Anushka Sharma talks on her unusual journey thus far, producing the films she believes in, and why she isn’t happy being simply an actor.
What was your experience of playing a Gujarati girl in Jab Harry Met Sejal?
Imtiaz Ali (director) and I wanted to work together for a while. I was impressed by the script and the kind of space the film was in. When you work with someone like Imtiaz, you can be rest assured that he pays a lot of attention to the actors, their performance and characters, which give life to the film. In fact, his Jab We Met is the film I watched before I became an actor. That created the feeling inside me that movies are interesting and I could do it. The way his characters were written and portrayed on screen, drew me towards his movies.
How do you feel about returning to a love story?
You can’t call Imtiaz’s films merely love stories even if he says so himself. He says these are stories about people and love happens to be a part of it. What’s interesting is that love is a factor that helps in the growth of these incomplete or flawed individuals. In a sense, his stories are coming of age for both the man and the woman. They are also about how these characters complete and complement each other because of the love that connects them together.
You have done a variety of roles in the recent past — in movies such as Sultan and Phillauri. What is exciting to you as an actor?
I’m always looking for ways to reinvent myself. Sometimes when you experiences success in certain roles and genres, you can continue doing it. But I want to do something different with each movie that I do. I was a wrestler in Sultan and in my next, I’m playing a Gujarati girl. I don’t know how successful I have been, but I am enjoying the process of doing these varied roles. I have done half the number of films compared to what my contemporaries have done. However, I am happy that I have clarity about what I want and have gone after that.
What led you to producing movies?
I don’t think anything is impossible. I never look at something and wonder if someone has attempted this before, nor do I think that let someone show the way and then I will follow. At 25, I decided to be a producer with a film like NH10. Apparently, it was not the most obvious choice for a female actor. Then, I went on to make Phillauri and, now, Pari. I would not have been happy just being an actor. I have too much energy and I need to utilise it the right way.
Was it heartbreaking that Phillauri did not do so well?
It was not heartbreaking. All the shareholders of the film profited from it. Yes, we did feel like we expected something else from it and that did not happen. I can’t judge myself as a producer, the way I judge myself as an actor. As a producer, I have to pat myself on the back for doing something different. I’m not an industry kid. My brother (Karnesh Sharma) and I are learning as we go along. We will always take up films that we believe in.
Would you like to turn a writer or director one day?
Writing is something I take keen interest in. I enjoy the process of a film being written. On many occasions, friends give me their scripts and want my opinion. Maybe someday I would like to write something I am interested in. I will not rule out anything. At the moment, I have my hands full with a lot of things.
Your characters — Aarfa in Sultan and Alizeh in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil — came under criticism. Do you ever intervene regarding how your character is being etched out?
I don’t take up any character unless I’m convinced about the decisions they take. Yet, my characters are not going to be who I am. In that case, I might as well do reality television shows. I want to represent different people. Alizeh is a flawed character and not a self-respecting individual. But that was the point. There are girls like her. It is a victory when she realises her faults and comes to her own. As an actor you can suggest things but ultimately you have to leave it to the director.
In the wake of the nepotism debate, what do you think has helped you sustain in this industry?
It is always the choices that one makes. That’s what has worked for me. I have said more ‘no’ than ‘yes’ to movies offered to me. I want to add value to the movies I do. I was not listening to industry insiders telling me about what I need to do. Being an outsider, I have charted my own path and not followed any pre-conceived notions.