Counter culture queen

Photo: Vogue  

Fresh off the success of Sultan and currently floating on our screens as a ghost in her home production, Phillauri, Anushka Sharma is Bollywood’s darling. Having the captain of the Indian cricket team on her arm isn’t hurting her image either. But that’s not all that the actress, and now producer, has going for her.

Working indie cred with commercial success, Sharma refuses to play it safe. She’s also not afraid to embrace the F-word (we’re talking feminism!), as seen in Vogue India’s March 2017 cover story. An excerpt:

“One day Karan Johar was making fun of my [last season] bag and I told him, I don’t give a ****. It does its job and I’m going to use it. I’m not an extravagant person. But I’ll be honest; people send me free stuff, so I’m very fortunate.”

In an industry that prefers to speak in banal platitudes, Anushka Sharma’s is a voice that stands out. She’s frank and forthright about problems at work, embraces awkwardness with open arms and narrates her anecdotes with disarming candour. It makes getting to know her wholly enjoyable.

She’s all that

With each new release, Sharma has only dug her heels further in. And she has managed this while disobeying two of the industry’s golden rules: don’t take an early hiatus (she waited two years for her sophomore film) and show face at industry parties. I ask Sharma what it would take to get her to attend one, and she flinches at the thought. “Just… no. By now people have accepted that I’m anti-social and not stand-offish. This is not just the case with industry friends, I’ve always been this way.”

Photo: Vogue

Photo: Vogue  


Even then, big-ticket filmmakers won’t stop calling. Two of her films — Sultan and Ae Dil Hai Mushkil — crossed the ₹ 100 crore mark last year. Now, she’s wrapping up Imtiaz Ali’s tentatively-titled The Ring, as well as a cameo for Raju Hirani’s biopic of Sanjay Dutt. And then, there’s her other day job: of bringing brave, unsullied talent to the spotlight.

Sharma the producer waxes eloquent on the creative payback of her new role. “We had some writers here a few weeks ago, everyone was pitching stories, and in that moment I remember thinking, this is just the best thing. A script comes to an actor in the absolute last stage; as a producer, it comes to you first,” she says. This rare privilege has meant having to learn generosity and trusting in her instinct for good cinema. “Actors are very selfish, so I had to suddenly change the way I was looking at a film. After the success of [our first production] NH10, I’ve become more confident and more courageous with the films that we do. We just want to push unique concepts.”

One example is this month’s off-kilter rom-com, Phillauri, which in Sharma’s own words, is far more accessible than NH10, but not without its novelties. “I was hanging from a harness and floating for most of the film, which was uncomfortable, but technically it’s really exciting. I bet you’ve never seen a ghost like this on screen, and not just in India.”

Centre of balance

Sharma says her big aspiration for 2017 is to become a better person. That’s all she’s got on her checklist for the year — be kinder to animals, more patient with people and less scathing on Koffee with Karan. Her career will continue to hurtle forward, freestyle.

Sharma wears her celebrity status lightly by limiting extravagance, converting her savings into safe investments and putting the excess to good use. Recently, she bought a plot of land outside of Mumbai, and a part of it will house Sharma’s beloved pet project: a shelter and rehab centre for sick and ageing animals. She continues with grim certitude, “Whatever dissatisfaction I used to feel when I was younger, before I had the money and fame, I still feel that now. It’s like Jim Carrey said, ‘Everybody should get rich and famous, and do everything they ever dreamed of, so they can see that it’s not the answer.’”

Photographed by Tarun Vishwa; styled by Anaita Shroff Adajania

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Printable version | May 16, 2021 12:45:32 AM |

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