Anushka Sharma: ‘I’m drawn to edgy, clutter-breaking subjects’

Even as Anushka Sharma basks in the success of the crime thriller show 'Paatal Lok', she reiterates a commitment as producer to out-of-the-box content

June 09, 2020 08:46 pm | Updated June 10, 2020 11:38 am IST

Anushka Sharma is happy that her fourth production Paatal Lok has connected with audiences. The series, which dropped on Amazon Prime Video, three weeks ago still has viewers talking about it. It is the fourth and the most successful production till date for Clean Slate Filmz, the company she co-founded in 2013 with her brother Karnesh Sharma. On an email interview with The Hindu , Sharma talks about being a producer while early into her acting career, the kind of subjects that attract her and confesses how, though she may have acted in all her previous productions, the thought of casting herself in Paatal Lok never crossed her mind. Edited excerpts from the interview…

Your fourth production, Paatal Lok, has got an unanimous thumbs up from critics as well as the audiences. How does it alter the bigger picture for you in your onward journey into films and filmmaking?

It doesn’t change anything; we have always chased different, interesting ideas right from NH10 , our first film as producers. Of course the success is extremely reassuring and makes us feel that we are heading in the right direction. We started six years ago, and, through this journey, we are learning as we move along from our mistakes; we are refining what we have done well in the past. We have managed to keep our vision of the company intact, which was to always push the envelope and chase fresh ideas. We will continue doing that in the future as well. Even as an actor I have always chosen unique roles, haven’t done similar roles.

You’ve become a producer early in your career as an actor and when you were peaking in popularity. Was this an instinctive decision?

I have built a position for myself as an actor. I wanted to leverage that for myself, to be able to back content and ideas, which are truly phenomenal and path-breaking in the stories that we tell as producers. Indeed, it is not something people do very early on in their career, I am aware it’s a unique thing that I did but then I am someone who has always done things, which are different from the norm. And that’s only because I don’t want to second guess when my instincts are very strong about doing something.

Did you take to production because you felt something was amiss in terms of content? Did you want to be a more active stakeholder in creating content?

I did not start producing films for myself per se. I just wanted to tell good stories. I would be sitting and talking to writers, discussing things with them and I would wonder why a certain type of film was not being written. Then I realized, that it is not very common in our industry for great roles to be constantly written for women. So, I wanted to take this step and create roles for actors who would be the right fit for the projects.

All the four productions have been out of the box. What is the decisive factor in picking up the ideas that Clean Slate Filmz chooses to back?

Karnesh and I would watch such amazing stories and shows and felt inspired. We would always talk about how content is everything and we are reaching a stage where content is above even stardom. We were very clear about our vision. I'm very grateful for the work that we've managed to do and the appreciation we have got for it. I know for a fact that people see Clean Slate Filmz as the ones who back stories that people have not seen before.

NH 10, Paatal Lok, Pari address the heart of darkness. In both urban and rural spaces.Phillauri, despite the lightness, also had a strong, dark emotional anchor in the past. Does this theme fascinate you as a producer?

I’m definitely drawn to edgy, clutter-breaking subjects, I am drawn to human stories. I endeavour to be able to present them in a way that entertains thoroughly. The most amazing part as a producer and as a creative person is to back films and series, which are different and progressive yet thoroughly engaging and entertaining. The story should be something, which evokes an emotion. We’ve always gone behind bold, interesting ideas, and we’ve made sure that the treatment is as true to the idea as possible, because that’s what made us green light the content in the first place.

What was most rewarding about the success ofPaatal Lok?

[These days] OTT platforms allow you to sample the content that is being created the world over—in Ireland, Turkey, America, Israel, United Kingdom etc. We would obviously get very inspired by that and always desired to create the kind of content that could inspire people. It means a lot to us, when many of our colleagues are feeling inspired after watching Paatal Lok . A lot of the credit goes to the team that worked on the project—from the writers to the directors to the actors and even the technicians. All of them are being appreciated. This is a victory of the whole team together. Every aspect of the show is being spoken about and this is what makes me the happiest as a producer.

When do we now see you on screen next?

Very soon. I absolutely love acting and I will do it till I can walk and talk, there are no two ways about it. I feel I have reached a point in life, where I don’t need to sign a film just because I have to do something or to stay relevant. I truly feel that creative people need to take a break which I did post Zero . I wanted to take some time off and realign myself as the three years before that were very hectic and I was shooting for films back-to-back. There were a couple of things in the pipeline, which have been stalled because of the pandemic.

What have you been occupied with at home? Reading, watching? Anything you’d want to recommend?

The Last Dance , a documentary on Michael Jordan and Chicago Bulls, was really interesting. I like watching sports documentaries. I have already seen Caliphate which is a really nice show that gives you a perspective of that world [Syria, ISIS, terrorism]. Succession was another really good show. I have thoroughly enjoyed watching Fleabag and Marvellous Mrs Maisel . Apart from that I am focusing on family time, taking care of my health and baking a bit to occupy my mind.

What is coming up next as a producer?

Bulbbul is a film with Netflix, which will be out next month. Apart from that, we are working on a lot of things as producers, few things which have been greenlit already, so we will start the process of writing those. Our slate is quite full and I think it's a great time for Karnesh and me at the moment.

Lastly, the dog love in Paatal Lok... How much is it inspired from your own care and affection for street animals?

I wish I could take credit for that; it was all Sudip [Sharma, the series creator], he came up with it. But I absolutely loved the idea when I read it. I think the dog lover in me was ecstatic.

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