciation purely for the acting, minus the whole glam quotient. That also must be satisfying?
For sure! I was happy and it also came at a time where people are seeing things beyond that. It’s satisfying for me.
When you turned producer with ‘NH10’ – so early on in your career – you sort of set the ball rolling and it was a first from a young actor. Now in retrospect do you think it was one of the best decisions you took?
Completely. It came from very strong instincts and wanting to just take ownership of the space I’ve created for myself. Everyone works really hard to make a name for themselves and you should be able to make use of that to further create good cinema –if you have the need to create different stories, push new content. So, I turned producer. Sometimes we’ve been successful, sometimes not, but we’ve learnt from every film, and moved forward with that learning. We feel it’s a long journey for us and the process is going to be enjoyable. My brother and me, both of us have not been from the industry, so everything that we do, all the decisions we make, our solely ours without any support. In the process, we’ve managed to do so many new things and create so much new talent – whether it’s music, whether it’s direction, writing. We’re not able to do things which are definitely impactful and speaking a different language.
And being able to touch lives and inspire people – how happy does that make you as an actor, producer?
It’s so happy to hear that when people tell you that you make them happy or inspire them, because you forget that as an actor you reach out to so many people. Even if I was not an actor, I always wanted to impact someone’s life. I heard, ‘Sui Dhaga’ is being studied at some management school, even ‘Band BaajaBaaraat’ was studied actually. They broke it down to explain what actually happens from the business point of view. All these things are so cool, because ultimately, you’re relaying truth on-screen – atleast the films I’ve done are not those ‘leave your brains at home’ kind of films. So, it makes you feel motivated because sometimes to do something which is just for yourself is not god for me atleast. It has to be beyond yourself.