When I was nobody, Shah Rukh Khan was nice to me: Anushka Sharma
In her nine-year-old career, Anushka Sharma has been part of box office gold like PK and Sultan, besides a smashing debut (Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi opposite Shah Rukh Khan) and working with several A listers.
In the midst of these dream projects, the actress has gone beyond the obvious by churning out unconventional subjects as a producer (Nh10, Phillauri). When we caught up with, she seemed exhausted from promotions of her upcoming film, Jab Harry Met Sejal. However, Anushka enthusiastically sat down to talk about her first time director Imtiaz Ali, playing a Gujarati girl, life as a producer, and, of course, the man with the dimpled charm and her first screen hero, Shah Rukh Khan.
After your debut Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, and four years later Jab Tak Hain Jaan, you and Shah Rukh Khan have teamed up for the third time with Jab Harry Met Sejal.
…and our bond, our relationship, our equation has got better with every passing film because now I am more confident as an actor. He was supportive in my first film Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, and I value that and am very grateful to him. When I was nobody, he was so nice to me. He never discriminated. When you do well in life, people are nicer to you, but he has always been nice. Being a good human being is a far bigger achievement than being a good actor. I’m quite excited to work with him for the fourth time in Aanand L Rai’s next film.
You play a young Gujarati girl but don’t you feel your character stereotypes a community? Young Gujaratis don’t speak with such a pronounced accent. Was there any reference point?
Imtiaz as a director does not like taking references from anywhere as he likes to create his own characters and I really appreciate that. The idea was to not make her seem like a caricature simply because she isn’t someone like that. I am happy that the Gujarati accent came out naturally. Even I’d asked him whether young Gujarati girls talk in such heavy accents and he said he has met girls who talk in this accent and that is what he found charming about them.
Also, the way in which Sejal Jhaveri speaks denotes her limited experience in life. She is someone who has gone to a Gujarati medium school. She has gone out only with her cousins. Her vacations are with family only. So, it is also to denote that kind of limited exposure that she has in life. In fact, the girl who taught me that accent — her name is Dimple — is from Mumbai and she talks just like that. She doesn’t fake it.
Imtiaz is known for his intense and contemporary love stories. Also the characters in his films often have several layers. What was your approach?
Imtiaz works in an interesting manner. His personal understanding of the character is very deep. He gives you a proper back story of the person and that’s something not every director provides you with. Sometimes, the actors have to do a lot of work themselves, but Imtiaz makes it easy for you. I always prepare for my films but in this film, Imtiaz was very clear about who the character is because Sejal is not close to who I am.
There are lot of things I couldn’t understand about her and I needed to know from him otherwise it would have been very superficial. To give a certain depth to the character, I had to follow his vision and perception. I like the complexity and simplicity of the characters that he delivers on screen.
The director also gets the best out of his actors, especially his heroines. Did you experience that?
Imtiaz has always been good with his female characters or rather, characters in general. But I would say female characters in specific because there is a dearth of good female characters written in this industry. I believe, the journey of Sejal in this film is very interesting: how she goes to the same places with a completely different perspective when she is on a journey to find her ring with Harry, and how Harry influences her. The character definitely has an arc; there is definitely a special journey that Sejal has, which will be very interesting to watch.
You have worked with such accomplished directors and stalwarts like Yash Chopra, Aditya Chopra, Rajkumar Hirani, Karan Johar, Anurag Kashyap, Zoya Akhtar and now Imtiaz Ali. Do you consider yourself lucky?
Yes. The fact that they choose me over everybody else in their film makes me special. It’s nice that so many different visionaries can imagine me in their stories. I feel proud of that. Ultimately, only a director can add value to your career and give you that diversity as an actor in portraying characters.
What makes you sign a film? What’s the criteria for choosing projects?
The criteria to choose a film is the script, story and whether my character has something different from what I have already done before. My work has to constantly keep changing for me to be relevant. I can’t keep repeating my roles as I believe it is quite boring to do so as an actor.
The industry is passing through a dull phase with just about three to four hits this year so far. What is your take since you are also a producer?
As an industry we need to recognize that you can’t take people for granted and that content is the king. Films are only going to work on the basis of your story and how well it’s made. Lows are very important in everyone’s life as they help you get stronger. So in the industry too, it would help people to review a lot of things.
It is nice to see films like Hindi Medium doing well and getting that kind of acceptance. Clearly, audiences aren’t watching films just because it has a superstar, or has a very good music album.
So does that mean the concept of super-stardom will soon fade?
You can’t judge that sitting over here but what I can see for sure is that content is going to be above the superstars.
How taxing is it for an actor to produce films?
It is taxing and yet rewarding because you are able to create cinema. I am happy that we have managed to create different content in the films we have done so far, and will continue to so with Pari.
The posters look quite intriguing. What is Pari all about?
It’s too early to talk about the film, but I am happy that it’s generating curiosity. I want people to keep guessing till we actually talk about it.